Checks to Locke's campaign poured in from prominent Huang and Sioeng associates, many of whom were targets of federal investigations, including: Hoyt Zia, a Commerce Department counsel, who stated in a sworn deposition that Huang had access to virtually any classified document through him; Melinda Yee, another Clinton Commerce Department official, who admitted to destroying freedom-of-information-act-protected notes on a China trade mission involving Huang's former employer, the Indonesia-based Lippo Group; Praitun Kanchanalak, mother of convicted Thai influence-peddler Pauline Kanchanalak; Kent La, exclusive distributor of Sioeng's Chinese cigarettes in the U.S.; and Sioeng's wife and son-in-law.
Locke eventually returned a token amount of money from Huang and Kanchanalak, but not before bitterly playing the race card and accusing critics of his sloppy accounting and questionable schmoozing of stirring up anti-Asian-American sentiment. "It will make our efforts doubly hard to get Asian Americans appointed to top-level positions across the United States," Locke complained. "If they have any connection to John Huang, those individuals will face greater scrutiny and their lives will be completely opened up and examined -- perhaps more than usual."
That scrutiny (such as it was) was more than justified. On top of his Chinagate entanglements, Locke's political committee was fined the maximum amount by Washington's campaign finance watchdog for failing to disclose out-of-state New York City Chinatown donors. One of those events was held at NYC's Harmony Palace restaurant, co-owned by Chinese street gang thugs.
And then there were Locke's not-so-squeaky-clean fundraising trips to a Buddhist temple in Redmond, Wash., which netted nearly $14,000 from monks and nuns -- many of whom barely spoke English, couldn't recall donating to Locke, or were out of the country and could never be located.
Of the known temple donors identified by the Locke campaign, five gave $1,000 each on July 22, 1996 -- paid in sequentially ordered cashier's checks. Two priests gave $1,000 and $1,100 respectively on Aug. 8, 1996. Three other temple adherents also gave $1,000 contributions on Aug. 8. Internal campaign records show that two other temple disciples donated $2,000 and $1,000 respectively on other dates. State campaign finance investigators failed to track down some of the donors during their probe.
But while investigating the story for the Seattle Times, I interviewed temple donor Siu Wai Wong, a bald, robed 40-year-old priest who could not remember when or by what means he had given a $1,000 contribution to Locke. He also refused to say whether he was a U.S. citizen, explaining that his "English was not so good." Although an inept state campaign-finance panel absolved Locke and his campaign of any wrongdoing, the extensive public record clearly indicates that the Locke campaign used Buddhist monks as conduits for laundered money.
The longtime reluctance to press Locke -- who became a high-powered attorney specializing in China trade issues for international law firm Davis Wright Tremaine after leaving the governor's mansion -- on his reckless, ethnic-based fundraising has undoubtedly extended to the politically correct and cowed Beltway. Instead, supporters are now touting Locke's cozy relations with the Chinese government as a primary reason he deserved the Commerce Department post and now the ambassadorship to China.
Yet another illustration of how "Hope and Change" is just another synonym for "Screw up, Move Up."
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