Sen. John McCain called Friday for appointment of an independent counsel to investigate whether President Clinton’s re-election campaign benefited from illegal foreign contributions.
In asking Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint an independent counsel, the Arizona Republican cited recent published reports concerning large contributions to Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic Party from members of an Indonesian banking family and others linked to the family.
“Only an independent counsel that’s completely free from the political constraints imposed by the Clinton administration will be able to determine if the letter or the spirit of the law was violated,” McCain said.
Federal campaign finance laws generally are designed to prevent foreigners from exerting influence in America’s political system. Exceptions allow foreigners who are legal U.S. residents and U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations to make contributions if the money was earned in the United States.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the issue merited a change in campaign contribution laws.
“It is clear to me we should pass a law that only American citizens can contribute to political campaigns and that non-Americans who have green cards should not be allowed to donate …” Gingrich said in Jefferson City, Mo. while campaigning for a GOP House candidate.
In Washington, Justice Department spokesman Bert Brandenburg said the department had no immediate comment on McCain’s request. Under the independent counsel law, the department has 30 days to decide whether to make a preliminary inquiry, he said.
Earlier Friday, White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the propriety of contributions to the Democratic Party from the Riady family.
The Riadys are investors in Arkansas’ Worthen Bank, which made a loan to Clinton’s campaign in 1992. John Huang, a former Worthen vice president who now works for the Democratic National Committee, has raised an estimated $4 million to $5 million from Asian Americans for the Democrats this year, The Washington Post reported.
McCurry said the Riadys are a prominent family in Little Rock, with extensive commercial dealings.
“They got to know a lot of people within the community,” McCurry said. “Then-Governor Clinton obviously got to know James Riady. And the fact that they became friendly and that they are supporters of the president should come as no surprise.”