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Gavel To Gavel: Fund-Raising Hearings

At Least Two Nuns To Testify Thursday

Senate committee to turn its focus to Al Gore's fund-raising efforts

By Wolf Blitzer and Brooks Jackson/CNN

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sep. 3) -- At least two and probably three Buddhist nuns are scheduled to testify Thursday during the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's continuing investigation into improper political fund-raising activities.

The focus will be on a Democratic party fund-raiser attended by Vice President Al Gore at the Taiwan-based Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, Calif. on April 29, 1996.

Four Buddhist nuns have received immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony, and sources tell CNN three have been told to be available on Thursday when Sen. Fred Thompson's hearings resume following the August recess.

The three who have been called to appear are Man-Ho Shih, who speaks English; Yi-Chu, who will testify in Chinese, through an interpreter; and Man-Ya Shih, who speaks English. The fourth immunized nun, Su-Jen Wu, the temple abbess or head nun, has not been asked to appear Thursday. Neither, sources say, has the temple's venerable master, Hsing Yun, who has not received immunity.

Su-Jen Wu and Hsing Yun were interviewed last month by CNN and both denied any wrongdoing, insisting they wrote $5,000 checks to the Democratic National Committee because they thought that was the right thing to do to show their appreciation of the vice president.

Gore staffer David Strauss is expected to be the only witness Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, sources tell CNN that Johnny Chung, another former Democratic party fund-raiser, has not yet received immunity for his testimony, and is not yet scheduled to appear before the panel.

Sources say that following the testimony on the Buddhist temple incident, the committee is expected to move to another embarrassing Democratic party fund-raising incident: the illegal contribution to the party by the Cheong Am Corporation, a South Korean firm. Expected to testify is the former mayor of Carson, Calif., Mike Mitoma, who was involved in getting the contribution.

Not available is company president John Lee, who refused to leave South Korea, dashing investigators' hopes of getting him to testify about how he got a special meeting with President Bill Clinton last year in connection with his contribution.

It was this incident, first reported during the campaign last year by the Los Angeles Times, that spurred a closer look into Asian money flowing into the Democratic Party and the many revelations that have followed.


A $50,000 check

A possible focus for Friday is Maggie Williams, the first lady's chief of staff, and the $50,000 check she accepted in the White House from Johnny Chung. Another possibility is Rawlein Soberano, a suburban Washington, D.C. businessman who said John Huang tried to get him to launder some money.

The following week former Democratic National Committee head Don Fowler is a "certainty," while possible witnesses include a second appearance by former DNC finance chairman Richard Sullivan, DNC general counsel Joe Sandler and DNC Finance Chairman Marvin Rosen.

Additional testimony expected will include suspected favors the administration may have given in return for contributions, and the story of Roger Tamraz, a Lebanese businessman who gave $177,000 for special access to Energy Department officials. Another possible witness is Carl Lindner, owner of Chiquita Brands, who got the administration's support in a dispute over European banana imports.

The fourth week in September has been designated for Democrats, who have reportedly not decided how to use it.

Possibilities include looking into the Christian Coalition, accused by the Federal Election Commission of illegally coordinating their supposedly nonpartisan voter guides with Republicans.

Another possibility is a focus on conservative groups which ran ads attacking Democrats during the last election but refused to disclose their donors.

One final possibility is Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist's operation, which got $4.6 million from the Republican National Committee for targeted election mailings supporting the GOP line on Medicare.


In Other News:

Wednesday Sept. 3, 1997

Arizona Gov. Symington Guilty
Justice Looking At Gore's Fund-raising Calls
At Least Two Nuns To Testify Thursday
Anti-Smoking Amendment Moves Forward In Senate
The Buddhist Temple Event: Papers On The Trail
White House Releases Documents On Gore Fund-raiser
Drudge Strikes Back, Sort Of
House Returns For Overseas Aid Debate

E-mail From Washington:
Burton Asks White House To Explain New Fund-Raising Documents





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