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Foreign Money?

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OK, OK! It is only a satire. I am not really running for mayor of Chicago, but I do have something in common with someone who is running for mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel. Neither I nor Rahm qualifies for residency in Chicago, though my family traces its roots in the city back to the 19th century, and I was at least born in Chicago. If Rahm bullies his way to residency, Chicago's big shoulders are not what they once were. He gave no thought to running until a few weeks back, when Mayor Richard M. Daley announced his retirement, and now Rahm has no place to live.

Our second shared attribute is that the idea of campaigning is repellent to both of us. I could no more stand at a bus station and shake hands than, well, Rahm, and he is proving his disrelish for the glad hand on this "listening tour." People do not like him. They approach him as though he were an enemy alien, and he is. He is from Washington, D.C. He wants to take their money. My guess is that he will lose.

The only thing going for Rahm is that the election is next year. By then, things might improve. On the other hand, they might get worse. Right now, they are getting worse. Reasonable estimates are that the Republicans will win between 48 and 52 seats in the Senate. In the House, they will gain between 50 and 70 seats. We are sitting on a volcano, and to think that a little more than a year ago, all the talk was of Republican moribundity. There was a book out, "The Death of Conservatism." Perhaps you heard of it. It was by Sam Tanenhaus. He is the editor of The New York Times Book Review, so he cannot very well go into hiding. But he can patrol his publication to be sure that no book hinting at the truth gets into his pages. Thus, readers of the Review all happily anticipate further ruin to the Republican Party this fall. What will they do when it does not happen?

The scenario already is being written. They will claim that the electorate was brainwashed by the press -- their press, mind you, but for some reason, it was duped or made a mistake. Then, too, they will claim the huge Republican vote was bought. The groundwork for this whopper already is being laid. In fact, it is part of what passes for a last-gasp strategy to grab a seat here, a seat there.

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.

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