WASHINGTON — Vice President Al Gore acts as if he
barely knows convicted fund-raiser Maria Hsia. He
can’t recall talking to her at a Buddhist temple
fund-raiser. He says he was blind to her illegal
fund-raising scheme.

At least that’s what he told the Justice Department’s
campaign-finance task force in April.

But Gore’s ties to Hsia run deep.

No fly-by-night fund-raiser, Hsia coordinated campaign events for
Gore for eight years. More than that, she was a “great friend,” as he
once told her. Investigators have discovered that Gore even sought her
help in writing his 1992 book,

“Earth in the
Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit.”

Hsia also advised Gore on immigration and environmental policy when he was a U.S. senator. In 1989, the suspected Beijing agent escorted him on a trip to Asia.

Becky Chan would know. She was one of the special FBI agents assigned to the Senate to investigate the Buddhist Temple fund-raiser.

She told WorldNetDaily that she and other agents spent some nine months in 1997 probing, among other things, Hsia’s links to the vice president. Though she won’t comment on Gore’s latest denials, her work, which included translating documents written in Chinese, proved valuable to the so-called Thompson committee.

Among other links, the investigators found a letter from Gore’s former chief of staff thanking Hsia for contributing to his book.

“The materials you got for Al’s book on the environment were perfect. Thanks so much for taking the time to do it,” Peter Knight wrote to Hsia in a March 6, 1991, letter. “He would have been lost without your efforts, because the chapter on religion and the environment is integral to his work.”

That would be chapter 13: “Environmentalism of the Spirit.” Hsia’s contribution, showing an alleged link between Christianity and Buddhism, appears on page 261.

“A common thread in many religions is the sacred quality of water. Christians are baptized in water, as a sign of purification,” Gore wrote. “In the Lotus ‘Sutra,’ Buddha is presented metaphorically as a ‘rain cloud,’ covering, permeating, fertilizing and enriching ‘all parched living beings, to free them from their misery to attain the joy of peace, joy of the present world and joy of Nirvana … everywhere impartially without distinction of persons … ever to all beings I preach the Law equally … equally I rain the Law — rain untiringly.”

In March, Hsia was convicted of charges related to the laundering of more than $100,000 in illegal temple money for the ’96 Clinton-Gore reelection effort. She awaits sentencing.

In an April 18 interview with task-foce prosecutors, Gore, under oath, claimed he couldn’t remember talking to Hsia at the temple fund-raiser that she organized and he hosted.

Q: Do you recall any conversation that you had with Maria Hsia at the temple event?

A: No. No, I don’t.

Maria Hsia, Master Hsing Yun and Vice President Al Gore at the April 1996 fund-raiser at the Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles. (Reuters)

But a temple photograph of the event shows Gore looking in the direction of Hsia, who sat in the second chair to his right.

Gore also denied knowing the event was a fund-raiser, or that Hsia [pronounced: Shaw] solicited donations in connection with the event.

But Gore was hardly out of the loop.

Just six weeks before the April 29, 1996, temple fund-raiser in Los Angeles, Gore met with Hsia and the temple’s master, Hsing Yun, in the White House. (Gore and Hsia, who stayed at the Hay-Adams Hotel, also spoke by phone the morning of the meeting.)

A week later, on March 23, Hsia followed up with a letter to Gore. She informed him she was “organizing a fund-raising lunch event, with your anticipated presence, on behalf of the local Chinese community. … The event is tentatively scheduled for April 29.”

Two weeks before the event, memos show there was no doubt among Gore’s staff that their boss would be the guest of honor at a tax-exempt church. Even his national security advisers knew.

“Hsing Yun has invited the VP to visit the Hsi Lai Temple in L.A. Hsing Yun would host a fund-raising lunch for about 150 people in the VP’s honor,” wrote Gore national security staffer John Norris in an April 15, 1996, e-mail to staffer Robert Suettinger.

At least two guests at the event told investigators that they recall fund-raising actually being discussed from the lectern — in Gore’s presence.

Since quizzing Gore about the Hsi Lai [pronounced: See Lie] Temple fund-raiser, task force chief Robert Conrad has urged Reno to turn the case over to a special outside prosecutor.

Former prosecutors have doubted Gore’s memory lapses and denials in previous sworn interviews, and have urged Reno to investigate the vice president for possibly making false statements to the FBI.

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