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House Gives Immunity to Huang In Campaign Finance Testimony

By Lorraine Adams

and David A. Vise

A House committee voted unanimously Thursday to grant former Commerce official John Huang immunity to testify publicly about the 1996 campaign finance scandals.

Huang, who helped raise $2 million for the Democratic National Committee during President Clinton’s 1996 re-election effort, has long been considered a key witness who some believed could map an illicit fundraising connection from Beijing to the Oval Office.

But if House Government Reform Committee chairman Dan Burton’s preview of Huang’s extensive statements to the FBI is any guide, the most serious allegations against the White House may not be borne out by Huang’s long-awaited testimony.

The two allegations from Huang that Burton, R-Ind., highlighted involved a 1995 congressional race, not the presidential campaign, and new details about fundraising efforts by Indonesian businessman James Riady that had already been publically known.

Democrats on the committee supported the grant of immunity, but ranking minority member Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., criticized Burton for not admitting that the FBI reports on Huang contain “significant exculpatory materials” and don’t live up to Republican expectations.

“For the last three years, the Chairman and others have repeatedly alleged that John Huang was at the center of a Chinese plot to influence the 1996 elections,” Waxman said. “There have even been allegations that he was a Chinese spy who abused his security clearance to send classified information to China, and that he would have key incriminating information about the President and Vice President.”

Huang is slated to be questioned by the committee in hearings during the mid-November recess, which may be delayed by unresolved budget issues. FBI reports on Huang will be released early next week.