New Lawyer Named to Lead Donor Inquiry
A new prosecutor was named Friday to run the Justice Department’s investigation into campaign fund-raising allegations, including whether political donations influenced President Clinton’s decision to allow satellite technology exports to China.
Atty. Gen. Janet Reno said a career federal prosecutor from New Hampshire, David Vicinanzo, would head the Justice Department’s campaign financing task force, which is investigating Clinton fund-raising controversies.
The task force has been investigating allegations from Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chien Chuen Chung that $100,000 he gave to Democrats in 1996 was from China’s People’s Liberation Army. Chung said the money was given to him by a Chinese lieutenant colonel and aerospace executive, Liu Chao-Ying.
Three months before Chung’s alleged payment was made, Clinton overruled the State Department by granting waivers to two U.S. companies, Hughes Electronics Corp. and Loral Space & Communications Ltd., allowing them to export satellite technology to China.
The task force is also conducting a preliminary inquiry into whether the nearly $1 million donated by Loral Chairman Bernard Schwartz to the Democrats in the last four years influenced Clinton’s decision.
Reno said Vicinanzo will arrive this summer and will replace Charles La Bella, whose departure had been announced at the end of April. La Bella is leaving to become interim U.S. attorney in San Diego this summer.
The task force has won a guilty plea from Chung, who is cooperating with the investigation. It has charges pending against Democratic fund-raisers Maria Hsia and Yah Lin “Charlie” Trie, a longtime Clinton friend, in a pair of cases involving Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign.
Vicinanzo, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Hampshire since 1993, has prosecuted public corruption cases, Honda dealers and executives for bribery, and members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang.
“David Vicinanzo is one of the federal government’s top prosecutors, and he is the right person for the job,” Reno said.
When he takes over, Vicinanzo will face demands from Republicans in Congress who have been urging Reno to turn over the investigation to an independent counsel, a step she has steadfastly refused to take.