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Democrats Under Fire Again For Illegal Foreign Donations

By R.H. Melton and Ruth Marcus
The Washington Post

Republicans Thursday escalated their rhetoric over what they called illegal foreign contributions to the Democratic National Committee, while the DNC said it would investigate new allegations that at least one contributor at a Buddhist temple fund-raiser was given $5,000 cash in small bills and asked to write a check to the party.

"What we're seeing here is the opening phase of what will turn into being the largest scandal in American history because it involves foreigners being directly involved in the American political system, the American government, the American criminal justice system," said House Speaker Newt Gingrich ( R-Ga).

GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole accused the Democrats of laundering money from illegal overseas sources. "They've got their own laundromat, pumping out money," Dole said."Now they are out raising money at Buddhist temples where they take a vow of poverty," he said.

The White House said Thursday it had no comment on the growing controversy over contributions raised by John Huang, a former official with the Lippo Group, an Indonesian financial conglomerate, who is now a prodigious fund-raiser for the DNC. The DNC returned a $250,000 contribution that Huang helped bring in from the U.S. subsidiary of a Korean company, Cheong Am, after determining that the money did not stem from the company's U.S. operations, as required by law.

Contributions from a Huang-organized fund-raiser in April at the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple are also increasingly in question. The head of the temple said in an interview Wednesday that monks and nuns at the temple, some of whom are listed as donors of between $2,000 and $5,000, do not have money to give. The Wall Street Journal reported that Man Ya Shih, who is affiliated with a temple branch in Richardson, Texas, said she donated $5,000 after an unnamed woman gave her that amount in small bills at the April fund-raiser and asked her to write a check to the DNC.

Making a contribution in the name of another violates federal election law. Employees at Shih's temple branch Thursday said she had gone on a retreat and was not available for comment.

"We're looking into it," said DNC press secretary Amy Weiss Tobe. "We obviously had no prior knowledge and are disturbed by this report."

At least seven people who gave addresses at or near the Hsi Lai temple were listed in Federal Election Commission reports as contributing more than $40,000 to the DNC in connection with both the April fund-raiser and a February dinner in Washington.

Tobe said that "at this moment, we're looking at that one contribution" from Shih.