SULLIVAN IN THE HOT SEAT:
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KWAME HOLMAN: Richard Sullivan, former finance director for the Democratic National Committee, today made a definitive statement in defending the DNC's decision to hire John Huang as a top fund-raiser in 1995. Huang raised nearly $3 ½ million through the Asian-American community. Half that money has been returned because of questions concerning its source. During his second day of testimony, Sullivan, in answer to committee chairman Fred Thompson, said he would have taken immediate action had he thought Huang would try to raise illegal contributions from foreign nationals.
RICHARD SULLIVAN, Former DNC Finance Director: Mr. Chairman, if I had--let me tell you, if I had had any inclination that John Huang would raise foreign money, I would have personally walked into the elevator and walked him out of the building.
KWAME HOLMAN: Sullivan said his only concern with Huang was his inexperience in the field of fund-raising. But Thompson reminded Sullivan that Huang arranged several fund-raising events that had caused Sullivan, himself, to have some additional concerns.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON, Chairman, Governmental Affairs Committee: You had an incident at the Sheraton Carlton where you--one of Mr. Huang's events--and you were concerned about the Sheraton Carlton event, as I understand it from your testimony, because there were foreign nationals in the room. One of the concerns that you had about the fact that you set up this fund-raising event, and there were foreign nationals in the room, is that correct, one of your concerns?
RICHARD SULLIVAN: That's correct.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: Then you had the coffee of June 18th in the Oval Office, and I want to talk about that a minute. This is a coffee where Ms. Kanchanalak, who was a friend of Mr. Huang's--Mr. Huang was at the DNC. Mr. Huang was Ms. Kanchanalak's main contact at the DNC from your deposition, and Ms. Kanchanalak is a resident of the U.S.. She's a Thai business consultant and lobbyist for Ban Chan Group, a Thai property development company, and John Huang came to you and said Ms. Kanchanalak wants to attend the coffee with the President, is that right?
RICHARD SULLIVAN: That's correct.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: And on that list was some individuals, guests from Thailand, who were a part of the so-called CP Group, a very large business organization that is reputed to be, according to press reports, the largest single outside investor in China.
RICHARD SULLIVAN: I was concerned--
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: These coffees weren't to be used for people who could come in and not be eligible to contribute, were they?
RICHARD SULLIVAN: Well, I was concerned--
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: Later on.
RICHARD SULLIVAN: First and foremostly, correct, I was concerned that we--we--it wasn't a good use of the coffee; it wasn't people that we would be working with over the course of the next couple of months.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: In fact, Mr. Huang became, I believe you said, very emotional about when you were telling him that I don't think we ought to do this, and he was explaining to you Ms. Kanchanalak really needs to get this done, I believe you said he became very emotional about it, and the first time that you'd ever seen Mr. Huang emotional like that, is that correct?
RICHARD SULLIVAN: That's correct.
KWAME HOLMAN: However, Sullivan and the DNC did allow Pauline Kanchanalak to bring her Thai business group to the White House coffee with the President, and within a week, she contributed $135,000 to the DNC. That money has been returned because of its questionable source, and Kanchanalak, a U.S. resident, reportedly has fled to Bangkok.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: After that event, you decided because again you'd interjected foreign nationals that Mr. Huang should no longer set up fund-raising events involving the President personally.
RICHARD SULLIVAN: We did, but not because there were foreign nationals there, but I never--I never thought--I never had an inkling--I never thought John Huang was raising--purposely raising foreign money. I still don't think he's purposely--I don't think he ever need. The reason I took him off the events was because we were in great need of federal dollars, and John was not raising as many federal dollars as we need it.
KWAME HOLMAN: Sullivan explained that so close to the election the DNC was in greater need of thousand dollar direct contributions to the candidates, rather than so-called "soft money" contributions that are supposed to be used for political party building activities.
RICHARD SULLIVAN: It was purely a matter of concerns about the amounts he was raising, and, and in the particular forms they were coming in as soft contributions opposed to the smaller federal contributions that we were in great need of them.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: Isn't the appearance problem though here, when you've got a foreign--when you have foreign nationals at a fund-raising event, a small fund-raising event with the President? It's the fact that he's in the presence in a small group in a fund-raising event where you as a fund-raiser there, Mr. Huang is a fund-raiser there, Mr. Fowler--not Mr. Fowler but Mr. Rosen, who's a fund-raiser--are all there. And that's the perception problem that why are these foreign nationals there if they can't legally contribute? Isn't that really the perception problem that we're dealing with here?
RICHARD SULLIVAN: They were there as people's--as people's--as contributors' guests; but there was never a sense that John was raising foreign money.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: And no one at the White House ever expressed any of those concerns to you, did they?
RICHARD SULLIVAN: I don't recall. I don't recall asking them about it.
KWAME HOLMAN: Late this afternoon the committee excused Richard Sullivan. Despite Democrats' complaints, his two days of testimony yielded little new information, New Mexico Republican Pete Domenici declared the opening of the campaign finance hearings a success.
SEN. PETE DOMENICI, (R) New Mexico: I think the record, even with your testimony, is rampant with inferences and evidence that contributions came from foreign governments and foreign individuals either directly or through subsidiaries or through individuals that I read had no other obvious source of the money.
KWAME HOLMAN: The committee reconvenes next Tuesday.