- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 13, 2001

President Bill Clinton has mapped out a rosy future for himself: ensconced in a multi-million-dollar Embassy Row house, pulling the levers of Democratic leadership, influencing global events through his foundation, Hillary kept busy by a Senate job. Unfortunately, scandal continues to dog Mr. Clinton in his final days in office and, most likely, beyond.

Wednesday night, Indonesian billionaire James Riady pled guilty to using foreign funds to reimburse individuals contributing to none other than Mr. Clinton's 1992 campaign for the presidency. And LippoBank California (an affiliate of Lippo Group) also agreed to plead guilty to 86 misdemeanor counts charging that its agents, Mr. Riady and John Huang, made illegal foreign campaign contributions from 1988 to 1994.

Busy as he has been attacking the legitimacy of his successor in the presidency, Mr. Clinton has made no comment on the pleas. The Justice Department's campaign task force has so far charged a total of 28 individuals and corporations since it was created four years ago, but, as of yet, hasn't established an incriminating link with the president himself.

Mr. Riady has agreed to pay an $8.6 million fine, the largest ever in U.S. campaign-finance history. Under the terms of a plea bargain, Mr. Riady has agreed to come to the United States from Indonesia and cooperate with the investigation. Although it isn't clear whether Mr. Riady will testify about the possible involvement of Mr. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, that scenario doesn't seem unlikely.

So Mr. Clinton may have to come up with creative conspiracy theories, with Hillary's help. Biting of the lower lip, biblical references and public displays of contrition may soon be necessary as well. Indeed, it appears Mr. Clinton's campaign-finance woes aren't destined to disappear anytime soon. And without an obliging attorney general, a bully pulpit and the trappings of power, it will be increasingly difficult for Mr. Clinton to obstruct and obfuscate.

Testimony revealed in a FBI summary released last year suggests Mr. Clinton was involved and aware of the foreign-contribution ring. According to Democratic fund-raiser John Huang, an employee of Mr. Riady who has also pled guilty to a campaign-finance felony, Mr. Riady told Mr. Clinton during a limousine ride that he wanted to raise $1 million for his campaign. The ever-guarded Mr. Clinton told federal investigators only that he did not have "a specific recollection of what the conversation was, or this fact of the car ride."

And although Attorney General Janet Reno decided against appointing a special counsel to investigate Mr. Gore's 1996 campaign fund-raising activities, the vice president may also come to be implicated in the Riady net. Videotape of the now infamous White House "coffees" show Mr. Gore chatting with Indonesian gardener Arief Wiriadinata, who illegally donated $455,000 to the Democratic Party in 1995, about Mr. Riady.

Mr. Riady and Lippo Group have achieved a great deal through their illegal donations. The government said that federal policies that would benefit the Lippo Group include granting Most Favored Nation trading status to China, normalization of U.S. relations with Vietnam and a repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act all initiatives pushed through energetically by the Clinton administration.

All this may come to catch up with the agile Mr. Clinton. And the expensive house, the wife in Congress and friends in high places may not be able to protect him.


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