There’s been a little talk about impeaching President Clinton – not enough, but a little. But, strangely, given the magnitude of the foreign campaign money scandal, no one has suggested impeaching Vice President Al Gore.
Let me be the first.
A draft report by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee strongly links Gore with money laundering at the Hsi Lai Temple in Southern California. As you might recall, that was the event, coordinated by Maria Lynn Hsia, in which Buddhist priests and nuns who took vows of poverty raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Democratic National Committee as well as candidates.
Hsia is now under indictment for, among other things, raising $55,000 in illegal contributions at an April 29, 1996, luncheon in which Gore was the featured attraction.
“It had nothing to do with me,” Gore claimed after Hsia was charged.
Yet, that’s not what the Senate committee’s report found. In fact, it says the temple money laundering was “the culmination of a relationship between Hsia and Vice President Gore that stretches back to 1988.” It also suggests he knows far more about the temple event than he has admitted publicly.
`According to the report, Hsia is also tied closely with the Lippo Group, an Indonesian conglomerate at least partly owned by Communist China. Among Hsia’s lobbying clients were the notorious Riady brothers, central figures in the White House campaign scandal.
Gore hitched his wagon to Hsia’s star in 1988. Strapped for cash after his unsuccessful bid for the presidential nomination, he had a Senate seat to defend. She invited Gore to join her on a junket to Taiwan and promised, if he participated, that she would back him in future races. Hsia’s lobbying group had hoped five U.S. senators would take the trip. Gore was the only one who did. But staff members Peter Knight, later head of the Clinton-Gore ’96 campaign, and Leon Fuerth, now the vice president’s national security adviser, joined him.
Following the trip, Hsia raised $29,500 for Gore’s 1990 Senate race, according to the report. But how he got the money is a scandal in itself. The funds were sent to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to avoid the limits placed on donations to individual candidates. But the DSCC ran a bogus tally system permitting individuals and political action committees to earmark funds for certain candidates. The DSCC was forced to pay a $75,000 fine for the illegal system.
Furthermore, Gore knew about the scheme. The committee cites letters from Gore in 1989 and 1990 thanking Hsia for the “tallied” contributions she had funneled to him.
From there, Hsia continued her promised support to the Clinton-Gore 1996 campaign. The $15,000 laundered through foreign national nuns and priests at the temple event was just the beginning. The Democratic National Committee netted more than $100,000 at the temple. (By the way, while a small Christian church has lost its tax-exempt status as a result of anti-Clinton preaching by its pastor in 1996, the temple’s charitable status remains.)
Hsia is also charged with raising $10,000 from the temple, laundered through four nuns, in September 1995. In February 1996, she allegedly arranged for another $25,000 contribution laundered through nine nuns. In July 1996, she is charged with raising another $10,000 from the temple laundered through two nuns. Hsia was rewarded with co-chairman status at a Presidential Gala attended by Clinton for her hard work.
Yet, Gore maintains the temple luncheon was not a fund-raiser, but a “community outreach event.” For this statement alone, Gore should be impeached for either high treason or profound stupidity – take your pick.
Though I’ve never been one to over-estimate Gore’s intelligence, it appears to be more in the order of high crimes and misdemeanors rather than ignorance. The Senate report says two weeks before the event, Gore’s scheduler passed out a sheet showing that the luncheon had a ticket price ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per head. Before the event, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes sent Gore a memo estimating the expected take from the event. Two guests at the luncheon say speakers, including John Huang and DNC Chairman Don Fowler, encouraged donations.
And guess who sat at the head table with Gore? You guessed it. His long-time fund-raiser and organizer of the event, Maria Lynn Hsia. The temple has admitted shredding documents about the luncheon and shipping videotapes off to Taiwan.
These are the facts. But behind them lies something even more sinister than simple violations of campaign finance laws. Where did the money come from? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that much of it, maybe all of it, came from foreign sources. Given the participation of the Riadys and Huang, that likely means only one thing – China.
Which leads to the question of whose interests Al Gore represents – those of the American people or the Chinese?