subject: AANEWS for January 2, 1996 A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nn nn AANEWS nn #226 u

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from: AMERICAN ATHEISTS subject: AANEWS for January 2, 1996 A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #226 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 1/2/96 e-mail: In This Issue... * More on Involvement of Buddhist Groups in Soft Money Scandal * Robertson -- Still Off Political Radar * What is Renaissance Weekend? * About This List DID BUDDHIST GROUPS VIOLATE LAW IN DEMO SOFT-MONEY SCANDAL But Pat Robertson Still Off "Political Radar Screen" Two Buddhist religious groups continue to be in the focus of soft money revelations linking the Clinton White House to a possible cash-for-favors effort by foreign corporations and their domestic henchmen. Since October, the Democratic National Committee has returned nearly $1,500,000 in donations from non-U.S. citizens, some of whom are considered conduits from Indonesian corporate conglomerates like the powerful Lippo Group. The money was part of a larger effort by Democrats called the National Asian Pacific American Campaign Plan which had the goal of raising $7 million; the plan was developed by John Huang, a Democratic Party fund raiser. Part of the scheme was to funnell contributions through two Buddhist groups, one of which embraces so-called "humanistic Buddhism" and has a $30,000,000 temples in Los Angeles. The other is a controversial "Supreme Master" sect centered around an avatar named Ching Hai. The question now emerges -- Did the religious groups violate their tax-exempt status as religious organizations? Some suggest that the actions of these sects is comparable to plans by right-wing mega-churches to engage in over political activity in the "Nehemiah Project." Overview In October, questions about contributions to the Democratic National Committee began to emerge, specifically in connection with $425,000 in donations attributed to Arife Miriadinata, a relative of a business partner of Mochtar Riady. The Riady family runs the wealthy Lippo Group industrial and real estate conglomerate in Indonesia. Lippo/Riady operatives on capitol hill included men like John Huang (who also served as a former Commerce Department official) and Charlie Trie, a Little Rock restaurant owner. Both men were friends of the Clintons and active in DNC fund raising activities. The religious aspect of the case involves two Buddhist sects; Mr. Trie is identified as a member of the Taiwan-based "Supreme Master" cult centered around a woman named Ching Hai. Hai reportedly urged sect members to contribute to Mr. Clinton's Whitewater legal defense fund after having a meeting with Charles Trie. Thus far, it is known that Hai's followers kicked in over $600,000 in donations, but most of these have been returned since they did not meet the fund guidelines. Trie also sits on the DNC's national finance board, and raised about $100,000 during the 1996 elections. His family has donated over $140,000 to campaigns, and his business a total of $70,000 since July, 1974. Trie has been identified as the "bag man" in delivering envelopes filled with checks and money orders to the Clinton's legal fund. Press reports mention a total of $640,000. Another "Taiwan connection" figure is Mark Middleton, a former Clinton aide; he is believed to have represented the DNC in accepting $15,000,000 from a wealthy Taiwanese official, Liu Tai-Ying, who has denied the charge. The second religious group involved in the soft-money scandal is the Hsi Lai Temple, site of a controversial April 29 fund raiser attended by Vice President Al Gore. Even though religious groups are presumably barred from partisan political activities, a total of $140,000 was raised. Remarkably, there are reports of Buddhist nuns and temple underlings "doing as instructed," taking cash from unidentified individuals and then writing a check to the DNC under their own name. One statement about the contributions came man a Buddhist nun named Man Ya Shih, who in early December contradicted an October statement that a Democratic operative gave her cash and then asked her to launder the money through her checking account. "Humanistic Buddhism" The Hsi Lai Temple is the largest Buddhist monastery in the western hemisphere, with a floor area of over 100,000 square feet and capacity for several thousand worshippers. "Venerable Master" Hsing Yun is founder of the Hsi Lai group, and has met at least once with then-Senator Albert Gore; the sect describes itself as a religious movement teaching so-called "Humanistic Buddhism." The Temple was completed in November, 1988 at a cost of over $30,000,000. This particular Buddhist sect counts more than one million devotees, and has 130 temples such as Hsi Lai operating in 100 countries. Both Lippo operative John Huang and another Democratic fund raiser, Maria L. Hsia, have links to the Temple group. Huang organized the fund raiser and and arranged a meeting with Venerable Master Yun at the White House with Mr. Gore in March, 1996; and Ms. Hsia has "advised the Temple on immigration matters" according to Politics Now. Master Yun also gave $5,000 of his own money at the April Buddhist fund event; other individuals contributing between $2,000 and $5,000 gave the Temple as their own addresses. Democratic National Committee officials, to their credit, became worried about the propriety of the contributions, and the entire fund raiser. On October 18, DNC announced that it was paying Hsi Lai Temple $15,000 to cover the cost of the event. Incredibly, Temple officials and followers have made statements denying interest in politics, or even an awareness that their money was being used for political purposes. Buddhist nun Hsiao Pi-hsia told a Taiwanese newspaper that she contributed thousands of dollars "as a gesture of good ties." Laundered Money, Foreign Links, Domestic Influence On the lips of many investigators is the wider question: Are campaign contributions from foreign financial interests buying influence in the United States? The activities of the Lippo Group conglomerate raise this, and other, concerns; Huang and Trie appear to have used their status in White House circles to invite a number of foreign businessmen into proximity with U.S. movers and shakers, including the head of a Chinese weapons firm who has ties to that country's Politboro and intelligence service. Both Huang and Trie appear to the main connection linking the Buddhist groups with other circles of donors. And there are other bizarre aspects to the fund raisers as well. * At a May event organized in Washington by Mr. Huang, a woman named Aiwah Qi was photographed while promoting a phoney aspirin "cancer cure" that she peddles for up to $160 a bottle. In June, Qi was the subject of an expose by the New York Daily news which highlighted her false claims of being a physician, and advertising her "cures" in Chinese-language papers. Qi is known to have contributed $12,500 to the DNC, which is now reportedly reviewing the donation. * Buddhist "Supreme Master" cult figure Ching Hai openly asked her followers to contribute money to the Clinton campaign following a meeting with cultist member Charlie Trie. It has now been learned that most of the checks delivered to the Presidential Legal Expense Trust were in Hai's name. Hai has told the New York Times that "He is the President of the United States, the biggest country in the world, and yet he is dragged into the material world by something so trivial." Hai's "Supreme Master" sect counts some 100,000 worldwide, and operates dozens of vegetarian restaurants throughout the country. Sect is Anti-Abortion Ching Hai may have her own social and political agenda, even if it does involve partisan political activity which could jeopardize her group's tax exempt status. One such organization is the International Supreme Master Ching Hai Meditation Associations, which in March released a letter to the United Nations putting forth Hai's view on population and abortion. Along with calls to "balance the population of the world," Hai suggested population transfers through adoption, and an end to "the vice of killing" (abortion). In addition, Ching Hai's magazine which focuses mostly on the wonderful deeds and qualities of the "Supreme Master" gushes with statements like one which admonished legislators: "All the sins due to the abortions in society or the world may falls (sic) on your shoulders, as it may not be the fault of the people who commit the sins because it is permitted by is also the government's responsibility, assigned by God, to guide their people to avoid killing (abortion) as much as possible." Robertson -- Still Off The Political Radar Screen While news media has focused on the Lippo-Riady-Clinton nexus, it has all but ignored another area which ties the interests of Mochtar and James Riady to an American political power-broker, namely, televangelist Pat Robertson. There has been no mention in major papers or wire services of this connection, only a piece in the Virginia Beach Pilot. Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network is a partner with the Riadys in a "no sex, no news, no violence"TV venture known as China Entertainment Television Broadcast, Ltd. AANEWS has discussed this business venture in depth, noting in our December 20 dispatch that Robertson's International Family Entertainment, Inc. now has access to 28,000,000 viewers in China alone. "Pat Robertson has some cache in mainland China," mused one financial analyst, adding that the televangelist also had made "high level Chinese government contacts." Ironically, it was Robertson's Christian Coalition which, reacting to a suit filed by the Federal Elections Commission charging partisan political activity, waded into the Buddhist temple controversy by complaining about the Buddhist fund raiser. State-Church Separation Threatened By All Religious groups are enjoined from partisan political activity if they wish to maintain their privileged, tax-exempt status. The Christian Coalition has been criticized for its role in distributing tens of millions of so-called "voters guides"; and giant "mega-churches" such as Houston's Second Baptist Church have made their own forays into the political arena as well. Evidence surfaced in March that Second Baptist may have violated provisions of the Internal Revenue Service Code by instituting its political ministry known as The Nehemiah Project, and urging members to vote for a specific slate of precinct delegates in the Texas primary. There is growing evidence that religious organizations across the political spectrum are using their mantle of god-belief to promote specific political ideologies. In the case of the Buddhist groups, though, there may be clear violations of election laws which could -- and should -- remove tax exemption privileges. ** MORE ''SPIRITUALITY'' AS CLINTONS SCHMOOZE AT NEW AGE FEST "Spiritual Life In A Secular Society" was just one of the workshop topics in a Renaissance Weekend attended by President Clinton, wife Hillary, and nearly 1500 other "super achievers who aren't too sophisticated to walk around sporting oversized name tags," according to CNN. The Clintons spent last weekend at the invitation-only mystical retreat , making it their 13th such event. What is "Renaissance Weekend"? Some conservative and fundamentalist religious critics see the tightly-controlled, exclusive shindig as epitomizing everything from an evil French Enlightenment agenda to something smacking of false religion and the Anti Christ. But that may be giving Renaissance Weekend far more credit than it deserves. Religious-right direct mail king Richard Vigueri is "right at home" as a participant, and so are a handful of other fundamentalist-evangelical types. In truth, the event is a chaotic blending of 70's-era psychobabble, pop-religion, and the self-improvement, motivational philosophies which have long appealed to the Clintons. Former Presidents would take off to the relative seclusion of Camp David, although a few like Richard Nixon were known to join elite fraternities such as The Bohemian Grove, which allegedly involved weekends "in the buff," hard bouts of drinking and opera-farce theatrical productions for a kindred audience. The Clintons, though, are not heirs to that particular tradition; the couple manage to fuse their Baptist religious roots with a fascination for ersazt-mysticism, a fact that attracted the curiosity of reporter Bob Woodward. In his book "The Choice" published last July, Woodward revealed the friendship linking Hillary Clinton with Jean Houston of the Foundation for Mind Research, an organization that studies psychic experiences, consciousness expanding techniques and other mystical themes. Some compared "gurugate" to Nancy Reagan's use of astrological forecasts made by horoscope caster Joan Quigley. Renaissance Weekend involves some of the same themes and language repleat in the writings of Jean Houston, or anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson (daughter of Margaret Mead) who supposedly joined the first lady for "conversations" with dead luminaries like Eleanor Roosevelt. The Weekend events were founded by Philip Lader, head administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administrator; Lader's own resume seems to reflect a penchant for the straight, narrow and politically successfull; Phi Beat Kappa at Duke, advanced degrees from Oxford and Harvard Law, membership in the D.C., South Carolina and Florida Bars, licensed Real Estate Broker, and former President and Professor of Business of Public Policy at Winthrop University. Lader joined the influx of Clinton cronies into Washington in 1992, serving as White House Deputy Chief of Staff and Deputy Director for the Office of Management and Budget. Lader is married to Linda LeSourd, whose father Leonard was editor of the religious Guideposts magazine, and whose stepmother Catherine Marshall LeSourd was author of the inspirational books "A Man Called Peter," and "Christy." She serves as President of the Renaissance Institute. The Weekends, which now take place up to four times a year and can cost up to $550 for couples (lodging not included) are described by Lader as a commitment "to the premise of the incredible transforming power of ideas and relationships." The latest gathering included Rabbi Harold S. Kushner ("When Bad Things Happen to Good People"), Sister Charlotte Rose Kerr who according to the N.Y. Times is a "Catholic nun-acupuncturist," Tony Campolo of the Evangelical Association for Promotion of Education and "peak performance coach" Anthony Robbins, a personal favorite of the Clintons who has also spent time at Camp David. That get-together also involved Marianne Williamson, dubbed "Guru to the Glitterati", and was described by the Washington post as "something of a gathering of New Age guru authors." ** FOR MORE INFORMATION... Dozens of new readers signed on for aanews dispatches in the last days of 1996. 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