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Chung: China's Army Gave To Dems

Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung told federal investigators he sent campaign contributions from a Chinese military officer to the Democrats during the 1996 presidential campaign, congressional sources familiar with the case said today.

Members of Congress and some staff members received classified briefings from the FBI on the contributions Thursday night, according to the sources, who agreed to discuss the matter on condition on anonymity.

Confirming a story first reported in today's editions of The New York Times, they said that Chung told investigators the money came from the People's Liberation Army through an aerospace executive who also was a lieutenant colonel.

The executive's father is Gen. Liu Huaqing, who was a member of the Communist Party leadership and the top Chinese military commander.

Chung gave some $80,000 to the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 1996, the Times said, and told prosecutors much of it came from his Chinese contact.

U.S. law forbids foreign governments from contributing to political campaigns.

The executive, Liu Chao-ying, was photographed with President Clinton at a fund-raising event. Chung gained admission for her.

Chung pleaded guilty in federal court last March to charges of funneling $20,000 in illegal contributions to Clinton's re-election campaign; charges involving an $8,000 donation to the campaign of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.; tax evasion; and fraudulently obtaining a $157,500 loan on his home.

Chung, who is now cooperating with federal prosecutors, is to be sentenced in July. His lawyer, Brian Sun, could not immediately be reached for comment.

When he opened his campaign fund-raising hearings last year, Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., said he learned from intelligence officials that China had a plan to influence U.S. elections in 1996.

"What we have here is apparently hard evidence of the execution of the China plan," Thompson said today in an interview. "Everybody acknowledged and agreed there was a plan. The big debate was whether it was executed and whether it involved the presidential campaign. That debate is now over."

Thompson said Chung's statements "may be the tip of the iceberg, because a half-dozen other intermediarieis were bringing money from China and other places."

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., a member of Thompson's committee, said, "This is explosive."

Specter said he has begun new discussions with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and other colleagues about a renewed effort to demand an independent counsel in the Justice Department's campaign fund-raising probe.

A Taiwan-born U.S. citizen, Chung was the fourth person charged in the campaign finance scandal but the first to agree to cooperate with investigators in an effort to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

He was accused of setting up "straw donors" who wrote campaign donation cheks, then were reimbursed by Chung in order to skirt contribution limits.

Chung's contributions were returned after questions arose about their legality.

Written by Larry Margasak
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