Whenever there's a hint of a Democratic campaign finance controversy, the media is quick to draw comparisons to 1997, when Republicans and the media were in a frenzy over the possibility that some foreign money had made its way into the DNC's coffers during the 1996 campaign.
But there was another foreign-money-in-politics story that broke in 1997 that doesn't get dredged up nearly as often: The revelation that the Republican National Committee essentially laundered funds from a Hong Kong businessman for use during the 1994 elections, when the GOP took control of congress.
Here's some background, from a July 24, 1997, Los Angeles Times article:
The Senate's campaign fund-raising hearings placed Republicans on the hot seat Wednesday, examining a money trail in which $1.6 million from a Hong Kong business ended up in party coffers in the critical final weeks of the 1994 congressional elections thanks to timely work by former GOP chairman Haley Barbour.
The embarrassing episode dates back to the heat of the 1994 congressional elections, when Barbour sought out financial support from Ambrous Tung Young, a wealthy Hong Kong businessman and Republican Party loyalist.
Barbour arranged a $2.1-million loan guarantee from Young Brothers Development USA, the Florida-based subsidiary of Young's Hong Kong-based real estate and aviation company, to support the National Policy Forum, a GOP think tank created by Barbour in 1993 to promote the Republican philosophy.
The Forum took out a $2.1-million commercial bank loan, guaranteed by certificates of deposit purchased with funds provided to Young Brothers Development by the parent company in Hong Kong. The Forum then immediately sent $1.6 million to an RNC account.
Documents unveiled at Wednesday's hearings show a close relationship between the party and the policy forum, and a clear awareness by all parties that the loan guarantee from Young, a Taiwanese citizen, would ultimately end up aiding Republican campaigns.
"We are willing to consider the support of $2.1 million, which is the amount you have expressed to me that is urgently needed and directly related to the November election," Young wrote in a September 1994 letter to Barbour.
Months before that, Michael Baroody quit as president of the National Policy Forum and complained in his resignation letter of Barbour's "fascination" with raising foreign money, an account he repeated in testimony Wednesday.
There's more. Check it out.
But the media -- which took three years to catch on to the foreign money-laundering -- forgot all about it almost as soon as those campaign finance hearings ended.
If an organization that is spending tens of millions of dollars to influence this year's elections on behalf of Democrats and was accused of using foreign money to do so, you can be sure the media would be quick to remind you of the 1996 campaign finance scandals. But the Chamber of Commerce is accused of using foreign money to help Republican candidates, and the media dismisses the allegations -- and they certainly don't invoke the GOP's 1994 scheme.