An­other not-so-squeaky-clean Cab­i­net nom­i­nee

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Michelle Malkin

Lib­eral me­dia out­lets are do­ing their best to boost for­mer Wash­ing­ton Gov. Gary Locke, Pres­i­dent Obama’s third pick for the be­lea­guered com­merce sec­re­tary job. “Obama’s new com­merce pick has clean rep­u­ta­tion,” de­clared Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio’s Tom Banse. The Demo­crat pos­sesses “a largely scan­dal-free re­sume” re­ported the New York Times. He is a “safe choice,” The Wash­ing­ton Post as­serted, be­cause of his “straight-laced rep­u­ta­tion.”

But re­peat­ing the Mr. Clean claim doesn’t make it so. Those in his home state who know Mr. Locke best paint a far grim­ier pic­ture of a crony politi­cian with a se­rial habit of skirt­ing cam­paign fi­nance laws and con­flictof-in­ter­est rules. In other words: Mr. Locke’s “Do As I Say, Not as I Do” record makes him a good fit for the eth­i­cally im­paired Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The left-lean­ing Seat­tle Weekly news­pa­per notes that Mr. Locke presided over a $3.2 bil­lion tax break for Boe­ing while “never dis­clos­ing he paid $715,000 to — and re­lied on the ad­vice of — Boe­ing’s own pri­vate con­sul­tant and out­side au­di­tor.” Then there’s the tainted mat­ter of Mr. Locke’s “fa­vors for his brother-in-law [who lived in the gov­er­nor’s man­sion], in­clud­ing a tax break for his rel­a­tive’s com­pany, per­sonal in­ter­ven­tion in a com­pany dis­pute, and Locke’s sig­na­ture on a fed­eral loan ap­pli­ca­tion for the com­pany.“ Mr. Locke’s laces ain’t so straight.

The glow­ing pro­files of Mr. Locke have largely glossed over his trou­bling ties to the Clin­ton-era Chi­na­gate scan­dal. As the na­tion’s first Chi­ne­seAmer­i­can gov­er­nor, Mr. Locke ag­gres­sively raised cash from eth­nic con­stituen­cies around the coun­try. Con­victed cam­paign fi­nance money-laun­derer John Huang helped grease the wheels and open doors.

In the same pe­riod when Mr. Huang drummed up il­le­gal cash for Clin­ton-Gore at the fed­eral level, he also organized two 1996 galas for Mr. Locke in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., (where Mr. Locke hob­nobbed with Bill Clin­ton and other Chi­na­gate prin­ci­pals); three fund-rais­ers in Los An­ge­les; and an ex­trav­a­ganza at the Uni­ver­sal City, Calif., Hil­ton in Oc­to­ber 1996 that raised up­ward of $30,000.

Mr. Huang also made per­sonal con­tri­bu­tions to Mr. Locke - as did an­other Clin­ton-Gore fun­ny­money fig­ure, In­done­sian busi­ness mogul Ted Sio­eng and his fam­ily and po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives.

Mr. Sio­eng, whom Jus­tice Depart­ment and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials sus­pected of act­ing on be­half of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, il­le­gally do­nated hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to both Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can cof­fers. Bank records from con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­di­cated that one Sio­eng as­so­ciate’s max­i­mum in­di­vid­ual con­tri­bu­tion to Mr. Locke was il­le­gally re­im­bursed by the busi­ness­man’s daugh­ter.

Checks to Mr. Locke’s cam­paign poured in from prom­i­nent Huang and Sio­eng as­so­ci­ates, many of them tar­gets of fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tions, in­clud­ing:

Hoyt Zia, a Com­merce Depart­ment coun­sel, who stated in a sworn de­po­si­tion that Mr. Huang had ac­cess to vir­tu­ally any classified doc­u­ment through him.

Melinda Yee, an­other Clin­ton Com­merce Depart­ment of­fi­cial who ad­mit­ted de­stroy­ing Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act­pro­tected notes on a China trade mis­sion in­volv­ing Mr. Huang’s for­mer em­ployer, the In­done­si­abased Lippo Group.

Praitun Kanchanalak, mother of con­victed Thai in­flu­ence-ped­dler Pauline Kanchanalak.

Kent La, exclusive dis­trib­u­tor of Mr. Sio­eng’s Chi­nese cigarettes in the United States.

And Mr. Sio­eng’s wife and son-in-law.

Mr. Locke even­tu­ally re­turned a to­ken amount of money from Mr. Huang and Mrs. Kanchanalak, but not be­fore bit­terly play­ing the race card and ac­cus­ing crit­ics of his sloppy ac­count­ing and ques­tion­able schmooz­ing of stir­ring up anti-Asian-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ment. “It will make our ef­forts dou­bly hard to get Asian Amer­i­cans ap­pointed to top-level po­si­tions across the United States,” Mr. Locke com­plained. “If they have any con­nec­tion to John Huang, those in­di­vid­u­als will face greater scru­tiny and their lives will be com­pletely opened up and ex­am­ined — per­haps more than usual.”

That scru­tiny (such as it was) was more than jus­ti­fied. On top of his Chi­na­gate en­tan­gle­ments, Mr. Locke’s po­lit­i­cal com­mit­tee was fined the max­i­mum amount by Wash­ing­ton’s cam­paign fi­nance watch­dog for fail­ing to dis­close out-of-state New York City Chi­na­town donors. One of those events was held at New York City’s Har­mony Palace restau­rant, co-owned by Chi­nese street gang thugs.

And then there were Mr. Locke’s not-so-squeaky-clean fundrais­ing trips to a Bud­dhist tem­ple in Red­mond, Wash., which net­ted nearly $14,000 from monks and nuns — many of whom barely spoke English, couldn’t re­call do­nat­ing to Mr. Locke, or were out of the coun­try and could never be lo­cated.

Of the known tem­ple donors iden­ti­fied by the Locke cam­paign, five gave $1,000 each on July 22, 1996 — paid in se­quen­tially or­dered cashier’s checks. Two priests gave $1,000 and $1,100 on Aug. 8, 1996. Three other tem­ple ad­her­ents also gave $1,000 con­tri­bu­tions on Aug. 8. In­ter­nal cam­paign records show two other tem­ple dis­ci­ples do­nated $2,000 and $1,000 re­spec­tively on other dates. State cam­paign fi­nance in­ves­ti­ga­tors failed to track down some of the donors dur­ing their probe.

But while in­ves­ti­gat­ing the story for the Seat­tle Times, I in­ter­viewed tem­ple donor Siu Wai Wong, a bald, robed 40-year-old priest who could not re­mem­ber when or by what means he had given a $1,000 con­tri­bu­tion to Mr. Locke. He also re­fused to say whether he was a U.S. ci­ti­zen, ex­plain­ing that his “English [was] not so good.”

Al­though an in­ept state cam­paign-fi­nance panel ab­solved Mr. Locke and his cam­paign of any wrong­do­ing, the ex­ten­sive pub­lic record clearly shows the Locke cam­paign used Bud­dhist monks as con­duits for laun­dered money.

The long­time re­luc­tance to press Mr. Locke — who be­came a high-pow­ered at­tor­ney spe­cial­iz­ing in China trade is­sues for in­ter­na­tional law firm Davis, Wright & Tre­maine af­ter leav­ing the gov­er­nor’s man­sion — on his reck­less, eth­nic-based fundrais­ing will un­doubt­edly ex­tend to the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect and cowed Belt­way.

Sup­port­ers are now tout­ing Mr. Locke’s cozy re­la­tions with the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment as a pri­mary rea­son he de­serves the Com­merce Depart­ment post. Yet an­other il­lus­tra­tion of how “Hope and Change” is just an­other syn­onym for “Screw Up, Move Up.”

Michelle Malkin is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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