The Indonesian Connection

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: The flap over donations from wealthy Indonesian families and businesses to the Democratic Party continued unabated Friday as Bob Dole pounced on President Clinton, accusing him and the Democrats of raking in millions of dollars in questionable contributions. "They take money-laundering to an art form in this administration," Dole said. "Here's a president who often talks about a bridge to the future, but more often it seems it's a bridge to wealthy political donors." The latest controversy emerged after new reports questioned whether substantial contributions from several prominent Indonesians worked to pave the way for a softening of U.S. foreign policy toward Indonesia. Chief among these contributors was James Riady, scion of a wealthy Indonesian family who met Bill Clinton while working as in intern in a Little Rock bank. In the years to come, Riady would be given credit for Washington's gestures to reach out to the Suharto regime of Indonesia, a link that Republicans seized on when it was revealed that Riady had contributed $475,000 to the Democratic National Committee. Despite Indonesia's generally poor human rights record, Republicans say the country's government has received progressively sweeter trade and economic deals from the Clinton Administration. They point to the nine F-16s that the White House has worked hard to sell to the country. The Clinton Administration denies any softening of U.S. policy toward Indonesia, and it maintains the campaign money was all perfectly legal since it came either from foreigners who are legal U.S. residents or from U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies, both of which are currently allowed by law to contribute. On Friday, Democrats struck back, releasing to the media evidence that the Republican Party itself received more than $2.4 million in contributions from U.S. subsidiaries of foreign countries in 1994 and 1995. According to the report, Senator Alfonse D'Amato received $500 from James Riady. And Riady's wife contributed $1,000 to Dole's 1988 presidential campaign. Whether Americans care enough about questions over foreign contributions to let it sway their vote is far from certain. But with less than three weeks until election day, Bob Dole can only hope it's so. possibly the only way he could have emerged a winner which means another lost opportunity to gain ground before November 5. Taran Provost