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With the release of a two-year-old confidential report to Attorney
General Janet Reno exposing the agency’s protective cover of
President and Mrs. Clinton in the
1996 campaign finance scandal, I believe it is high time the report’s
author, Chuck LaBella, be given public praise.
You see, I met with LaBella during my involvement in the scandal and
gave him information critical to his report.
On March 9, 1998, I pled guilty to violations of campaign finance
laws before Federal Judge Manuel Real. A few days after the proceeding,
I was approached at a private club in downtown Los Angeles by Robert
Luu, who was acting as a messenger from the Chinese government.
“Delay, delay, delay,” Luu told me, adding that President Clinton’s
upcoming visit to China was “more important than anything.”
“Keep your mouth shut,” he said. “If you keep your mouth shut,
everything will be fine, but if you talk, everything will be out of
Luu continued, “A high-ranking Chinese official in Beijing and a
high-ranking official in Washington, D.C., agreed to take care of your
case. If you have to go to jail, you will go to a country-club jail.
If you keep your mouth shut, you will retire in style.”
Luu said a presidential pardon had even been discussed as an option
for me, should I have been convicted.
What Luu didn’t know, however, was that I had already agreed to
cooperate fully with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, and the U.S. Congress. I was wearing a body wire, and
the entire conversation had been audio- and video-recorded.
But at 4:00 p.m., before the meeting with Luu took place, my
attorney’s office received a phone call from the New York Times.
Clearly, a high-ranking official had leaked the fact that I was
cooperating with the FBI in order to burn the sting operation.
My attorney tried to kill the story for the sake of the operation,
but the Times said it would only hold back if FBI Director Louis J.
Freeh personally called the paper. Obviously that call never happened.
Concerned for my safety, the FBI told me I did not have to go through
with the meeting, but I said I would cooperate no matter how dangerous
it may be.
The sting was a success. The next day, the Times broke the story.
That morning I received a call from an FBI agent who said, “Mr.
Chung, it’s time to go. We need to take you and your family to a safe
For the next three weeks, my family and I were kept under
heavily-armed government protection 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
I later found out from government officials that a “hit squad” from
China had come to kill me. During those three weeks, a group of four
men from Beijing, and another group composed of two men and one woman,
sought to kill me.
In early June of 1998, while still under guard, former Justice
Department task force supervisor Charles LaBella requested a meeting
with me. He was writing the now-famous “LaBella report” and needed more
I’ve never had the chance to read his report, but I know what I said
to him in that hotel room. I have decided to share that conversation
with the public.
Meeting the head of the prosecuting team investigating my case was a
bit uncomfortable, to say the least. But LaBella broke the ice when,
upon seeing me he said, “You look exactly like your picture.”
Immediately put at ease, I said, “Mr. LaBella, you are a man with
integrity. You are investigating your own boss.”
At this point, I had already been hunted by not one, but two
different Chinese crime teams, and my future was unclear. In light of
the circumstances, I felt compelled to tell LaBella, “I am under heavy
FBI protection, but in case anything happens to me, please write down
everything I have to say to you because I know you are writing your
At that time, FBI agents were kept at a distance from me so they did
not hear our conversation. LaBella pointed to a piece of paper, which
he used to take notes of our conversation. By the time we were
finished, both sides of the paper were filled with the following
First, I told LaBella of the snag the FBI and I had hit with the New
York Times, and that the only way reporters could have heard anything
about the operation was if a government official who knew about the
sting leaked the information.
Second, I made sure he knew the head of the civil division in the
Justice Department was involved in “taking care of my case.”
Then I told Labella the money I contributed was for political access,
and that the Clintons knew it.
“This is the White House,” I told him, “not my house or your house.
If the residents of the White House do not want you in, you cannot set
foot in there. If they don’t know who you are, you don’t get in.”
I often told administration officials, “The more access I am given,
the more business I can generate, which means I can afford to give more
They clearly knew I was cultivating my business relationships with
businessmen from Asia — including from China.
In my conversation with LaBella, I recounted the circumstances
surrounding the times I made financial contributions to the Clintons and
the Democratic National Committee. While inside the White House, I gave
$50,000 to Margaret Williams, chief of staff to First Lady Hillary
Clinton. I specifically told Williams the money was for access.
I had a “wish list” which the Clintons granted. It included a
picture with the president and first lady, eating lunch at the White
House and an exclusive tour. It was suggested I pay $80,000, but I paid
I asked Williams’ secretary, Evan Ryan, “Does the first lady know
about my contributions to help pay her debt to the Democratic National
Ryan said to me, “Yes, the first lady definitely knows.”
But what Ryan, nor anyone else in the White House, didn’t tell me was
that it is illegal to receive money for campaigns inside a government
building. I didn’t know that — I was the new kid in town, but Ryan and
Williams should have known. All government officials should know that.
I later gave Africare, a non-profit organization that raises money
for poor African nations, a $25,000 donation at the suggestion of Corlis
Moody, director of the office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the
Department of Energy — right-hand woman of Secretary O’Leary. I was
told the money would secure a meeting with the Secretary of Energy for a
Chinese oil company. I understood that to mean: no donation, no
In the summer of 1996, I attended a 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign event
at the Los Angeles Century Plaza Hotel. I brought 18 Chinese national
businessmen to the event and introduced them to Richard Sullivan, the
chief finance director of the DNC, and the fundraiser for the
Clinton-Gore committee, Karin Sternfeld. I gave a check made out to the
DNC for $25,000, but Sternfeld handed the check to my former general
manager and asked that it be split into 25 separate $1,000 checks.
As I told LaBella, clearly Sternfeld and the other fundraisers
present knew these men were Chinese. Why did they ask me to change the
check when they knew the money was from a foreign country?
Another instance was when I hosted a fundraising event in the fall
for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. I was breaking down another check
into smaller quantities with one of my company shareholders, Mr. Lee, in
front of four professional fundraisers: Sullivan; Sternfeld; Kimberly
Ray, another Clinton-Gore fundraiser; and the fundraiser for Kerry. All
acted as though they didn’t see anything related to the transaction,
despite the fact that we were sitting at the same table. I even have a
picture to prove it.
“Why didn’t they stop me?” I asked LaBella at our meeting. “I didn’t
know my transactions were illegal. But when I was told they were, I
pled guilty. I admitted I was wrong — why don’t they?”
My contributions to the DNC and the Clinton-Gore campaign finance
committee were the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong
time. I happened to know the head of Chinese military intelligence,
Gen. Gi Sheng-de, was trying to influence American elections.
Gen. Gi told me, “We like your president. We’d like to see him
re-elected. I will give you $300,000, and you can give it to your
president and your Democrat Party.”
Of course, the money was taken away from me after the campaign
finance scandal erupted by Chinese mafia operative Peter Chang in Los
Angeles. The mafia there has strong ties with the Chinese government.
Having crammed as much of our conversation as possible onto his one
sheet of paper, LaBella and I concluded our meeting.
Before we went our separate ways, I shook LaBella’s hand and looked
him in the eye when I said, “I’m going to count on you to report this.
You have all the information, no matter what happens to me now.”
We said goodbye to each other, I was taken back to my secret location
by the FBI agents, and LaBella went on to complete his report.
On Feb. 3, 1999, after filing the 94-page report with Janet Reno,
Chuck LaBella resigned as interim U.S. Attorney, saying he felt he had
lost the confidence of the attorney general and her top deputies.
Mr. LaBella, I want to publicly praise you for a job well done. You
are a man with personal and professional integrity. You dared to stand
up to do what is good for the American people despite the cost of losing
your public career. My hat’s off to you.
The American people should be very proud to have had someone like you
working for them. I salute you.