07/16/97 - 12:37 AM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Secretary to be questioned about calls by Huang

A secretary at a private company is expected to tell a Senate committee investigating political campaign fund-raising that John Huang used an office where she worked to make phone calls even though he had an office at the Commerce Department.

Once or twice a week, secretary Paula Greene has said in a sworn deposition, Huang walked two blocks from the Commerce Department and used her company's private office across the street from the Treasury Department.

Republicans hope to show that Huang, the key figure in the campaign finance investigation, did not sever his business ties to his former employer, Indonesia-based Lippo Group, which the law required him to do to avoid a conflict with his government job. They are probing whether he passed on classified information that he received during briefings at the Commerce Department.

Democrats say the calls may have been personal.

Greene worked for Stephens Inc., a Little Rock investment firm whose owners are friends of President Clinton. It is the largest brokerage firm outside New York.

Greene is expected to testify Wednesday or Thursday before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which is investigating whether foreign money was funneled into last year's political campaigns.

According to Huang's 1994 and 1995 telephone logs from the Commerce Department, which investigators obtained, Greene would call him when faxes arrived for him at her office, or when there were calls from Lippo executives, whose company had close business ties to China.

Huang, who went to work for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in January 1996, has offered to testify in exchange for limited immunity from prosecution on possible campaign finance violations. The offer is being discussed.

Greene has told investigators that she does not know what Huang discussed on the phone because he spoke Chinese. And his calls can't be distinguished from others on the Stephens phone bills.

It has been disclosed in news stories that Huang kept in touch with Lippo officials at the same time he was getting classified Commerce Department briefings.

A key question before the panel is whether Huang used his position at the Commerce Department to provide sensitive information about China to Lippo. The conglomerate has major Chinese investments and has a partnership with a company owned by the Chinese government.

Tuesday the Senate panel released documents showing that Hong Kong businessman Eric Hotung and his wife gave $100,000 to the DNC in 1995 and got a meeting to discuss U.S. policy toward China with Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel Berger, then a security deputy.

"There is no truth whatsoever to any suggestion that the meeting . . . was in exchange for a campaign contribution," White House special counsel Lanny Davis said.

This year Hotung bought Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy's Virginia home for $6 million, $1 million more than the asking price.

Kennedy spokeswoman Kathleen McKiernan said Tuesday, "It is preposterous to suggest any link between the sale of the senator's home and the campaign financing issues under investigation."

The committee spent part of the day hearing testimony from Juliana Utomo, a former Lippo employee. She testified abount Huang's activities as a Lippo employee and a $900,000 payment he got when he left.

By Judi Hasson and Judy Keen, USA TODAY

Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.