John Huang, who has been at the center of a controversy over Democratic National Committee fund raising, made at least 78 visits to the White House since July 1, 1995, a dozen of them while he was working at the Commerce Department, according to logs kept by the Secret Service.
The records suggest Huang, a top DNC fund-raiser, had a closer connection to the White House than was previously known. White House officials said two weeks ago that Huang visited President Clinton three times in the Oval Office but said they were still looking into the extent of his access.
Wednesday night, Mary Ellen Glynn, a White House spokeswoman, minimized the importance of the visits. “Mr. Huang has been in the White House many times,” she said. “He’s been in here for a variety of social events, a variety of Asian American events, both in his capacity as an administration staffer and a DNC fund-raiser.”
A DNC spokeswoman offered no explanation for why Huang would visit the White House more than 65 times, referring questions to White House officials. The DNC holds weekly meetings at the White House with the president’s political staff, but a source familiar with DNC operations said Huang did not attend.
Commerce Department spokeswoman Anne Luzzato also said Wednesday night that she could not explain why Huang would visit the White House while he was deputy assistant secretary for international trade policy from July 1994 until last December. “His principal duties were administrative, managerial, handling budget, personnel and routine briefing materials,” she said. “He did have involvement of more substantive nature on Taiwan issues and made three trips to Taiwan to promote exports to that market.”
Huang has not talked to reporters since his name first surfaced in connection with the fund-raising controversy. His lawyers did not return phone calls Wednesday night.
The logs the Secret Service turned over to congressional Republicans Wednesday go back only to July 1995 because they are the only ones the agency still has, one knowledgeable source said Wednesday night. Records of earlier Huang visits would have been turned over to the White House office of records management, the source said.
Huang was the DNC’s chief Asian American fund-raiser until he was suspended from those duties after news reports that questioned the legality of some of the more than $4 million he raised for the party in the past year.
The DNC was forced to return a $250,000 donation Huang helped solicit after reports that it came from a South Korean company, rather than its U.S. subsidiary. DNC officials also admitted they should not have held a fund-raising event at a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles that was organized by Huang, attended by Vice President Gore and raised $140,000.