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TODAY

03/17/98- Updated 02:09 AM ET

Democratic fund-raiser pleads guilty

LOS ANGELES - Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung, who has agreed to help prosecutors probing campaign finance abuses, pleaded guilty Monday to charges of funneling $20,000 in illegal contributions to the Clinton-Gore re-election bid.

Chung also pleaded guilty to charges involving an $8,000 donation to the campaign of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., tax evasion and fraudulently obtaining a $157,500 loan on his home.

Chung, 43, stood before U.S. District Judge Manuel Real and answered "Yes" repeatedly when asked if he was pleading guilty because he was indeed guilty.

The judge scheduled sentencing for July 20 at the request of defense attorney Brian Sun, who cited sections of the plea agreement which remained sealed.

The delay in sentencing was designed to allow prosecutors to continue questioning Chung and to perhaps to call him before a grand jury or other investigative body in connection with the campaign finance scandal.

The judge stressed that he was not promising Chung any specific sentence and that the plea agreement did not require him to grant leniency. Chung said he understood.

Chung could face 37 years in prison and $1.45 million in fines, but plea bargains usually involve a request for substantially reduced penalties. The sentence usually is determined by how much useful information the defendant provides.

The charges against Chung were substantially lower than those he could have faced given the extent of his contributions to Democratic causes. He actually donated some $400,000 to Democratic causes and candidates between 1994 and 1996.

A Taiwan-born U.S. citizen, Chung was the fourth person charged in the campaign finance scandal but the first to agree to cooperate with investigators in an effort to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

In recent years Chung was a frequent visitor to the White House. Once he escorted Chinese businessmen who wanted to watch President Clinton deliver a radio address.

He has said that in 1995 he was solicited for money by a White House staffer and delivered a $50,000 check to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's office.

Chung contributions were returned after questions arose about their legality.

By The Associated Press



Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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