Advocacy Group Consulted With Clinton Campaign on Critique
When a non partisan advocacy group for Asian Americans released a statement decrying recent news reports about questionable contributions Sen. Hillary Clinton raised in Chinatown, the timing and the message could not have been better for the Clinton campaign.
The group's concerns about racial profiling by the media bolster a similar case the Clinton campaign was making in response to reports in the Los Angeles Times and, subsequently, the New York Post, about irregularities in the contributions from scores of donors in Chinatown. Several identifying themselves as "cooker" or "dishwasher" had donated $1,000 to the Clinton campaign. Other donors came from addresses where, upon closer inspection, they could not be located.
Howard Wolfson, a campaign spokesman, responded to the news accounts by telling reporters "Asian-Americans in Chinatown and Flushing have the same right to contribute as every other American."
The next day, the group, Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote, released a statement that questioned any reports that would take issue with contributions just because they came from donors with Asian surnames. In the release Vida Benavides, "cautioned the media for suggesting that legal permanent residents who donate to campaigns should be suspect" and called reports about Clinton's Chinatown fundraising "misleading and irresponsible reporting."
What Benavides did not disclose is that she and three other members of the group's 12-member board had worked in the 1990s either for the Democratic National Committee under Clinton's campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe or for the Clinton administration. Christine Chen, the group's spokeswoman, also said in an interview that she had discussed the planned press release with the Clinton campaign prior to emailing it to reporters.
"I did touch base with the Clinton folks to find out, what are they hearing, and how are they reacting," Chen said.
Is this more evidence of the Clinton media machine firing into gear to try and disuade reporters from writing about questionable donations? Both the Clinton campaign and Chen say no.
"We did not ask them to put out a statement," said Phil Singer, a Clinton campaign spokesman. "We heard from a number of people who were outraged about the report and the way it characterized the Asian American community."
Chen said she called the Clinton campaign, as well as contacts in the campaigns of Barack Obama and John Edwards, because she wanted to urge them to avoid a repeat of the tarring that Asian American donors took in the 1990s in conncetion with contributions made to Bill Clinton.
Chen said it took 10 years to get over the scandals of 1996. "Our community is just now starting to engage again in voter participation."
Washington Post editors
October 24, 2007; 5:39 PM ET
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