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The real question is not whether President Clinton knew the source of
Johnny Chung’s 1996 campaign contributions. The real question is whether
the money was a bribe or a payoff.
In a series of stunning stories by The New York Times, Americans have
learned the hard truth about the way Bill Clinton won re-election in
1996 — through illegal campaign contributions from Chinese military
intelligence, which had long sought to change U.S. government policy on
the sale of satellite and encryption technology.
On Sunday, the Times reported that a debate within the Clinton
administration on an easing of limits on the transfer of such technology
was ended by Secretary of State Warren Christopher in October 1995 when
he decided to preserve such restrictions on the basis of national
Not only was China itself the most significant long-term military
threat to the United States, but Beijing had been caught red-handed
shipping weapons technology to Pakistan in 1991 and 1993. That
development led directly to the recent arms race in South Asia in which
India test-detonated five nuclear weapons.
But only five months after Christopher ruled against the sales of
additional high technology that could be used to enhance China’s
guidance systems for ballistic nuclear arms, President Clinton
personally overrode his secretary of state. And guess where he placed
the authority to cut such deals? With the Commerce Department — then
headed by Ron Brown and his lieutenant John Huang.
“One of the beneficiaries of that decision, it turns out, was China
Aerospace because its rockets could launch American satellites,”
explained the Times. “An executive of the state-owned Chinese company,
Liu Chao-ying, allegedly provided tens of thousands of dollars from
Chinese military intelligence to the Democratic Party in 1996.”
Because of the timing of these events, the campaign contributions
begin to look more like a payoff for a job well done than a bribe to
influence policy decisions.
The early explanations by the Clinton administration ring, shall we
say, somewhat hollow.
“This was motivated by competitiveness and streamlining bureaucracy
concerns, and nothing else,” said Samuel Berger, Clinton’s national
security adviser. More recently, Berger’s spokesman, Eric Rubin, said
the decision was also part of the administration’s overall China policy
and an effort to encourage Beijing to clamp down on military exports.
“On many occasions, this was discussed with the Chinese government
because we believe that policy on satellite licenses is one of the tools
we have to strengthen our nonproliferation policy,” he said.
So, Clinton not only ignored his own Justice Department’s advice on
the transfer of this technology, he also ignored the expert advice of
his State Department and Pentagon as well. It sounds like the White
House was hell-bent on making a deal with the Chinese. But why? To
streamline bureaucracy? For competitiveness? To reward a regime that had
so recently proven itself to cheat and lie and offer such technology to
The New York Times also points out how the Clinton campaign had made
a major issue of George Bush’s “softness” on China in 1992.
“President Bush is an incurable patsy for those dictators he sets out
to coddle,” said Al Gore in one campaign speech. Pretty funny, huh?
Maybe Clinton and Gore thought Bush was foolish because he made
concessions without the benefit of illegal campaign cash from those
This is beginning to look like the scandal to end all scandals.
Christopher is long gone. And, no wonder. He was reversed on one of the
most important foreign policy decisions of his career. Ron Brown is
gone. And now the story told by his business partner, Nolanda Hill,
about Brown’s threat to break with Clinton and tell all he knew to
investigators begins to make even more sense. The cover-up of his death
and what appeared to be a bullet hole in his skull takes on more
perspective as well.
Most Americans can still scarcely comprehend the betrayal, the
treachery and the skullduggery the administration’s actions seem to
represent. But one thing’s for sure. The Clinton spin machine cannot
suggest The New York Times is part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
Bribe or payoff? Either way, the new details of the worst campaign
finance scandal in American history can mean only one thing — the end
of the Clinton administration.