The loudest proponent of this desperate gambit is, of course, the president. Barack Obama in Maryland last week warned that "groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections." Soon MoveOn.org was calling for the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the Chamber of Commerce. Sen. Al Franken took up the charge that "foreign corporations are indirectly spending significant sums to influence American elections through third-party groups." It all fit in with calls for investigations from Sen. Max Baucus, Rep. John Conyers, White House senior adviser David Axelrod and the chief White House economist, Austan Goolsbee, who, in a conference call to reporters in August, seemed to be aware of particulars in tax returns of the principals at Koch Industries.
Now, actually, foreigners and possibly foreign governments have been known to influence American elections. Yet I cannot recall them serving as friends of the Republicans'. I remember them as friends of the Clintons', helping him win the election of 1992 and coming out again in 1996. Foremost were Mochtar Riady and his son James. I have chronicled their generosity and the generosity of other shadowy Asians in my 2007 book, "The Clinton Crack-Up." In a chapter aptly titled "The Chop Suey Connection," I chronicle how the Riadys, a family of ethnic Chinese from Indonesia, saved Bill Clinton's candidacy in the 1992 primaries with a loan of $3.5 million. Later James, by now a United States citizen, contributed $450,000 to Clinton-Gore, and his family and associates gave $600,000 to the Democratic National Committee. Then he and an associate, John Huang, gave $100,000 each to the inaugural festivities.
In 1996, these colorful figures were back. Not only that, but so was Charlie Trie, a man with no visible wealth who passed along hundreds of thousands of dollars to the DNC and the president's legal defense fund. Allegedly, he got the money from Ng Lap Seng, a trafficker in ladies of the night from Macau. Then there was Johnny Chung, who arranged presidential photo ops for cash, one beneficiary being Lt. Col. Liu Chaoying, who passed along $366,000 to the DNC. Liu was the daughter of the most senior general in the People's Liberation Army and was reputed to be a spy.
There were other foreign investors in American politics in the Clinton years, and I cannot see any supporting Republicans today. Frankly, I think the Democrats are lying to us.