The Asian-American community and the U.S. political system
March 21, 1997
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Where is the hard evidence that Asian Americans were targeted? How do Asian Americans fare politically compared to Jewish groups and others? Will African Americans run into these same problems? How does the ethnic and racial composition of newsrooms affect the reporting? Additional questions and comments . Jessica Yang of Columbus, OH, asks:
How was the investigation into DNC donations handled, and what was found?
Mark Hosenball of Newsweek Magazine responds:
The investigation of DNC contributions by the press and the Justice Department is still continuing. Indeed it is probably still at a very early stage. The Justice Department, under attorney general Janet Reno, so far is strongly resisting demands from Republicans and other Administration critics that a new independent counsel be appointed to investigate fundraising practices. That could change in the future. The investigations will probably go on for a very long time.
Frank Wu of Howard University responds:
On Friday, February 28, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Washington headquarters for the party, held a press conference to release the results of its internal audit of campaign contributions during the past election cycle and to announce its new fundraising policies.
According to the DNC memorandum on its "in-depth contribution review," accountants examined 1,200 contributions in seven major categories: (1) any contribution from an individual who gave more than $10,000 in any of the years 1994, 1995, or 1996; (2) contributions in 1996 for which DNC headquarters were listed as the donor's address; (3) contributions solicited by John Huang, where the donor gave more then $2,500 and "was not well known to the DNC;" (4) contributions made in connection with the April 29, 1996 event at the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Southern California; (5) contributions made or solicited by Charles Trie, his wife, or his company; (6) contributions by Johnny Chung or his company; and (7) "contributions made in connection with any DNC fundraising event targeting the Asian Pacific American community." The DNC further indicated that it would continue calling donors who gave less than $2500 through Asian American events.
The DNC also revealed how its interviewers proceeded.
The instructions for the calls to donors were detailed. The instructions advise, for example, "when possible, the interviewer should be female. Female callers are less threatening and often more successful at getting respondents to cooperate." They indicate, "anticipate that the person answering may not speak English."
The interviewers were told, "avoid revealing the organization or the purpose of the call until the interviewer is talking to the person he/she is seeking." They were told not to leave telephone messages or their own phone numbers. But if they had no choice, they were to "obtain the name of the person taking the message and make the message compelling." The suggested message was: "Please call the Democratic National Committee to confirm your contribution."
On the script for the calls to individuals, question 13 directs the interviewer to ask about citizenship, with follow up questions about how long a person has been a citizen, and whether he or she holds a social security card. Other questions focus on "what is your annual earned income," "who is your employer/supervisor," and "would you authorize us to obtain a credit report to verify the information you have given us?"
As a result of the audit, the Democrats decided to give back $1,492,051, or 124 contributions from 77 individuals and corporations. Its officials stated that some of the donations were illegal, but others were merely deemed inappropriate even if they were permitted by law.
Furthermore, the Democrats provided a table specifically on Huang and the money he raised. Huang was credited for 424 contributions, of which 88 have been returned or are in the process of being returned. In other words, 336 or approximately 80% of the contributions raised by Huang were legitimate and appropriate. Because some contributors donated more than once, and in differing quantities, the 88 contributions being returned account for 21.8% of the contributions or 54.8% of the dollars being returned, and 47.4% of all dollars raised by Huang.
What is wrong with this approach is its focus on racial guilt by association. The DNC credited Huang for more donations than those he actually raised; specifically, he was listed as the DNC employee responsible for Asian American contributors. Thus, anyone who was Asian American and donated money was swept up into the audit because of race.