When most people hear the name “Johnny Chung,” they remember media
accounts of the Chinese man who gave $50,000 to Hillary Clinton in the
White House. They imagine a man in cahoots with the Chinese military
sent to fund the Clintons and the Democrat Party. An image comes to
mind of a traitor who cares nothing for America or the rule of law.
I say to those of you who see that Johnny Chung: Hear me out. There
is a real man with a real heart and soul behind the name, and I have a
true story to tell. Some of it you may have heard before, but most of
it you have not. I have chosen to expose the very personal and painful
events of my life with the hope that God may be glorified.
I grew up in Taiwan’s countryside where water buffalo are frequently
found working in the rice fields. Primarily a Buddhist nation, Taiwan
had less than 1 percent of the population of 10 million who were
Christians. My mother was the first person out of 17 generations of my
family to become a Christian.
When I was 9-years-old, I told my mom I wanted to be baptized.
She said, “You are 9-years-old, how can you be baptized?”
But she took me to our Chinese pastor, and they asked me questions.
I told them, “I will go to Heaven because I trust Jesus alone as my
Then the pastor said to my mom, “If he wants to be baptized, we
cannot refuse him.”
I had become a Christian, but it was very difficult for me. My mom
had to go to another city to work for a better life for our family, so I
was the only Christian at home. My grandmother loved me so much, and
she worried about my conversion.
“Why do you need a foreign god?” she asked me. “We have our own
I answered, “Grandma, I have a question for you. How come we have so
many gods? We have a god of the door, god of the house, god of
sickness, god of weather, god of fishermen, but the God I have is the
God of the universe. He is One God, the One and only.”
But my witnessing seemed to do no good. My family liked to tease me.
They would say, “You have your God, so you cannot eat our meal. It
was prepared for our Chinese god.”
I replied, “My Lord, Jesus Christ wants me to eat your meal. But I
have to pray.”
While my eyes were closed during prayer, they would take away my food
as a joke.
My family came to see me as a traitor. When I wanted to read the
Bible, I had to do it outside the house. I read Christian children’s
books my mom had given to me, and they helped strengthen my faith. I
was so lucky to have a very godly mom.
She said, “Son, the best gift I can give to you is to lead you to our
Lord, Jesus Christ.”
At the time, I said I understood, but she kept repeating it until
about three years ago. Now I really understand, and I thank God for her
influence on my life.
I knew I had to prove myself to my family. I was a Christian, and I
wanted to be the best witness possible. School was one area in which I
felt I could impress them.
In Taiwan, school children may only go to college if they pass a
special test. The higher your test score, the better the school you are
able to attend. I was the first one in my family to test for the best
college in Taiwan. I could have chosen any, but I chose one of the few
Christian schools in Taipei, Fu-jen Catholic University, because it
required Bible study. There were only three Christians out of 51
classmates — two girls and myself. We prayed together and tried to
tell our classmates about Christ.
In that case, our witnessing paid off. Last year we held our 23rd
reunion and learned that 25 of our classmates had become Christians.
I had taken my Christian walk very seriously and remained pure. I met
my first love and told my mom I was ready to get married. But my mom
advised me not to marry the woman because she was not a Christian.
I replied, “Mom, you can be my mother, but you cannot be my marriage
counselor,” and I went ahead with the wedding.
About a year after the wedding, my ex-wife and I had our first
daughter, Janet. On March 1, 1983, the eve of El Nino, we arrived at the
Los Angeles International Airport to pursue the American dream.
My beginnings were like anybody else. I took a humble job — a bus
boy at the Holiday Inn — and worked very hard. If you were to tell me
then that in 10 years I would be dining at the White House and treated
like a VIP by the president of the United States and the first lady, I
would say you were crazy. But later, that is exactly what happened.
When Janet was still a toddler, my ex-wife left in the middle of the
night, leaving Janet and I alone. My ex-wife was nowhere to be found,
and her parents, my family and my pastor all encouraged me to get a
divorce, but I hesitated.
On my own and with a youngster to support, I began selling computers
out of my garage, calling the business, “Iris Data Inc.” Sales went
well, and I opened a storefront. Eventually, I had 18 stores from San
Diego to Santa Barbara. But my mom told me I didn’t make a good
businessman because my heart was too soft. Some fellow businessmen were
cheating me out of money, and I had poor management skills which led to
the bankruptcy of my business.
The day I filed for bankruptcy, my ex-wife showed up and asked me for
a divorce. It had been five years since anyone had heard any word from
her. That was the lowest point in my life, but for my daughter’s sake,
I vowed I would do anything I could to raise her.
I worked very hard to rebuild my business and serve the customers of
my 18 stores. I managed to maintained my original shop in order to
honor my contracts.
On many Saturday nights, Janet and I would go out on a boat to go
fishing together, come back Sunday morning and go to church. I raised
her as a Christian child, and when she was about 8 years old, I began to
pray for God to send a Christian woman to be a mother to my daughter. I
asked Janet if we needed a mom with us, and she said, “Yes!” We prayed
about it together for six months.
Then one morning, a woman walked into my computer shop.
I asked, “Janet, do you think she would make a good mom?”
She said, “Yes,” again.
I was dressed very casually in my Hawaiian shirt, ready to go
fishing. The woman had just had braces put on and was looking very
Instead of asking her what kind of computer she wanted, I walked up
to her and asked if she was married.
“What kind of question is that?” she responded.
I knew it was a bit forward of me to ask, but I continued. I asked
her if she had a boyfriend. Surprisingly, she said no.
“Are you a Christian?” I asked.
She said, “Yes.” In fact, she was a very serious believer who served
actively in the youth group and took classes at Biola University.
The woman, whose name is Kathy, bought a computer from me. With the
phone number and address on the invoice, I called her that same night
with the excuse of an “after sale courtesy call” before she even opened
I asked Kathy how her computer was working, and we began to talk.
She didn’t seem too impressed with me, but with persistence, I
eventually asked her out. Kathy met with my wonderful godly, Christian
mother and decided that maybe I was worth a chance.
We had a very rocky courtship. However, our marriage is testimony of
God’s sovereignty and grace. My wife always says we are the two least
likely people to get together. Janet called Kathy “Mom” from the very
start, and the two of them have a beautiful relationship. God has since
blessed us with three more children, including Jacob who is now four
months old. He is our joy and comfort from the Lord in the midst of all
the difficult time our family is experiencing.
Since I had filed bankruptcy, I tried to think of a new business for
myself. I wasn’t good at managing people, especially people in 18
different stores. I thought there must be a business I could start
without having to manage people.
I remembered another frustrating aspect of running multiple stores:
faxing. When my computer business was doing well, I would send faxes to
all the stores, but I had to send them one at a time. I thought to
myself, “There must be a way to simultaneously fax documents to all the
I talked to Kathy about it, and I envisioned a fax broadcasting
service that would contract with other businesses and government
agencies to send mass faxes. The idea paid off — governors around the
country used my service to send items such as press releases, which are
sent to hundreds, if not thousands, of media outlets. It was a real
1991 was a significant year for me — that year I married Kathy and
became an American citizen. At that time, I registered with the
Democrat Party, but my loyalty was to the United States. Not knowing
much about politics, I believed the Democrats really cared about
minorities and the poor. My wife, on the other hand, was a conservative
Republican and tried her best to change my mind. But it didn’t work.
By aligning myself with the Democrat Party, I was doing what I thought
I had never been involved in politics before — I was the new guy on
the political scene. To promote my fax service, I attended a conference
of the National Governors Association where I accidentally sat in a seat
reserved for White House staff.
President Clinton’s special assistant, Rita Lewis, came to claim her
seat, and I found myself in the perfect position to promote my business
to the White House. In the course of conversation, Lewis invited me to
the executive mansion to discuss my fax-broadcasting proposal.
In my mind, this was a business opportunity, but in her mind, this
was a potential political contribution. That was my first visit to the
White House. Congressional reports and White House records show during
that time, the DNC and the Clinton administration were targeting the
Asian-American community for political contributions.
So Lewis again invited me to the White House, but this time she would
try to get money from me. I had a different issue to discuss. I was
very concerned about my own Taiwanese-American community, especially
with regard to their passports as American citizens. All American
citizens born in Taiwan had passports which listed their birthplace as
China. We wanted the passports to say “Taiwan” instead.
Lewis hinted that before such a meeting could take place, checks
would be collected for donations which were required from people
attending President Clinton’s 48th birthday party. That party, Lewis
told me, would be attended by important people with whom I could discuss
No money, no meeting — and the price tag was $10,000 per couple.
That’s when I realized money would buy me access. This must be how
politics works, I thought, not knowing anything about campaign finance
At first, I gave my own money from my own business. My purpose was
to impress my investors from Asia. By showing them my connections, I
was given more investments.
I frequently told DNC party officials and the White House that the
more access I received, the more my business would grow, which meant I
could make more donations. I honestly believed I was doing the right
thing for a party that would advocate for the poor and less fortunate.
I look back on it now and realize that was stupid. But at the time
it seemed right.
Around early 1996, after I had been in the White House about 50
times, I found myself in an awkward situation. I am a quiet,
Asian-American businessman, and I just wanted to do what was best for my
One day, my wife gave me a pro-life lapel pin. It was the shape of
two tiny feet of a 10-week-old fetus. I put the pin on my suit as I was
leaving for another White House meeting. I still did not know the
party’s stance on moral issues.
People in the Democrat Party and at the White House knew me as a
big-time donor, so when I arrived, I saw some shocked faces.
Some of them said, “Johnny, I thought you were a die-hard Democrat.
Why are you wearing that pin?”
“I am a die-hard Democrat,” I said, “but that doesn’t mean I agree
“Besides,” I said, “my wife is right about this one.”
Kathy may not have been able to persuade me to register Republican,
but we agree that abortion is the taking of an innocent life.
So I went walking around the White House with the tiny feet on my
lapel. I’m sure it made people around me feel uncomfortable.
My many visits to the White House attracted attention not only from
business investors, but also from the Chinese government. On a trip to
Hong Kong, a retired Hong Kong banker introduced me to Ms. Liu
Chao-Ying, the vice president of a Chinese aerospace company in Hong
Kong and daughter of the highest-ranking general in China — equivalent
to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the United States. I did
not know at the time that she was also a colonel in the People’s
Liu asked me if I would show her around the U.S. as I had done with
other colleagues. Like anybody else would, I knew this was a tremendous
business opportunity. I also knew this woman’s family connections, but
to me it was no different than if I was dealing with someone like the
daughter of then-U.S. Gen. Colin Powell.
So I paid her way into the U.S. and introduced her to President
Clinton and Don Fowler, chairman of the Democratic National Committee,
at a fund-raiser in Los Angeles.
After the visit, Liu promised to invest $300,000 to set up a business
in the U.S. for fisheries in the South China Sea and to list existing
Chinese companies with the New York Stock Exchange. It was a proposal I
could not refuse, although I now know I should have declined it, as that
offer led to a far more complicated situation.
I decided to take my teen-age daughter and her friend to China so
they could see how good their life is in America. I wanted them to
appreciate their country by seeing how hard life is in China. While we
were there, Liu called me on my cell phone saying I must come back to
“No way!” I replied. I had two American teen-age girls in China, and
I did not want to worry about leaving them with someone while I went to
But Liu insisted, saying someone very important from Beijing wanted
to see me and that it would be good for our new business.
It is common knowledge in the East that if you want to do business
with Asian companies, you have to meet with people in high-ranking
positions. I knew that even as a child. And to an extent, it’s the
same way in America.
So I put the girls in the care of a good friend in China. That night
I went to meet a man who called himself the Chinese equivalent of “Mr.
Smith” — obviously an alias — at a restaurant with Liu.
This gentleman told me China liked my president and wanted to see him
re-elected. I would be given $300,000 to give to President Clinton and
the Democrat Party.
At that moment, I thought, Who the hell do you think you are?
But I didn’t say it because I knew this man was an important official,
although I didn’t know exactly who he was.
After the meeting, I asked Liu who the man was. She said I must not
know my Chinese history very well because “Mr. Smith” was really Gen. Gi
Sheng-de, China’s military intelligence director.
I was very upset and knew then that I was in over my head. But I
kept quiet because foremost in my mind was the two American teen-age
girls I had left in China — I needed to be sure I could bring them back
to Hong Kong, which at that time was still a British colony.
The next morning, Liu called me at my hotel to finalize the
“You promised me that if I showed you around, you would invest in the
fishery and stock exchange business. I don’t want to have anything to do
with this general and money from him to donate to the Democrats and the
president,” I told her.
She tried to reassure me by saying the general was only concerned for
his son, who was attending UCLA. Liu said I could use the money to take
care of the general’s son, invest in our business and also to donate to
the president and the Democrat Party.
She also tried to reassure me by saying that they had done this kind
of thing with others.
At the same time, some of my Hong Kong colleagues wired me $200,000
for other business purposes. So I had half-a-million dollars in my Hong
One morning toward the end of October 1996, I woke up to see my
picture on the front page of the Los Angeles Times in a news story
describing the erupting campaign finance scandal. Reporters were chasing
after me to the point that I felt like a hunted animal.
I immediately called Mr. Sullivan, the finance director of the DNC,
who was my contact there, and asked what was going on.
“Was it wrong for me to give you the money?” I asked.
Mr. Sullivan said, “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny — I can’t talk,” and he
I tried to call back, but suddenly no one at the DNC would return my
When the FBI questioned me, I handed over all of my banking records
so they could see all of the financial transactions that occurred.
Those records told the story of what happened. My banking record speaks
for itself. I cooperated fully and voluntarily and enabled the FBI to
have access to those records in the summer of 1997, which was near the
beginning of the campaign finance investigation.
I did not know what I had done was against the law, but when I found
out, I fully cooperated and told the truth at all times. My faith
demanded that I tell the truth. As a Christian, I simply cannot lie.
I had become a poster-boy for the campaign finance scandal. My
Chinese-American church turned away from me. All my friends suddenly
made themselves scarce. I isolated myself, and figuratively speaking,
built a wall around myself and my family.
My wife had been attending Bible study at the Granada Heights Friends
Church in La Mirada, Calif., for several years. I had become so consumed
with my business and traveled so extensively that my heart was no longer
right with God. I never turned my back on my faith, and God was always
with me, but I had let my business come first. During this time, my
wife had been praying for me to come home to my family and to slow
down. She always asked me, “Are you sure you are not running ahead of
the Lord?” To which I always confidently answered, “Of course not!”
When the campaign finance scandal erupted, I was at my wits end. I
had brought shame on my family and disgrace to the Chung name. At this
point my wife invited me to attend Granada Heights Friends Church with
her. I did go, and soon found myself surrounded by very loving,
accepting and understanding Christians. This surprised me and warmed my
heart because, for one thing, we are some of the few Asian-Americans who
I was also very lucky to meet not only the pastor of the church, Stan
Ponz, but also the founding pastor of the church, Verl Lindley, who
started the church over 40 years ago and is now retired. I have been
meeting with Pastor Lindley for a one-on-one Bible study every week for
almost two years now. He really is a godly man and has shown me what
integrity and honesty mean.
At the end of 1997, before Christmas, my attorney told me I needed to
make a decision about how to plead. I struggled with this, and it was
the worst Christmas I ever had.
On the first Sunday of 1998, I attended church with Kathy, and Pastor
Stan Ponz spoke about forgiveness. I was a broken man, and the sermon
brought me to tears. After the service I stayed behind to speak with
Pastor Ponz. The only three people I could talk to freely who could not
be subpoenaed were my wife, my lawyer and my pastor.
My pastor listened as I explained to him the decision I needed to
make. We knelt down and prayed. Then I rededicated my life to Christ and
vowed to come forward with the truth no matter what the cost.
The more I talked about the campaign finance scandal, the more danger
I was in. But something more important happened when I spoke up: I
felt the peace of Jesus Christ again in my life. Christ Himself said,
“The truth shall set you free.”
“We can take the heat together,” my wife said.
My daughter, Janet, was also very supportive and reminded me that I
had to tell the truth for the sake of history.
On March 9, 1998, Federal District Judge Manual Real asked me, “How
do you plead, Mr. Chung?”
I said, “Guilty, your honor.”
I remember walking down the long hallway with U.S. Marshals to be
fingerprinted after I pled guilty to the charges against me. I was with
prostitutes and thieves, who — when they saw all the reporters and
cameras following me — asked me who I was and what I had done. I told
them, “I am a criminal, just like you.”
After the fingerprinting, I said, “Lord, help me to right the wrongs
that I have done. I will fully cooperate, whatever it costs.”
Immediately I was approached by a messenger from China, who told me,
if I kept quiet, I would be taken care of with a lot of money — and
maybe even a presidential pardon. This would have been easier in some
ways. Over 120 witnesses in the campaign finance investigation have
either fled the country or taken the Fifth in order to avoid testifying.
But I decided to stick with my commitment to cooperate and tell the
truth, and I followed the FBI’s instructions.
Soon afterwards, the FBI learned of two separate assassination “hit
squads” sent for me from China. My family and I were put under
heavily-armed guard for several weeks to protect us from these threats
on our lives.
In March of 1999, a third attempt was made, but fortunately an FBI
agent was with me at the time. They arrested the suspect, and again the
FBI decided to immediately put my family and I under protection. The
next day the protection was unexpectedly called off by the Department of
Justice. When I called to ask why, I was told, “Mr. Chung, your case is
over. If you feel your life is in danger, you should do what any
American citizen would do — call 911.”
Over a period of many months and dozens of interviews and
interrogations, I told everything I knew about the scandal to the FBI,
the Department of Justice, representatives from other federal agencies
and congressional investigators. But so far, the information I gave them
has not been made public, and after several years, the Department of
Justice still says it is an “ongoing investigation.”
That is why I decided six months ago to go public with my story. I
have been giving many TV and radio interviews around the country, and I
also made a video which tells my story. All this has resulted in even
more pressure being put on me by the U.S. government.
At my sentencing, the DNC portrayed themselves as victims of Johnny
Chung and asked the judge to throw the book at me. As a result, Judge
Real requested and received a copy of my secret grand jury testimony
which I gave in Washington, D.C., in November of 1998. After reading my
grand jury testimony, and before he handed down my sentence, Judge Real
said that if Mr. Fowler and Mr. Sullivan of the DNC did not know what
was going on, they were two of the dumbest politicians he had ever seen.
He also said that he found it very strange that the “giver” of the money
pleaded guilty in front of him, but the “givee” got off free. He added
that in light of the information available to him, he found it very
strange that Attorney General Janet Reno chose not to appoint an
I was put on probation and given 3,000 hours of community service,
much of which I served at my church last year with a grateful heart.
This year, I was assigned to perform my community service at the YMCA as
But my journey is not over yet. I do not regret telling the truth —
I will continue to do so until people listen. I want everyone to know
that my loyalty is to the United States of America, not the Democrat
party or anything else. And, as I think of the words of my daughter
Janet, I willingly face the judgment of American history.