Burton Committee Probes U.N. Official's Gifts to Dems

Article excerpt

In a National Review cover story titled "Who Is Maurice Strong?"' Ronald Bailey focused the spotlight on a controversial but little-known figure who helped U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan produce his "reform" plan for the world organization. Bailey noted in passing that Strong, a Canadian, had made political contributions "of dubious legality" to both major U.S. political parties.

But it is more serious than that. House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Dan Burton of Indiana says Strong's political activities are under review by his investigative staff as part of the continuing probe of campaign fund-raising abuses. Strong's intervention in U.S. politics -- financial contributions totaling at least $21,500 and perhaps several hundred thousand dollars -- may have circumvented prohibitions on foreign nationals contributing to U.S. political campaigns.

The controversy about Strong, who is considered by many U.N. observers to be well-positioned to become the next secretary-general of the United Nations, comes at a sensitive time for the world body. The House soon win vote on $100 million for the United Nations as part of the State Department appropriations bill. Rep. Roscoe Bardett a Maryland Republican has vowed to eliminate the money on the ground that the United Nations has not reimbursed nor credited the United States for billions of dollars of U.N. peacekeeping expenses. Bartlett also has questioned whether the United Nations seriously can reform itself.

Strong now has left his most recent U.N. post, where his title was "executive coordinator" for U.N. reform. He was portrayed at the time of his selection as a "Canadian businessman" so committed to the cause that he would only earn $1 a year. Strong can afford to make such pledges: He is a multi-millionaire made a fortune exploiting the Earth's natural resources. He also is a former Canadian government official, serving as head of the Canadian International De Agency, and founded the U.N. Environment Program in the early seventies, gaining a reputation as a global environmentalist. He served as chief of the U.N.'s 1992 Earth Summit, earning the moniker "Father Earth." With contacts worldwide, he is a true global citizen. However, the Federal Election Commission, or FEC, does not recognize global citizens as legally eligible to make political contributions to U.S. political candidates. So when Strong in 1988 contributed $20,000 to the Democratic National Committee and $1,500 to two congressional campaigns, according to FEC records, he listed his residence as Denver and his occupation as a developer.

Nevertheless, Canadian journalist Elaine Dewar reported that Strong told her his actual contribution to the Democratic Party was "some $100,000. …