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Gore, Huang Visited Taiwan Together In 1989

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec. 13) -- As a senator, Al Gore visited Taiwan in 1989 with John Huang on a trip sponsored by the same Buddhist organization that hosted this year's controversial Democratic fund-raiser at a California Buddhist temple, according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal.

After the temple's April 1996 event drew objections, Gore tried to distance himself from it, claiming he didn't know it was a fund-raiser. The vice president did not disclose at that time, however, that its organizers, Huang and Maria Hsia, both went along on the Taiwan trip seven years earlier.

Huang is the former Democratic staffer whose aggressive fund-raising efforts with overseas business interests tripped up the Democrats this fall. So far, the party has returned about $1.5 million in questionable contributions, and Congress and the Justice Department are conducting separate investigations.

According to the Journal's report, Huang and Hsia also organized the Taiwan trip, which included meetings with Taiwanese and U.S. officials and a visit to the headquarters of the Buddhist group To Kwang Shan, which paid for the three-day excursion.

John Huang

James Riady, a senior official of the Lippo Group, which employed Huang, was scheduled to go on the trip, but apparently did not. Riady also has been linked to questionable Democratic contributions this year.

In another development related to Democratic fund-raising, separate probes are underway by a congressional committee and the Commerce Department into how a Democratic fund-raiser's company got a $3.2 million grant for a minority business center.

The grant was awarded to the Cordoba Corp. after a Clinton political appointee, Gilbert Colon, overruled the selection of another firm that scored higher in an initial review.

Cordoba is operated by George Pla, a California businessman and longtime Democratic fund-raiser. The 1994 grant is being reviewed by the House Commerce Committee and the Commerce Department.

Pla told The Associated Press he had not asked for any special treatment and Cordoba spent about $500,000 of its own money on the minority business center. Government auditors have concluded in a draft report that the firm wrongly claimed $700,000 in government payments and failed to live up to the terms of its contract.

Colon, who no longer works at the Commerce Department, has Declined to comment.

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