Assume the Position

Saturday, February 21, 2004
 
Three Johns and a Jane

John Kerry may "look French," but, when it comes to illegal campaign contributions, it's "one from Column A and two from Column B" on the take-out menu.

You may recall the '90s Democratic campaign finance scandals, and names like James Riady, Charlie Trie and Maria Hsia (of Gore's Buddhist Temple gig). John Kerry pretty much slid under the radar during the investigations.

Here's a current MSNBC story by Robert Windrem on Kerry's link to Johnny Chung (via No Watermelons Allowed):

Chung gave $10,000 to Kerry's campaign -- most of it illegally -- hosted a fund-raising party in Beverly Hills, and threw in an extra $10,000 to honor Kerry at a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee event. Kerry eventually returned all the Chung money.

In return, Kerry opened a door for a friend of Chung: Liu Chaoying.

"Who is Colonel Liu?" asked William Triplett, a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer and author of two books on Chinese influence in US politics. "She began her military intelligence career with Chinese Navy intelligence. She has been, in succession, assistant to the President of the China National Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation and the China Great Wall Industries Corporation, both of whom have been sanctioned twice -- in 1991 and 1993 -- by the United States for ballistic missiles sales to Pakistan. She later became president of China Aerospace Industrial Holdings Ltd. and she made illegal campaign contributions to the Clinton Gore ticket and John Kerry in 1996.

"She is a communist," says Triplett; she is a high-tech spy; she is an arms broker and she met Bill Clinton at a fund raiser and John Kerry in his Senate office."

More than anything else, the saga of John Kerry, Johnny Chung and Liu Chao Ying, as laid out in a series of interviews, court records, campaign finance disclosure forms and bank documents obtained by NBC News, is a story of what can happen when the pursuit of campaign cash gets out of hand.

[…cut to the end of the article…]

Kerry could not have known, until Chung pleaded guilty and began talking to investigators in March, 1998, that the money he needed so desperately back then was tainted -- perhaps even the product of arms-dealing. Now, however, he may be asked new questions as he runs for President.

I'll ignore Windrem's assertion of what Kerry could or "could not have known" and jump to the "new questions," because Johnny Chung and John Kerry are only two Johns, and we've got a third to look at, as well as a Jane.

But, first, the hagiographic view of Kerry and his Senate Select Committee for POW/MIA Affairs from the Boston Globe's John Aloysius Farrell (no, he's not the third John, nor is McCain):

By the time John Kerry began his second term as US senator in 1991, his nickname among Massachusetts political insiders was "Live Shot," a reference to his relentless courting of reporters, especially those with TV cameras in tow. In the Senate, where seniority and decorum still mattered, Kerry was seen as an impatient new breed, more interested in generating headlines than mastering the tedious process of lawmaking.

Among those who harbored a simmering distrust of Kerry was a fellow Vietnam veteran, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. McCain, tortured as a prisoner of war in Hanoi, had campaigned for Kerry's opponent in 1984, denouncing the Democrat for joining the veterans who tossed medals and ribbons over a barricade at the Capitol during a 1971 antiwar rally. The North Vietnamese had taunted the American POWs with accounts of that protest.

In the spring of 1991, McCain found himself seated across from Kerry inside a noisy military transport plane on a fact-finding mission to the Middle East. In the Senate, the two men had circled each other warily. But now, strapped into uncomfortable seats with an interminable flight before them and only a flimsy table between them, they had no place to go. They made small talk with Senator John Glenn, the Democrat from Ohio, until Glenn fell asleep.

From there, "it kind of segued into John and I talking about Vietnam," McCain remembers. Deep into the night, as the plane droned over the Atlantic, Kerry and McCain revisited the defining experience of their lives. Says Kerry, "I asked a lot of questions about him, and he of me, and we talked about how he felt about his war, and my war."

In the ensuing weeks and months, McCain and Kerry individually, and then together, concluded that the unresolved divisions of the Vietnam War were causing too much national anguish, and that it was time to put the war to rest.

Four years later, on a summer day in 1995, Kerry and McCain stood beside President Clinton in the East Room at the White House as he announced that the United States would normalize diplomatic relations with Vietnam. For a president who most famously had not served in their war, the two combat veterans served as wingmen.

In his work toward that day, Kerry earned the "unbounded respect and admiration" of McCain, who, like others in the Senate, originally viewed Kerry with suspicion. "You get to know people and you make decisions about them," says McCain. "I found him to be the genuine article."

[…]

Politically, Kerry's mission was a potential "tar baby," he recalled, that his advisers warned him to avoid. His new friend McCain was branded by extremists in the POW-MIA community as a traitor, a brainwashed "Manchurian Candidate." "Things were said about him that I find . . . beyond cruel," said Kerry. At hearings where McCain's anger at his critics flared, Kerry would reach over and place his hand on McCain's arm to calm him down. "I remain grateful to him for doing that," McCain acknowledges.

[…]

Together, McCain and Kerry then led the effort to normalize relations with Vietnam. "The work John Kerry and John McCain did" is "truly one of the most extraordinary events we have had in the last 50 years," says Edward M. Kennedy, who has served in the Senate since 1962.

There is a rather different view presented by Bill Bell, the Former Chief of the US Office for POW/MIA Affairs, Vietnam, in his congressional testimony to the Ways and Mean Committee's Subcommittee on Trade in June of 1998. He opened his statement with some history of what the French experienced in trying to recover their war dead after 1954:

Since the initial stages of our government's postwar relations with Vietnam, government officials responsible for the issue have had a keen awareness of Hanoi's long range negotiating strategy. An extensive Rand Corporation analysis of the French experience during that country's postwar development of relations with Vietnam provides a dramatic illustration of Hanoi's intent: "Despite the substantial political and economic concessions the French have made to Hanoi since 1954, France has never received a full accounting for its missing and dead. The Vietnamese communist government has consistently circumvented and violated the terms of the 1954 agreement concerning the accounting for France's missing servicemen. Hanoi's actions clearly demonstrate that its only interest in the French military graves in Vietnam and the requests for remains by the families of the deceased is in the economic and political benefits that the Vietnamese Government can derive from control of these remains. We should keep this in mind in dealing with Hanoi. We can anticipate that Hanoi's objective is to obtain increasingly large economic and political concessions in exchange for piecemeal releases of remains and information about our missing servicemen.

Obviously our negotiators failed to heed this sound advice. But the reasons for this incompetence have never been closely examined. Today I will attempt to outline for your Committee the actual chain of developments that have motivated our government's postwar relations with Vietnam. Hopefully, a better understanding of such developments will assist your Committee in considering President Clinton's recent waiver under the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974.

Bell then went on to explain the organization and use of the "Proselytizing Department" of Vietnam's National Defense Council into the '90s: "In planning and implementing strategic deception, the most important organ in the communist system is the Proselytizing Department, which operates under the authority of the NDC. This department is a very secretive and subtle organization, and for the US intelligence community, it is perhaps the least understood element of the Communist apparatus. The basic mission of the organization is penetration and subversion."

That took him up to 1991 and the Senate Select Committee for POW/MIA Affairs (emphasis added):

In 1991 the US Senate established the Senate Select Committee for POW/MIA Affairs. The Chairman of this Committee, Senator John Kerry appointed his Legislative Assistant, Ms Francis Zwenig, as the Chief of Staff for the Committee. During the life of the Committee Senator Kerry worked most closely with Representative Douglas "Pete" Peterson to authorize funding for the new, expanded effort to account for missing American servicemen in Vietnam. As a result of these joint efforts, in January 1992 the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting was formed by the US Pacific Command. In order to gain acceptance of the new plan in Vietnam Senator Kerry also coordinated his efforts with fellow committee member, Senator John McCain (R, AZ).

In implementing Senator Kerry-and Representative Peterson's plan, Ms Zwenig worked closely with Ms Virginia Foote, the President of the U.S./Vietnam Trade Council, Allen "Gunner" Kent, former Commander-in-Chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Mr Kenneth Steadman, at that time the Director of National Security of the VFW. As the Committee moved toward adjournment it became increasingly obvious that rather than account for missing American servicemen, the primary goal of the Committee was to remove the POW/MIA issue from the path of U.S./Vietnam relations.

Members of the Committee pledged to continue to monitor the issue, but in reality only Senator Bob Smith kept his promise to the MIA family members and veterans here at home. During the time that key members of the POW/MIA Select Committee maneuvered to remove the Trade Embargo, large scale investors in Asia, who would ultimately become large scale campaign contributors in America began to support the activities of members of the Committee designed to create investment opportunities in Vietnam. In 1992, with a one-on-one limousine ride, Presidential candidate Bill Clinton began his relationship with Mr James Riady, a citizen of Indonesia and resident alien of the United States. Mr Riady is the son of Mochtar Riady who heads the multibillion dollar Lippo Group. Acting on behalf of the Lippo Group Mr Riady formed a partnership with Mr Jackson Stephens, Chairman of Stephens Investment Inc., in order to purchase the Worthen Bank in Little Rock, AR. Mr Riady was subsequently installed as the director of the bank. Mr Riady then used his position to contribute or loan some $700,000.00 to President Clinton's campaign. Family friends and business partners of the Riadys, Ariel and Soraya Wiriadinata, also contributed $425,000.00 to the Clinton campaign. Rather than explain the source of these monies by testifying in congressional hearings, the Wiriadinatas have since returned to Jakarta, Indonesia.

The Worthen Bank in Little Rock also owned the Hong Kong Chinese Bank where Mr John Huang was employed. Mr Huang was later transferred from Hong Kong to Los Angeles where he became head of Lippo's affiliate there. Records since made available to investigating committees of Congress indicate that in conjunction with his transfer to the US Mr Huang was awarded a $700,000.00 bonus by the Lippo Group. Considering the position held by Mr Huang and the circumstances of his employment, the alleged bonus has raised questions regarding the intended purpose of the relatively large amount of cash, and whether or not it was properly declared for entry into the US Moreover, in November 1992, China Resources Holding Company, a front organization for the Intelligence and Security Services of the Communist Party of China, purchased a controlling interest in the Hong Kong Chinese Bank. This transaction made available an even larger amount of money to Mr Huang in the US During his election campaign President Clinton pledged to the American people that if elected he "would not normalize relations with any country that is at all suspected of withholding information" on missing Americans. After the election of President Clinton Mr John Huang was appointed as a Deputy Assistant Secretary under Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in a "Top Secret" trade post. When Mr Huang assumed his new position at the Commerce Department the very first meeting he held in his new office was oriented toward developing increased commercial relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Hearings held by the Senate Committee investigating campaign financing revealed that during the time he worked in the Commerce Department under Ron Brown, John Huang maintained steady contact with Mr A. Vernon Weaver, the Vice-president of Stephens Investment in Washington, DC In fact, Mr Huang was provided a cost-free office with telephone, facsimile and photocopy machine in the Stephens Building across the street from the Commerce Department. During the same time frame, Secretary Brown became the subject of a Justice Department investigation concerning allegations he accepted a $700,000.00 bribe for his assistance in lobbying President Clinton to lift the Trade Embargo against Vietnam. The reports indicating that Mr Riady loaned the Clinton campaign $700,000.00, that John Huang received a $700,000.00 bonus from the Lippo Group, and that former Commerce Secretary Brown received a $700,000.00 bribe may be coincidental, but considering the positions of those involved and their relationship to each other, I seriously doubt that this is the case.

Mr Bell's doubt was somewhat vindicated a little over a year later when, on August 12, 1999, "John Huang Pleads Guilty To Violating Federal Campaign Finance Laws."

The charged conspiracy lasted from approximately 1992 through June 1994. During that period, the conspirators engaged in numerous acts to further the conspiracy. As for Huang's role, the government alleged that he was responsible for arranging approximately $156,000 in illegal campaign contributions from Lippo Group overseas to various Democratic and Republican political committees.

Aside from arranging illegal contributions, however, an examination of the reported (and apparently legal) campaign contribution records from opensecrets.org shows that John Huang and his wife, Jane [you were expecting Fonda, weren't you?], gave just under $250,000 to Democrats for the 1990 through 1996 campaign cycles. The scandal and subsequent conviction caused Democrats to return most of John's donations, but it seems they kept much of the money given in Jane's name. John Kerry (or his campaign committee) only received $1,000 directly from John Huang ($500 in '90 and '92), and it was returned in '96. But the big money goes to the party committees:
  • John and Jane Huang gave $57,800 to the Democratic National Committee over the years 1990 through 1993. In early 1994, the DNC returned $20,000 ($15,000 to John and $5,000 to Jane); toward the end of that year, Jane gave the DNC another $10,000.

  • For the '90 through '96 election cycles, the Huangs gave $39,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In 2001, the committee returned $26,000 to John.

Trade normalization with Vietnam continued throughout the '90s leading to the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement, which was signed by the US and Vietnam in June of 2000 and went into effect in December 2001. Sometimes you get what you paid for.



Tuesday, February 17, 2004
 
Was That An Insult Or An Endorsement?

Kerry says, "This is not a conservative Republican administration, this is an extreme radical administration."

Maybe Kerry is trying to push the Deaniacs over into the Bush camp.



Sunday, February 15, 2004
 
Candidates' Blogads May Be Violating Campaign Laws

Instapundit started carrying Blogads a few weeks ago. At the moment, two ads on his blog are for candidates running for Congress: Tony Knowles, Democrat running for a US Senate seat from Alaska, and Doug Haines, Democrat running for Georgia's 12th District seat in the US House. Neither of the ads has the "paid for by…" or similar identification disclosure.

Federal law concerning campaigns for federal office:

2 USC 441d - Publication and distribution of statements and solicitations; charge for newspaper or magazine space

(a) Whenever any person makes an expenditure for the purpose of financing communications expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, or solicits any contribution through any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, outdoor advertising facility, direct mailing, or any other type of general public political advertising, such communication -

(1) if paid for and authorized by a candidate, an authorized political committee of a candidate, or its agents, shall clearly state that the communication has been paid for by such authorized political committee, or

From the Alaska Statutes: "Sec. 15.13.090. Identification of communication. (a) All communications shall be clearly identified by the words "paid for by" followed by the name and address of the candidate, group, nongroup entity, or individual paying for the communication…"

The Alaska Administrative Code (2 AAC 50.306.(e)) contains an exemption for small items, but that exemption specifically excludes "media advertisements, electronic correspondence, or material on internet websites, regardless of size or nature.

This is probably not something either Glenn Reynolds or Henry Copeland need to worry about. The rules apply to the candidate's campaign committees and they are the ones who may be liable for fines for what seem to be clear violations of the law. Knowles ad seems to violate both the Federal and Alaskan law; Haines seems to violate the Federal law, but the Georgia law appears to only require identification on communications financed by sources independent of the campaign. (That both ads come from Democrats may be a coincidence.)


UPDATE: Ben Chandler, the Democrat running in the Kentucky special election to fill the US House seat vacated by Republican Ernie Fletcher, was apparently the early adopter of using Blogads and it seems to have helped. You can see the current "Chandler for Congress" Blogads on Taegan Goddard's Political Wire and CalPundit — no "paid for by" appears in the ad. Two more campaign ads appear on both of those blogs: Brad Carson, an Oklahoma Democrat running for the US Senate, and John Barrow, Democrat running for Georgia's 12th District seat in the US House. Carson's ad is another without an identification disclosure. John Barrow's ad, however, does display a "Paid for by Barrow for Congress" line. Compliance by Democrats running for Congress seems to be 1 out of 5, or 20 percent in this quick and unscientific survey. (Who knows, it might actually be a comprehensive survey if only those five candidates are using Blogads.)

Republicans seem to be 0 for 0, since I couldn't find any Republican candidates with Blogads. The closest I could find was Pete Nelson running the "Bush-Cheney '04 News" vertical banner, which I think is an RSS feed, and it has a "Paid for by BUSH-CHENEY '04, Inc." at the bottom.

I don't believe just the "Chandler for Congress" or "Knowles for U.S. Senate" at the top of the Blogads meets the requirements. A specific "paid for by" or similar phrase seems necessary to satisfy the federal requirement to "clearly state" who is paying for the ad. Google text ads for candidates, some being one-liners, may be even more troublesome in this regard.

(The Chandler ad is also showing up on Instapundit between the Haines and Knowles ads, now; it wasn't there when I posted earlier.)


UPDATE - February 25, 2004: Bill Hobbes says he will soon be running a Blogad for a Republican candidate. I hope this candidate and others have a better compliance rate on disclosure than I've seen so far. (Via Instapundit)




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