The Democratic National Committee quietly has dismissed John Huang, the fund-raiser at the heart of the controversy over the Democratic Party’s solicitation of foreign donations, a party official said Sunday.
Committee spokeswoman Amy Weiss Tobe said the move was not precipitated by the furor over Huang’s fund raising but was part of a planned postelection staff reduction.
In addition, the committee disclosed that another donation - of $5,000 - from a campaign event organized by Huang is being returned because it came from a person who is not a legal resident of the United States.
The national committee has refunded a total of $595,000 in contributions for which Huang was responsible.
Huang was one of 50 staffers dismissed Friday as the committee has trimmed from 250 employees to 172, Tobe said.
“All of the fund-raisers who specialized in working with ethnic groups were laid off,” Tobe said, insisting that Huang, who solicited donations in the Asian-American community, was not singled out because of the allegations surrounding him.
Nonetheless, given the intense legal and media scrutiny that Huang faces and his relationship with President Clinton, the decision was politically sensitive.
The inspector general of the Commerce Department, where Huang worked before joining the Democratic National Committee, as well as the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission all are investigating aspects of Huang’s fund raising. In addition, Republican lawmakers have vowed to conduct congressional hearings.
Huang has not spoken to the media since the controversy erupted five weeks ago.
Huang did volunteer fund raising for the Democrats while he was the top executive of LippoBank in California before joining the Commerce Department in 1994. Huang asked to return to fund raising in 1995, telling Clinton personally that he would be of more help at the Democratic National Committee than in the administration, according to a White House account released Friday.
The request came at an Oval Office meeting in September 1995 attended by James Riady, an Indonesian financier and friend of Clinton’s who previously had employed Huang, and Bruce Lindsey, deputy White House counsel. Huang joined the Democratic National Committee on Dec. 4, 1995, as vice chairman of the national finance committee, a title that he alone held.
Huang was notably successful at the national committee, raising millions of dollars in 10 months.
But in the past two months, four contributions he had solicited - including $250,000 from a South Korean company - have been returned. Foreign companies are prohibited from contributing to U.S. election campaigns.
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