The Huang Man

          BILL CLINTON'S RETURN to the White House for a second term may leave those who voted for him with a giant election day hangover if they consider the following lesson from Watergate: A president may be held legally responsible for the criminal actions of his subordinates if it can be shown that he benefited from them. That fine point of constitutional law makes it easier to understand the almost comical White House-orchestrated coverup that was exposed last week in the matter of John Huang, the Democratic National Committee finance vice-chair praised by Clinton for his "aggressive" fundraising of soft money from Asian multinationals.

          Keep in mind that, as chronicled by Bob Woodward in The Choice, Clinton was intimately involved in both the raising and disbursement of soft money (itself a violation of federal campaign finance statutes prohibiting coordination between a presidential candidate's cash-handling and that of his party). No wonder, then, that the White House was so disconcerted when it was revealed that Secret Service logs showed Huang was one of its most frequent visitors, checking in at least 81 times. Some of these meetings took place in the late evening hours, which old Washington hands take to indicate off-the-public-schedule seances with the president.

          The Clintonoids tried to bamboozle the public by asserting there were two John Huangs, the second being a computer expert who worked for Al Gore. But subtracting the 19 visits attributed to the techno-Huang still leaves 62 meetings with Lippo-Huang. And need one add that two Huangs don't make a right?

          When two reporters for the Wall Street Journal broke the Indonesian connection story, Lippo-Huang (after one final meeting at the White House) went into hiding to dodge a federal judge's subpoena. Even the U.S. Marshals couldn't find him. But when Huang finally did surface, his deposition confirmed that he had met with Clinton "many times," and he further admitted that, while hiding from the subpoena, he'd been in contact with a raft of Clintonoids, including Democratic National Committee executive chair Don Fowler, the DNC's counsel, a top White House personnel official, and a Clinton appointee to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

          Janet Reno guaranteed she won't be around for long in the second term when she opened a preliminary investigation that's almost certain to lead to yet another special prosecutor to probe a new Huang-related scandal: allegations that the U.S. envoy to Taiwan was involved in a Huang-directed shakedown of Taiwanese corporations for soft money. Huang, who was raised in Taiwan, visited that country twice in the company of Mark Middleton, a former White House aide who passed out business cards emblazoned with the presidential seal that listed him as "special assistant to the president." The cards bore a White House number that was still being answered by his recorded message 19 months after Middleton left the office. James Woods, whom Clinton picked as emissary to Taiwan even though he didn't speak the language, is accused of helping Huang's fundraising, including a failed attempt to collect $15 million for the Democrats from Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party, itself a multinational whose business holdings of over $5 billion make it one of Asia's largest enterprises.

          Answers to these and other questions about Huang's fundraising while a top aide to Commerce Secretary Ron Brown might be found in a secret stash of Brown's personal files that were spirited away from Brown's secretary in September in violation of a federal judge's order last August to produce them. The two-foot high pile of documents seized by the department's counsel (a political appointee) was under subpoena, but the contents were not disclosed to the court.

          Stalling, stonewalling, concealment, and coverup may have allowed Bill Clinton to skate over these and other scandals until election day, but such pervasive corruption cannot possibly be stifled for four more years--even if America has just reelected its Felon-in-Chief.

 
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