07/22/97 - 01:54 AM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Huang's wife also refuses to testify

WASHINGTON - The wife of former Democratic fund-raiser John Huang is joining her husband in invoking her Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions from Senate investigators.

Jane Huang, who had originally agreed to be questioned by investigators, canceled a scheduled deposition session last week with the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said her Los Angeles attorney, Richard Marmaro.

"She has always indicated a willingness to cooperate," Marmaro said in a brief telephone interview Monday. "But she has become disillusioned with the process, because of the way the press has mishandled her husband.

"So she has reluctantly decided to accept counsel's advice and assert her privilege," Marmaro said.

Marmaro said he told the committee of Mrs. Huang's decision to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

Besides the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Mrs. Huang is invoking the spousal privilege, which prohibits her from being questioned about discussions she had with her husband.

Senate investigators sought to question Mrs. Huang about three 1995 donations to the Democratic National Committee, totaling $52,000, that party fund-raising records credited her with soliciting, Marmaro said.

The panel wants to determine whether Huang tried to hide his involvement in the solicitations by crediting his wife with raising the money. The three donations were obtained while Huang was a deputy assistant commerce secretary.

They were cited by investigators at Senate hearings last week as circumstantial evidence that Huang raised money for the DNC while at the Commerce Department, a potential violation of the law prohibiting political fund raising by most government employees.

Huang went to work for the DNC in December 1995 to spearhead the party's efforts to raise money from Asian American donors. He raised $3 million, $1.6 million of which the DNC has returned because the donations came from questionable sources.

Huang himself has refused to cooperate with the committee's investigation and has sought limited immunity from prosecution as a condition for testifying at Senate hearings.

Huang's attorney, Ty Cobb, has proposed that his client be given "use" immunity that would bar Justice Department prosecutors from using anything he tells Congress about fund raising as evidence against him.

The Justice Department, which is investigating Huang, has told the committee that it opposes any immunity grant for Huang, committee aides say.

Senate investigators wanted to question Mrs. Huang about a Nov. 9, 1995, $30,000 donation from an Indonesian landscape architect and his wife who had lived in Virginia. The couple, Arief and Soraya Wiriadinata, gave a total of $450,000 to the DNC, which returned the money after determining they did not file a 1995 federal income tax return. The couple has since returned to Indonesia.

Investigators also wanted to question Mrs. Huang about a $10,000 contribution on June 15, 1995, from Mi Ryi Ahn and $12,000 given on Nov. 7, 1995, by Kenneth Wynn, president of Lippo Land Ltd., a Lippo subsidiary, Marmaro said.

In other developments:

The panel is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to grant the four partial immunity to enable them to testify about a California Buddhist temple fund-raiser attended by Vice President Al Gore. Such immunity would bar prosecutors from using what the nuns tell the Senate as evidence against them.

The four are expected to testify that Huang asked them to make donations - for which they were later reimbursed by the temple in Hacienda Heights, Calif.

Prosecutors told the panel that one of the four, the temple's abbess, may have been involved in another illegal donation, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

By The Associated Press