WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Monday asked top Bush Administration officials to examine whether an alleged Chinese spy might have funneled money into Republican political campaigns during the 1990s at the direction of Chinese government officials or with money originating from foreign sources. In a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller dated April 28, Lieberman asked that an ongoing investigation into the alleged espionage activities of Katrina Leung include an inquiry into her political fund raising activities as well.
“The prospect of a foreign government illegally influencing our political campaigns is a truly troubling one, and any evidence that that may have occurred must be vigilantly investigated and pursued,” Lieberman wrote in the letter.
In 1997, the Governmental Affairs Committee launched a year-long investigation, including three months of high-profile public hearings, into financial abuses during the 1996 federal election campaigns. As part of that investigation, the Committee’s majority charged that Chinese government officials tried to influence elections by making illegal contributions to Democratic campaigns. Lieberman concluded at the time that there was evidence Chinese government officials planned to influence congressional elections but little evidence of money actually being funneled into congressional campaigns. On the other hand, he said there was little evidence the Chinese had a plan to influence the presidential elections, although there was “considerable evidence” of contributions to the presidential campaigns, particularly the Democratic campaign, “from people or businesses with close links to the Chinese Government or businesses controlled by the Chinese Government.” In the end, Lieberman said, the evidence was too “blurred” to determine what actually happened.
In the wake of Ms. Leung’s arrest, news organizations have reported that she donated thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and the Republican party. Federal Election Campaign records show that she contributed to the Republican National Committee in 1995 and to a Republican congressional candidate in 1996, as well as to others.
“The Committee’s (1997) investigation into this issue built largely on information provided by the FBI and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies,” Lieberman said in the letter. “I am asking that you investigate whether… firm evidence has now arisen” showing implementation of a Chinese plan to influence U.S. elections.”
Following is a copy of the letter:
April 28, 2003
The Honorable John Ashcroft
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
The Honorable Robert S. Mueller III
Director Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
Dear Attorney General Ashcroft and Director Mueller:
I am writing to urge that as part of your investigation into alleged Chinese spy Katrina Leung, you examine whether she had any involvement in the apparent plan of Chinese government officials to influence the 1996 American elections and whether any of the contributions she made to political campaigns were made either at the direction of the Chinese government or with money originating outside of this country.
As you recall, the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs in 1997 undertook an extensive investigation into campaign finance abuses in the 1996 federal election campaigns. Perhaps the most troubling issue explored by the Committee involved allegations that government officials in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had a plan to improperly influence the 1996 federal elections through, among other things, funneling illegal contributions to U.S. political campaigns.
The Committee’s investigation into this issue built largely on information provided by the FBI and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies who also investigated these allegations. The Committee Majority chose to focus its investigation almost exclusively on individuals who had raised or contributed money to the Democratic presidential campaign of 1996.
For my part, I found a troubling irony in the evidence the Committee reviewed in 1997. As I put it then: The Committee had evidence of a Chinese government plan to influence Congressional races, but found little evidence of money connected to the PRC actually entering Congressional campaigns. On the other hand, the Committee had no direct evidence that the China plan aimed at putting money into the presidential race, but then received considerable evidence of contributions to the 1996 presidential campaigns, particularly the Democratic campaign, from people or businesses with close links to the Chinese Government or businesses controlled by the Chinese Government. (S. Rep. 105-167, p. 9547).
In its final report on the investigation, the Committee Majority said that the Committee “found a broad array of Chinese efforts designed to influence U.S. policies and elections through, among other means, financing election campaigns.” (S. Rep. 105-167, p. 47). After reviewing the evidence, I concluded that “[t]he evidence before the Committee puts many troubling dots on the board, but ultimately does not connect them in a way that enables us to see a clear picture of what happened. For me, the blurred result is nonetheless very unsettling.” In the end, I urged that “Intelligence and law-enforcement agencies should continue to monitor and investigate this matter, and if firm evidence arises supporting the claim that the Chinese government or any other foreign government actually did implement a plan to illegally try to influence our nation’s policies through illegal campaign contributions, those implicated should be prosecuted, and our relationship with that government should be affected.” (S. Rep. 105-167, p. 9548).
I am asking that you investigate whether that firm evidence has now arisen. The FBI apparently believes that Ms. Leung acted as a spy for the Chinese government, including during the period PRC officials apparently were trying to influence American political campaigns. According to press reports, Ms. Leung was “a fixture in political circles, [and] has helped raise, or donated, thousands of dollars for Republican candidates.” (“Ex-FBI Agent Resigns Post at Nuclear Weapons Lab,” Washington Post, April 11, 2003, page A3).
Based on FEC records, Ms. Leung’s personal contributions included at least one to the Republican National Committee in 1995 and one to a Republican Congressional candidate in 1996, as well as a number of candidate and party contributions since then. Moreover, press reports from 1997 connect her to Ted Sioeng – one of the individuals our 1997 investigation indicated may have acted on behalf of the Chinese government. Despite the evidence the Committee received to the contrary, these reports quote Ms. Leung as describing as “nonsense” allegations that Mr. Sioeng worked for China. (“Entrepreneur Formed Ties to China, Then Politicians,” Los Angeles Times, May 18, 1997, page A1). As I noted in 1997, the prospect of a foreign government illegally influencing our political campaigns is a truly troubling one, and any evidence that that may have occurred must be vigilantly investigated and pursued.
I would appreciate your assuring me that you are doing so.
Joseph I. Lieberman
Ranking Minority Member
cc: The Honorable Susan M. Collins Chairman