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The Senate hearings into campaign finance abuses yesterday focused once again on former Democratic fund-raiser John Huang.

The Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Republican Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, delved into the complex details of government appointments, security clearances and job performance assessments as it explored how John Huang became a mid-level Commerce Department official in the Clinton administration and whether he posed a security risk while in that position. Republicans on the panel sought to portray Huang as an unqualified political appointee who was supposed to be walled off from policy affecting China but who nonetheless was given access to sensitive intelligence information about China that might have been useful to his former employer, the Lippo group, an Indonesian conglomerate with close ties to Beijing and Indonesian dictator Suharto. Taped Excerpts: • Republican Senator Thad Cochran, a Republican from Mississippi, grills Paul Buskirk, a former Commerce Department official, on exactly how and why Huang received the kind of security clearance that he did. Cochran begins by pointing to a memo from Buskirk to the Commerce Department about Huang. Cochran wants to know why the Office of Personnel Management or O-P-M, didn’t perform an oversees background check. • Senator John Glenn of Ohio questions Gary Christopherson, a former White House official who had the job of trying to fill the some 3,000 positions after the 1992 Clinton election victory. • Jeffrey Garten, the former undersecretary for international trade at the Commerce Department. Along with Ron Brown, Garten helped run the Clinton Commerce Department. He has worked in four different administrations — Nixon, Ford, Carter and Clinton — and he’s presently the dean of the Yale School of Management.

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