WASHINGTON — Citing President Clinton's ties to an Indonesian conglomerate, House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Sunday predicted that congressional and criminal investigations will be needed to explore whether the Democratic Party accepted illegal campaign donations from foreign interests.
The administration, led by Vice President Al Gore, responded that there were "absolutely no violations of any law" in the Democratic National Committee's acceptance of $425,000 from an Indonesian couple living in this country.
Nevertheless, Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, said he believes that it is "unavoidable" that dual investigations on Capitol Hill and by a special prosecutor will probe the relationship between the DNC and the Clinton-Gore reelection effort and the Indonesian couple, Arief and Soraya Wiriadinata.
The Wiriadinatas' donation was one of the largest the party has received in the last year. They lived in suburban Washington and had "green card" work permits but have since returned to Indonesia. Immigrants with legal resident status in the United States may legally donate to political campaigns.
What must be determined, Gingrich and other GOP leaders say, is whether the Wiriadinatas were actually fronts for well-heeled foreigners who used the couple to skirt U.S. laws prohibiting noncitizens or nonresidents from funneling money to U.S. political campaigns.
Soraya Wiriadinata is the daughter of a wealthy Indonesian businessman, Hashim Ning. He was a business partner of one of Indonesia's richest men, Mochtar Riady, whose family had business interests in Arkansas and supported Clinton when he was governor there.
Gingrich, interviewed on the CBS-TV program "Face the Nation," charged that the donation controversy could make "Watergate look tiny" and that it involves "a potential abuse of the American system on behalf of an Indonesian billionaire in a way that we have never seen in American history."
Gore said the allegations are groundless.
"There have been absolutely no violations of any law or regulations, and there is nothing that has been done that's wrong," he said on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."
"We have strictly abided by all of the campaign finance laws, strictly," he added. "There have been no violations."
Gingrich indicated that he did not think it would be out of line for Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole to raise the issue in his second televised debate with Clinton on Wednesday even though Dole has said he would not aggressively challenge the president's character.
"Well, it's not a question of being aggressive," Gingrich said. "I mean . . . that's not being aggressive; that's just asking the obvious."
Gore conceded that the allegations put a spotlight on the issue of campaign finance reform, which has made little progress in Congress. He said he thinks that establishing a bipartisan commission to reform campaign financing would be "a good idea."