The Big Show Begins With a Bang

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: As Fred Thompson could tell you from his Watergate days, a political scandal needs two things before it'll stick with the public: a star witness and a catchy plotline. After just one day of Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearings on campaign finance abuses, Thompson's committee may have both. The Senator departed from his pre-released script when he led off this morning with the plot, alleging that "high-level Chinese government officials" plotted to influence U.S. elections with illegal money in a secret operation. "Our investigation suggests the plan continues today." And then came the witness: John Glenn told Senators that Democratic fundraiser John Huang, the central figure in the investigation, had changed his mind at the last minute and is now willing to testify. Glenn said Huang had offered to forgo immunity on questions of whether he passed economic or classified information on to China while at the Commerce Department, but is still insisting on immunity for testimony on campaign finance and government ethics law issues. Senate Republicans may be leaning towards accepting. Newt Gingrich, who says he wants to know if some Democratic fund-raising techniques led to Chinese espionage, has advocated trading some form of immunity for information. "I think it is very important and I think it is encouraging," said Thompson. "But if he has hatched some sort of a plan to absolve himself while protecting his friends, then we're not interested."