- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2001

Sometimes it is helpful to take a walk down memory lane in order to appreciate how far we have come. The eight Clinton-Gore years dragged the nation through a slough of corruption and scandal from which we only emerged after their eviction from the highest offices of this land. So, if the morning papers are again fit to share around the family breakfast table without fear of humiliation or embarrassment, let us all be thoroughly grateful.

One such reminder of the recent past came last week. In keeping with the sweetheart plea bargain that the Clinton-Gore Justice Department headed by stonewaller-in-chief Janet Reno negotiated with Indonesian billionaire James Riady less than 10 days before they all left office, Riady recently appeared in a Los Angeles federal court to plead guilty to a campaign-finance felony. Specifically, Riady, the scion of one of Asia's wealthiest families, admitted that he had conspired to funnel foreign money into various American political campaigns, including Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. In addition, LippoBank California, the U.S. affiliate of the Lippo Group, a $12- billion, Indonesia-based financial services conglomerate controlled by the Riady family, pleaded guilty to 86 misdemeanors. Those charges involved efforts by Riady and LippoBank executive John Huang to funnel more than $1 million in illegal political contributions through LippoBank employees from 1988 through 1994.

Riady was fined $8.6 million, a relative pittance to a billionaire. His sentence also included 400 hours of community service, which will supposedly be performed in Indonesia. Of course, he will spend no time in jail, which is also in keeping with the numerous other felons in the Democratic campaign-finance scandals, including Huang, who pleaded guilty in 1999.

Regrettably, Riady's guilty plea will probably bring to a close the Justice Department's four- year investigation into the widespread illegal activities conducted on behalf of President Clinton's two presidential campaigns. During that period, Miss Reno repeatedly rejected recommendations from leaders of her campaign-finance task force and the director of the FBI to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. So, before Riady is all forgotten, it's worth recalling the pivotal roles he has played throughout the corrupt Clinton-Gore era.

Riady, whose acquaintance with Bill Clinton goes back to the latter's days as governor in 1984 in Little Rock, Ark., promised in August 1992 to contribute $1 million to then-Democratic nominee Clinton's campaign. He was traveling with Mr. Clinton in a limousine when this pledge was made. When questioned about the offer by the Justice Department's campaign-finance task force last April, Mr. Clinton claimed to have no "specific recollection." "If he said [a million dollars]," Mr. Clinton contemptuously replied to the investigators, "I'm surprised I don't remember it." (This from the man whose widely touted steel-trap memory can recall precinct-by- precinct results in New Hampshire primary elections.)

Riady's later visits to the White House produced momentous developments in various Clinton scandals. On June 23, 1994, after meeting earlier in the day with former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell, Riady called on Mr. Clinton at the White House. At the time, a financially strapped Hubbell was being investigated for various felonies to which he would later plead guilty. Hubbell was also being pressured by independent counsel Kenneth Starr to cooperate in the Whitewater scandal. Four days after the meeting with Riady, a Riady-controlled firm gave Hubbell a $100,000 consulting contract, after which Hubbell stopped cooperating with Mr. Starr's investigation.

Riady also attended a Sept. 13, 1995, White House meeting with the president, Bruce Lindsey and Huang. Previous to the meeting Huang held a position at the Commerce Department, where he had been placed and given a security clearance in appreciation of Riady's efforts in 1992. At the meeting. however, he was reassigned to the post of vice chairman of finance at the Democratic National Committee. Huang later raised more than $3 million from the Asian community, more than half of which had to be returned, including nearly $500,000 illegally contributed by Arief Wiriadinata and his wife, whose father was a major partner with Riady in the Lippo Group.

At one of the infamous White House fund- raising coffees, Mr. Wiriadinata approached the president, telling him, "James Riady sent me." At his sentencing on Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times, Riady told U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall that he and Huang intended to use Lippo's largess to persuade U.S. officials including, obviously, the president to grant most-favored-nation trading status to China, where Lippo had invested billions of dollars; to improve trade with Indonesia, whose human-rights policies were abysmal; and to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, a federal banking law that limited business opportunities of LippoBank.

Now we know, definitively, precisely what Mr. Wiriadinata meant when he told the president of the United States, "James Riady sent me."

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