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National Perspective

Washington Insight

June 25, 1997|From The Times Washington Bureau

NO RUSH TO JUDGMENT: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee still has a $10,000 contribution from controversial donor Johnny Chien Chuen Chung--even though a National Security Council aide called the Torrance entrepreneur a "hustler" and Chung faces renewed scrutiny from federal investigators. The Democratic National Committee is returning $366,000 from Chung after questions were raised about whether the money came from foreign business associates, and party auditors couldn't obtain sufficient information about him. But Chung maintains the funds were his own, and the DSCC wants to see what else emerges before deciding whether to give back his money. "You can make mistakes and impugn somebody's reputation falsely," said DSCC Executive Director Paul Johnson, emphasizing that there is "no sense of urgency to rush to judgment."

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STRIKE TWO: This spring, the National Republican Senatorial Committee used the Democrats' fund-raising woes to solicit cash for its own cause. In its kick-'em-while-they're-down glee, however, the NRSC has managed to offend some Asian Americans. A fund-raising letter signed by Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell made inflammatory references to communist "Red China," and now the group has fielded a softball team called "Chinese Laundry." In two letters to NRSC Chairman McConnell, the Organization of Chinese Americans says it has had enough. Group president Michael C. Lin asks the NRSC to make a "public apology" to all Chinese and Asian Pacific Americans, and urges the group to change its softball team's name immediately.

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TIMES A-CHANGING? There's anxiety in the centrist faction at the White House that the president's staff may be taking on a more liberal cast. The evidence: The arrival of former journalist Sidney Blumenthal, the return of political consultant Paul Begala, and the rising influence of communications chief Ann Lewis. Where will this lead? Maybe to a revived interest in a broad federal health initiative, frets one new Democrat stalwart.

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KENNEDY ANGST: When Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass.) apologized to the Massachusetts Democratic Party convention earlier this month, critics said his emotional performance was more strategic than contrite. But the results of the first post-convention poll give Kennedy more reason than ever to say he is sorry--and mean it. The survey by the McCormack Institute shows state Atty. Gen. Scott Harshbarger, Kennedy's rival for the 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, defeating either of two likely Republican candidates, while Kennedy loses to both. And it has Kennedy, still reeling from reaction to his ex-wife's charge that he bullied her into getting their marriage annulled and to reports that his brother, Michael, had an affair with his children's teenage baby sitter, running no better than even with Harshbarger.

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SCARBOROUGH FARE: Three conservative Gen-X musicians, led by Florida GOP Rep. Joe Scarborough, are making history as perhaps the first Capitol Hill rockers to turn out a CD, even if it's just a demo. The second-term rep and his band "Joe" are singing anything but harmony, however. In keeping with the Xer lament, many lyrics lampoon baby boomers for various hypocrisies, such as selling out. The chorus of one song: "We can't change the world, we can't change the world. But, baby, life is rich, at least we'll change our market share." Joining the 31-year-old lawmaker are drummer David Stafford, 27, whose day job is legislative and communications director for Scarborough, and singer April Lassiter, 28, a conservative activist and ex-GOP leadership staffer.

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