The Asian Connection

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: For Fred Thompson, the main problem with illicit Asian donations is that they don't seem to be news to anyone. But last week's swing-and-a-miss performance has forced Thompson and his committee to downshift, laying the groundwork for what they see as a pattern of illicit Asian contributions to political campaigns. Today's Exhibit A: a memo in which John Huang asked the Lippo Group, for whom he worked in 1992, to "please kindly wire" some $50,000 to the Democratic Party. Before long, a red-faced DNC was announcing the return of the money. Said Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat: "It certainly looks like the movement of foreign money into an American campaign in 1992." TIME's Viveca Novac, though, notes that scaled-down ambitions get scaled-down results. "There's nothing there that's really new, except just another donation returned," she said. "And Lieberman has always been the one most willing to accommodate the Republicans. The Democrats might not like what he's saying, but it's not going to change things much for them." So far, at least.