The Corner

McAuliffe: That Donation from a Chinese Parliament Member Was Totally Legal!

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe said his reaction was “shock” when he learned the FBI was investigating donations to his 2013 campaign. He must be the only person in Virginia who was.

Spot the problem here:

McAuliffe said he believes the investigation centers around a donation connected to Chinese businessman Wang Wenliang. Federal law forbids foreigners from contributing to U.S. political campaigns, but McAuliffe said Wang has held a green card for nearly a decade and is a legitimate donor.

In 2015, CBS News did a report on Wang Wenliang’s donation to the Clinton Foundation:

One donor – Rilin Enterprises- pledged $2 million in 2013 to the Clinton Foundation’s endowment. The company is a privately-held Chinese construction and trade conglomerate and run by billionaire Wang Wenliang, who is also a delegate to the Chinese parliament. Public records show the firm has spent $1.4 million since 2012, lobbying Congress and the State Department. The firm owns a strategic port along the border with North Korea and was also one of the contractors that built the Chinese embassy in Washington.

That report says Wang is – present tense – a delegate to the Chinese parliament; current reports say he’s a former member. (The Chinese parliament is considered a rubber-stamp; it has 2,987 members, and more than 200 are billionaires.) A July 2015 report in the Washington Post refers to him as a current member as well.

I don’t care what Wang’s visa status is; how on God’s green earth can it be legal for Chinese government officials to donate to American candidates for governor? 

The argument from McAuliffe and his lawyers will be that because Wang holds U.S. permanent resident status, he’s eligible to donate to any U.S. campaign. Except… under federal law:

the term ‘‘agent of a foreign principal’’ means— (1) any person who acts as an agent, representative, employee, or servant, or any person who acts in any other capacity at the order, request, or under the direction or control, of a foreign principal or of a person any of whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed, or subsidized in whole or in major part by a foreign principal, and who directly or through any other person— (i) engages within the United States in political activities for or in the interests of such foreign principal.

How hard would it be for a prosecutor to argue that Wang Wenliang, member of the Chinese parliament, acted as an agent of a foreign government?

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