Charges of “collusion” between the Trump presidential campaign of 2016 and the Russian government are “delusion,” former campaign manager Kelly Anne Conway told FOX News the other day.
But for Democrats promoting these charges, they’re also something else: Crass hypocrisy.
The Party, at least as far back as 1992, has been implicated in clandestine dealings with foreign governments, especially China’s, to secure illicit financial support for its election campaigns. And this support has been given — largely through “business” intermediaries – with the understanding that Democrats would be likely to support key policies of those governments.
It’s a matter of public record, in fact.
For example, from 1994 to 1996, the Democratic National Committee received $366,000 in illegal campaign contributions from a single Chinese-American businessman, Johnny Chung, who was serving as an intermediary for a top Chinese military official with close ties to the country’s Communist Party leadership.
Chung made 49 trips to the White House to see Bill Clinton and other top administration officials during that period. During one such visit he handed a check for $50,000 to Margaret Williams, then First Lady Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, according to a 1998 Washington Post investigative report.
“Williams accepted the check and passed it along to the DNC, even though federal law bars government employees from accepting campaign contributions on government property,” the report noted.
The DNC and the Clintons, under pressure from federal investigators, eventually returned most of the Chung money – but only after the DNC had spent it to secure Clinton’s re-election.
Were the Democrats chastened? Hardly. In fact, their illicit ties to China’s military and intelligence elites – through new intermediaries such as Maria Hsia—continued, later investigations revealed, with funding support to Al Gore’s failed presidential bid in 2000.
Another recipient of Chinese government largesse was former Senator – and recent Obama Secretary of State — John Kerry. Up for re-election in 1996, Kerry also obtained massive illegal funding through Chung, whom he openly described as “part of my team.”
Chung and Hsia were not the only front-men for China. Others included billionaire Stanley Ho, who made his fortune in gambling and other illicit businesses throughout Asia, and George Chao-chi Chu. Chu was a top Democratic fundraiser throughout the Clinton years, congressional investigators found.
So was James Riady, an Indonesian businessman who funneled nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions to the Democrats between 1992 and 1996, Justice Department records show.
Riady, whose father Mochtar had known the Clintons since owning a bank in Arkansas in the 1980s, was also responsible for promoting John Huang to a top position at Clinton’s Commerce Department in 1993 – with access to classified intelligence.
Huang later raised over $3 million in donations from the Asian-American community for Clinton’s 1996 re-election, but nearly $2 million was returned after its shadowy foreign sources were exposed. But no criminal charges were ever filed.
These contributions to Clinton, Gore and Kerry appear to have been part of an ongoing Chinese strategy to woo American support for Beijing’s expanding military ambitions.
Under Republican president George H.W. Bush, China had been barred from receiving US arms sales. Official US policy was to support China’s bitter enemy, Taiwan, as part of a “one-China, two systems” solution. Beijing was intent on overturning that policy.
And they largely got their way, with the Clintons – and more recently, Obama and Kerry – tilting heavily toward Beijing.
Undoubtedly, in recent years, the Russian government has been training its sights on the US election system, relying heavily on cyber-warfare techniques.
But the Chinese effort has been in place much longer and Beijing’s government also appears to have more far extensive resources at its disposal, analysts say.
A little-noticed 2013 report by the Project 2049 Institute has documented the broad spectrum approach taken by the Chinese to influence foreign political audiences, using methods that appear to supersede those of the Russians.
According to the report, and to a more recent analysis published in the Epoch Times, Beijing’s political warfare operations were controlled for years by Jiang Zemin, who officially ruled the Chinese Community party from 1989 to 2002.
Zemin, under whom operations targeting American elections and the Clintons first began, still controls the propaganda and security organs of the Chinese state, though his power may have diminished under the current leader Xi Jinping, with whom Trump met just two weeks ago, the reports say.
Chinese intelligence does enjoy a number of distinct advantages when it comes to operating on US soil, analysts say. Unlike the Russians, it can work through Chinese ethnic nationals who are firmly ensconced within America’s economic and political elite.
Intermediaries like Ho, Chu, Hsia, Riady and Huang are convenient “cut-outs” that can approach US politicians as American citizens or global business travelers, outside of diplomatic channels, without arousing suspicion.
And in the case of Huang, they can even be named to sensitive government posts, even while retaining their covert allegiances to a powerful American rival.
There’s another important Chinese advantage: Beijing is still perceived by many Americans especially global businesses anxious to exploit its huge consumer market as a prospective ally while the Russians are still portrayed as an adversary.
That simplistic view – a holdover from the Cold War — has made it easier for the
Chinese to pursue “active measures” with relative impunity, analysts say.
Presently, it is not known if Chinese “active measures” included aid to Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. Given the past close ties between the Clintons, the DNC and the Chinese – and the likelihood that Trump, like his Republican predecessors, would tilt toward Taiwan — it stands to reason that Beijing would try this same avenue again.
Congress, with the support of the White House, should try to get to the bottom of the matter. It can start by calling past and present US intelligence agency officials — some of whom are clearly hostile to Trump — into a new set of classified hearings on the topic.
Voters need a comprehensive and bipartisan investigation of all foreign government interference in U.S. presidential elections since the early Clinton years – be it Chinese, Russian, Ukrainian, or even Israeli.
Anything less distorts our understanding of the manifold threats our nation faces, undermines our ability to counter them, and places the nation’s democracy at risk of being hijacked by hostile powers.