Chung Details Campaign Gifts

After pleading guilty to making illegal campaign contributions to President Clinton, Johnny Chung said Tuesday he was threatened and offered money from Beijing "to take care of" his legal expenses and family if he refused to cooperate with the FBI.

Chung said the threat - and an introduction to a defense attorney who claimed to have Justice Department connections - came from a man who indicated he was connected to a Chinese general who had earlier given Chung $300,000 to contribute to Mr. Clinton's re-election and the Democratic Party.

He hadn't used the money from the general for campaign contributions, Chung told a congressional committee, reading his statement in heavily accented English.

Chung's $360,000 in political contributions from 1994 to 1996 brought him more than 50 visits to the White House, often accompanied by Chinese executives. Chung said now he has "mixed feelings" for the president and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I can't help but think that they used me as much as I used them," Chung said.


CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante reports that Republicans want to make a link between Chung's contributions and the charges that China was stealing U.S. nuclear technology. Democrats say Chung has told inconsistent stories throughout and that he's contradicted himself many, many times.

Chung is Exhibit A for Republicans who argue that China was attempting to influence the 1996 presidential elections. Democrats counter that the FBI can trace only $20,000 to the Democratic National Committee out of the $300,000 that Chung says was funneled to him by Gen. Ji Sheng De, the head of Chinese military intelligence.

Chung told Congress he "never acted as an agent for the Chinese government." He described himself as a U.S. citizen and businessman born in Taiwan, telling the congressional panel, "I am as loyal to our country as any of you."

As part of the fund-raising investigation, Chung has pleaded guilty to making $20,000 in illegal contributions to Democrats, including the Clinton-Gore campaign, and to tax evasion.

He criticized officials of the Democratic National Committee for attacking him in court "when they were fully aware that I was doing a lot of business and cultivating friendships with people from the People's Republic of China."

Chung said he used political donations to help build his business as a consultant to Chinese executives who were greatly impressed by his ability to take them to events where they could be photographed with Mr. Clinton and other political leaders. He took in more than $2 million from his foreign clients, Chung said.

Chung said in August 1996 he accepted $300,000 from Gen. Ji Sheng De, the head of Chinese military intelligence, who told him he could use it to help Mr. Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Chung said that instead, acting under advice of the woman who arranged th payment from the general, he kept the money for other purposes including to help take care of the general's son, Alex, during his stay in the United States.

An American citizen from California, Chung was an obscure businessman until he began donating money - a total of $366,000 over two years - to the Democratic National Committee in 1994.

Chung's money and his persistence also brought him access. He made more than 50 visits to the White House, the most famous of them in March 1995 when he brought five Chinese businessmen to meet and be photographed with the president.

The FBI can trace no more than $30,000 to the Democratic National Committee. The Democrats gave that back along with all of the rest of the money Chung contributed

In his prepared statement, Chung said that after he pleaded guilty and was cooperating with the FBI, he was contacted by Robert Luu, a U.S. citizen in Beijing, who said he was helping Liu Chao Ying, the Chinese woman who introduced him to Ji.

Luu "starting talking about a Commander Lee, who wanted to take care of me," Chung said. "The message was as follows: `If you keep your mouth shut, you and your family will be safe."'

Chung is the latest witness in the House investigation spearheaded by Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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