07/29/97 - 12:57 AM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Report: First lady's aide solicited contribution

LOS ANGELES - A White House staffer solicited a political contribution from Johnny Chung the day before the California businessman handed a $50,000 check to Hillary Rodham Clinton's top aide, Chung claims in a newspaper interview.

The Los Angeles Times, in its Sunday editions, quoted Chung as saying he sought VIP treatment from the White House in exchange for the donation on March 9, 1995.

"I see the White House is like a subway - you have to put in coins to open the gates," Chung told the newspaper.

The White House disputed Chung's account and denied according him special treatment.

"At no time did (the aides) solicit a contribution from Mr. Chung," Ann Lewis, the White House communications director, was quoted as saying.

One day after meeting with White House aide Evan Ryan, Chung delivered the check to Ryan's boss, Maggie Williams, to be passed on to the Democratic National Committee. Williams is Mrs. Clinton's chief of staff.

The day he delivered the check, Chung and six Chinese businessmen he was showing around Washington had their picture taken with Mrs. Clinton at the White House. The group also had lunch in the White House restaurant.

Two days after meeting with Williams, Chung and the six businessmen returned to the White House and watched President Clinton tape his weekly radio address. They were photographed with Clinton then.

Lewis has said previously that Ryan, the White House aide, did not recall "any discussion of the financial needs of the Democratic Party" with Chung.

Also, Chung's attorney told The Associated Press in March that there was no quid pro quo.

For the White House employees, the discussions of contributions raise questions about possible violation of a law forbidding federal employees from soliciting or accepting political contributions on government property.

Chung said he went to the first lady's office and inquired about special treatment for the businessmen. He said he met Ryan and asked if the businessmen could visit with Mrs. Clinton and eat at the White House.

Ryan left for about 20 minutes, Chung said. "Maybe you can help us," Chung quoted Ryan as saying upon returning.

Ryan told Chung that Mrs. Clinton "had some debts with the DNC," associated with Christmas parties, Chung said.

"Then a light bulb goes on in my mind. I start to understand," Chung told the newspaper. "I said I will help for $50,000."

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