The Online Explainers take your question on the investigation.
The NewsHour's coverage of the Congressional Investigation.
A closer look at the issues really under scrutiny by the Congress.
The investigation is big news in Washington, but how's it playing around the country.
In a photo placed prominently in her office, Francey Lim Youngberg poses with President Clinton. Many, noting the beaming smiles and glittering formal wear, have told her the photo looks as if it were taken at a high school prom.
But this year, Clinton was conspicuously absent from the annual gala for the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Institute, for which he has been the key note speaker since CAPACI was founded in 1995.
"We were very disappointed that he wasn't able to send a cabinet-level person to come to our dinner and represent the administration." said Youngberg, who is Executive Director of the non-profit, bipartisan organization. "Especially this year when so many people are feeling like political pariahs, it would've been good."
This year is different for Youngberg, because the main characters in the unfolding drama of the campaign finance hearings are Asian-Americans like John Huang and Charlie Yah Line Trie, who are accused of illegally funding the DNC.
From the outset of the scandal, emphasis on Huang and Trie's ethnic background and the concern over possible Chinese government involvement in U.S. politics, has spawned headlines speculating over a potential "Asian connection," and the use of the "race card" to prevent a thorough investigation. Last March, the New Republic magazine ran a controversial cover portraying the Clintons and Al Gore with slanted eyes and buck teeth. And in the hearings themselves, Senator Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) said "no raise money, no get bonus" to imitate the broken English of an Asian speaker. All this has left Youngberg and her peers feeling like "political pariahs."
"As an Asian-American, I feel that the next time I'm in one of the members of Congress' offices to talk to them about different issues whether its the census or small business regulation or welfare reform, that people may be looking at me differently," said Youngberg. "They're going to think that part of the reason why the community groups are able to talk to the member of Congress was that there was money given to them."
When people like Youngberg voice such thoughts, Asian-American advocates worry. For as much as the hearings could result in reform, they could also result in a decrease in the number of Asian-Americans willing to participate in the American politics, a serious blow to a group that represents only three or four percent of the population and has only seven representatives in the Congress.
"After this scandal, with these hearings, what person running for office is going to invite some Asian-Americans to donate money, to come to a fund-raiser, to help work on his campaign to go door to door?" said Frank Wu, a professor of law at Howard University who has written extensively on the campaign finance scandal. "What office holder is going to meet with a large group of Asian-Americans to discuss an issue? Suddenly Asian-Americans look like they're dangerous, they might not follow the rules. What are people going to think when they look at your list of supporters and donors and they see these unpronounceable names on it, these names that look foreign?"
But unpronounceable names are not always foreign, something America, with a history that includes the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, has not always acknowledged. Senator Daniel Akaka's opening statements for the hearings, in which he pleaded for the public to "ignore the temptation to assign guilt by association, especially ethnic association," addressed the fear that many Asian-Americans share; the fear that the "American" aspect of their identity would be forgotten.
"To me it's very clear that those of us who are Asian-American are very proud of our heritage," said Alan Cheung, elected member of Montgomery County (MD) Board of Education. "Our children are going to live here, our grandchildren are going to live here. We are as American as anyone else... I hope they will separate those who are Asians and those who are Asian-Americans."
But often, Asian-Americans have not been separated from Asians in the minds of the public, prompting people like Wu and Youngberg to worry about the effect on future participation in the political process, especially at a time when Asian-Americans have just started to embrace it. During the last federal elections, for instance, the Chinese American Voters Education Committee reported that country-wide, voter registration among Asian-Americans had increased nine percent. In areas with larger Asian-American populations, such as San Francisco County, voter registration increased by as much as 23 percent.
"There are people who have spent many years, over a decade, trying to get people to naturalize, to register, to vote, to get them to the polls... to weigh in on the issues that affect their lives just like any other American," said Youngberg. "And those folks right now are feeling like their efforts have been totally eclipsed by the campaign finance controversy."
But, in fact, the campaign financing hearings may prompt the Asian-American community to move in the direction larger minority communities have already taken in America; Youngberg mentioned the beginnings of a coordinating council to share information among the country's five national Asian-American groups. The hearings also prompted former Congressman Norman Mineta, chair of CAPACI, has suggested an anti-defamation league. The Organization of Chinese Americans recently hosted a huge conference in Chicago to discuss the campaign finance hearings.
As for Youngberg, Wu and Cheryl Lau, all three said the campaign finance hearings will have no impact on their own involvement in U.S. politics.
"I have not closed the door on future electoral representation, because I feel I have something to give." said Lau, who has served as secretary of state of Nevada and general counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives. "If one person considers backing away then they're not doing a service for themselves or the country.
Cheung, for one, said he thinks that the average American will grasp what the media and politicans do not: that all Asian-Americans are not represented the actions of a few. "We are the most educated country in the world. I think that a lot of people understand. The majority of Americans would think (the investigation) is a joke."