Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER
The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder offers some "historical perspective" on the GOP's new "National Council for a New America":
AMBINDER: Lou Zickar, the editor of the Ripon Forum, e-mails to note that the National Council for a New America "is very similar to one Haley Barbour pursued in 1993 when, as Chairman of the RNC, he established the National Policy Forum." The NPF, of course, was a fundraising, grassroots and policy idea vehicle, and the ideas developed at 70 forums around the country helped "form the foundation for the Contract with America," which was officially released two months before 1994 midterm elections.
That's a pretty Republican-friendly description of the National Policy Forum. A more complete description would note that Barbour and the RNC essentially used NPF to launder funds from a Hong Kong businessman to the RNC for use in the 1994 elections:
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.
Barbour ran both the policy group and the RNC, a dual role that the Democrats say effectively merged the two organizations into one. The policy group sought tax-exempt status that would allow it to accept foreign funds. The RNC, however, was prohibited by U.S. law from taking foreign donations.
(See also: "Hong Kong Money Returned by G.O.P.")
Barbour claimed not to know that Young couildn't legally contribute to the RNC, a claim even Republican Senator Fred Thompson found hard to believe during the 1997 Senate campaign finance hearings:
HALEY BARBOUR: I thought we were having a guarantor that was an entity that could contribute and was contributing. And I want to be fair to 'em. I think the Young Brothers people thought they could legally contribute too. I think they honestly thought that.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: But when you're sitting on a boat in the Hong Kong harbor, talking to a gentleman, who's a citizen of Taiwan, I mean, that does raise certain other potential implications in terms of appearances, but it's an appearance business that we're both in, isn't it?
That wasn't the only foreign money Barbour and NPF took:
In March 1997 he appeared on the NBC News program Meet the Press and was asked by moderator Tim Russert: "And yet you will not disclose who gave how much money. Why don't you tell the American people who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to this National Policy Forum, and did any of that money come from overseas?" Barbour replied, "Well, none of the money came from overseas." Russert: "Period?" Barbour: "Period." Barbour was in a position to know, inasmuch as he created and chaired the National Policy Forum, a now-defunct organization that did not have to disclose its donors and could receive foreign money, legally.
Months later, according to Russert, Barbour called him, apologizing "that he had misled me." Barbour said he had discovered that the Pacific Cultural Foundation, a Taiwanese entity, had contributed $25,000 to the National Policy Forum. What Barbour didn't say — and Senate investigators later discovered — is that the RNC chairman sent a personal thank-you letter for the contributions to Ambassador Jason Hu, the U.S. representative of the Taiwanese government.
Given that Barbour is involved with the new GOP "National Council for a New America," you would think any comparison between that group and the National Policy Forum would note that Barbour used NPF to inject foreign money into Republican Party spending on the 1994 elections.
Then again, the media never paid nearly as much attention to that foreign money as they did to foreign money that made its way to the Democratic Party two years later.