Donor Pleads Guilty to Campaign Violations
Presidential friend and fund-raiser Yah Lin “Charlie” Trie pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations Friday and agreed to cooperate in an investigation of illegal Asian donations to the Democrats.
Justice Department prosecutors offered immunity and a recommendation for probation in exchange for Trie’s help in tracing the source of Asian contributions funneled through him to the Democratic National Committee and to President Clinton’s legal defense fund.
Trie, 49, became friends with Clinton when he was governor and frequented a Chinese restaurant Trie owned near the Arkansas Capitol.
Trie accepted the plea bargain in the middle of his trial in Arkansas on charges of obstruction of justice for allegedly hiding documents from a Senate campaign finance investigation. Trie was also charged in Washington with making illegal contributions to buy access to Clinton for himself and Asian businessmen.
Prosecutors dropped all of those charges for Trie’s guilty plea to a felony charge of causing a false statement to be filed with the Federal Election Commission and a misdemeanor charge of making a political contribution in someone else’s name.
“I know that the DNC had the names of the wrong persons,” Trie admitted to U.S. District Judge George Howard. “I requested that somebody else give the money for me.”
Trie is a central figure in the controversy over foreign-linked campaign donations to the Democrats. The DNC has returned $640,000 that Trie raised. Clinton’s legal defense fund has returned $460,000 raised by Trie.
The Justice Department said the plea agreement is a boost to the investigation by its Campaign Financing Task Force.
“This shows the continuing progress by the task force in actively pursuing allegations of campaign financing abuses,” department spokesman Myron Marlin said.
Trie faces up to six years in prison and $350,000 in fines, although his sentence probably would be less under federal sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors agreed to recommend three years’ probation if Trie cooperates fully and gives substantial information. Sentencing was set for Aug. 12.
Outside court, Trie’s lawyer issued a statement in which Trie said he was ready to start a new life after fighting the government for three years.
Right after his guilty plea, federal marshals served Trie with a subpoena to appear June 10 before the House Government Reform Committee, which is looking into campaign finance abuses.
Rep. Dan Burton, the committee chairman, said he hopes the Justice Department will cooperate and let Trie answer questions.
“The American people have waited a long time for answers,” the Indiana Republican said.