- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 1999

Democratic fund-raiser John Huang continued to take money from his Indonesian former employers even while investigators were looking into Huang’s role in funneling illegal campaign contributions from the Indonesians to Democratic campaign coffers.

Huang took $38,000 from the family of businessman James Riady in 1997 and 1998. The family also paid Huang’s way to Asia earlier this year to attend a family party, Huang testified yesterday before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee.

“I have not been working at all this year,” said Huang, a central figure in the 1996 fund-raising scandal. The money was given “as a friend to show concern for me.”

Huang insisted that the money was not a payoff from his former employer.

For his first public testimony since the fund-raising story broke three years ago, the committee granted Huang immunity to testify in hopes that he might point the finger more directly at President Clinton in the scandal.

Huang denied under oath that the president or any other Democratic official conspired to secure illegal donations.

“While things might have gone easier for me were I able to implicate the president or vice president in wrongdoing, I have never had a basis upon which to do so,” Huang said. “In fact, I maintain very high regard for each of these dedicated men.”

Huang also denied that the Riady family attempted to keep silent Webster Hubbell, former assistant attorney general and longtime Clinton associate. The Riadys gave Hubbell $100,000 in 1994 while he was supposed to be cooperating with investigators looking into Mr. Clinton’s role in the failed Whitewater land development deal in Arkansas and other affairs.

Huang helped arrange that payment, but he denied that Mr. Clinton had a role in the payment.

“It was help for a friend,” he said. “Mr. Riady, based on his friendship, was trying to help” Hubbell.

Hubbell, a law firm partner of Hillary Rodham Clinton, is a key figure in the Whitewater investigation. At the time of the Riady payment, Hubbell had agreed to cooperate with independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and testify about various Clinton scandals, but he never fully did so, according to Mr. Starr.

Hubbell has never said what, if any, work he performed for the Riadys or why they agreed to pay him. Huang said Hubbell had done some work for Mr. Riady when Hubbell was a lawyer in Arkansas.

Huang pleaded guilty this year to making illegal contributions between 1992 and 1994, unrelated to the 1996 election and before he worked directly for the administration, and received probation.

Huang is scheduled to continue answering questions before the committee for the rest of the week, perhaps through Saturday.

Although he emphatically denies it, Huang has been accused of passing confidential information to the Riadys’ company, the Lippo Group, while he worked at the Commerce Department and of raising illegal funds from associates of the Lippo Group when he worked at the Democratic National Committee in 1996.

In hours of detailed testimony yesterday, Huang denied any wrongdoing while at the DNC or Commerce Department. He explicitly denied spying directly or indirectly for communist China, as some congressional investigators have suggested.

He admitted that the Lippo Group has ties to Chinese-owned companies based in Hong Kong, but he said he does not know if those companies have ties with Chinese intelligence agencies.

Huang first began raising funds for Mr. Clinton in 1992, when he arranged a brief meeting between Mr. Riady and Mr. Clinton. Mr. Riady promised to raise $1 million for the campaign.

“I wish I knew some friends like that,” said committee Chairman Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, “To just give $1 million out of the goodness of his heart.”

Huang said the president was unaware that some of that $1 million would be raised illegally from foreign citizens and through third parties. He also denied that Mr. Riady wanted any specific service from Mr. Clinton, such as more U.S.-China trade.

But he admitted that Mr. Riady wanted access to U.S. officials and had said explicitly that large donations spelled better access.

“To give campaign contributions gets recognition,” Huang said. “Mr. Riady probably had multiple purposes.”

Mr. Riady has refused to testify about his contributions and has not entered the United States for years.

Huang also denied knowingly raising illegal money while working for the DNC in late 1995 and 1996. He raised about $3 million in that period, but the DNC later returned $1.6 million of that after reports that the contributions were illegal.

“I still do not really know the reason for that $1.6 million being returned … at that time I collected the money, I did not have that information, that it was illegal,” Huang said.

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