More Funds Linked to Buddhist Temple

Article excerpt

Vice President Al Gore attended at least four events, stretching back to 1993, in which Buddhist temple members gave illegal donations to the Democratic National Committee, according to new evidence obtained by Republican investigators.

In addition to the widely reported temple event attended by Mr. Gore on April 29, 1996, which committee documents show raised at least $166,000 for the DNC, investigators plan to introduce evidence that the Hsi Lai temple gave another $60,000 in illegal donations to the DNC at various functions attended by both the president and the vice president.

Mr. Gore's campaign practices and the temple's contributions will be in the spotlight today as a Senate committee reconvenes hearings on fund-raising abuses. Three nuns from the temple are scheduled to testify under grants of immunity from prosecution about the money-funneling scheme.

Investigators say the new evidence will show that at one vice-presidential event held at a law firm in Santa Monica, Calif., on Sept. 27, 1993, three individuals wrote checks totaling $5,000 to the DNC and were reimbursed the same day by the temple. The DNC acknowledged the three contributors with thank-you notes, according to documents obtained by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

It is against federal law to reimburse contributors for donations made to political parties. It is also illegal for tax-exempt, religious organizations to make political donations.

According to investigators, the temple also reimbursed contributors for: $25,000 to the DNC raised at a Feb. 19, 1996, event at the Hay Adams Hotel in Washington attended by Mr. Clinton; $5,000 to the party given at a 1995 event attended by both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore; $10,000 to the DNC given at a July 1996 event attended by Mr. Clinton; and $6,000 given to the DNC at a Los Angeles event attended by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In addition, investigators say the temple covered $5,000 donations given to the campaigns of Sen. Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and his son, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, Rhode Island Democrat. Those campaigns are not DNC-related.

The 1993 event in Santa Monica was organized by Maria Hsia, an immigration consultant and prominent political activist in the Asian-American community. On the same day, her confidante, John Huang, the elusive former DNC fund raiser, also funneled $45,000 into Democratic coffers from his former employer, the Indonesian-based conglomerate Lippo Group, sources close to the investigation said.

Both have asserted their Fifth Amendment rights not to testify before Congress about their involvement in the campaign finance scandal.

DNC officials said they were unaware of the new revelations, but would take appropriate action if the donations were, in fact, illegal. …