The second spirit from the past was brought back by the Democrats themselves. Vice President Al Gore, seeking to bring order and a sense of direction to his sluggish campaign, named former congressman Tony Coelho, a once formidable Democratic strategist and fund-raiser, to be its general chairman. "Coelho is the person who brought the Democratic party into the modern era of world-class fund-raising by hitting powerful business interests," says TIME White House correspondent Karen Tumulty. "The appointment is surprising because it’s a double-edged sword" that could be used by Gore’s opponents. While Coelho’s modern fund-raising in the 1980s helped rejuvenate the Democratic party, says Tumulty, it also helped launch the massive fund-raising efforts that have since proven prone to scandal. An added detail may also be problematic: Coelho left Congress in 1989 amid an investigation of his personal finances.
Two Democratic ghosts from the past came back to Washington on Tuesday to raise once again the twin policy spectres that have bedeviled the Clinton administration’s second term: China and campaign finances. Johnny Chung, the controversial Democratic fund-raiser who pleaded guilty last year to making illegal campaign contributions, was called in by Republicans to testify before the House Government Reform Committee about his contacts with various Chinese officials and executives, including the head of Chinese military intelligence. While his testimony revealed few new details, his appearance on the Hill gave the Clinton administration another bad China day. "Coming on the heels of the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, continuing allegations of Chinese nuclear spying and the recent failure of trade talks with China," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan, "Chung’s appearance conjured up yet again an image of complete mess-up by this administration on questions pertaining to China."