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Tuesday, September 23, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Michelle Malkin

Locke's Money Trail Leads To Buddhist Temple's Door

Times Editorial Columnist

ALREADY under investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission for mishandling cash contributions, Gov. Gary Locke's gubernatorial campaign must now contend with new revelations concerning two trips to a Buddhist temple last summer where campaign dollars changed hands.

On two separate occasions, Locke visited the Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple in Redmond at the invitation of the temple's founder, Grand Master Sheng-Yen Lu. Grand Master Lu, his wife, his son and several people self-described as church administrators and priests gave Locke about $13,100 in contributions.

Of the known temple donors identified by the Locke campaign, five gave $1,000 each on July 22, 1996. Two priests gave $1,000 and $1,100 respectively on Aug. 8, 1996. Three other temple adherents - Lin Wan Liu of Redmond, and Moon Chuen Lo and Shek Shuk Yee Lo of Renton - also gave $1,000 contributions on Aug. 8.

Internal campaign records show that two other temple disciples donated $2,000 and $1,000 respectively on other dates.

The money involved is considerably less than the amount connected to Vice President Al Gore's fund-raiser at an unrelated Southern California Buddhist temple last spring (about $45,000). But Locke's visits raise intriguing questions about whether similar, if smaller-scale, improprieties involving monks and nuns took place in our own backyard:

-- Did the temple violate federal tax law?

The Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple in Redmond, like the Hsi Lai temple in Los Angeles which Gore visited last spring, is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization. The Internal Revenue Service has long forbidden such places of worship from campaigning for or against a specific candidate, endorsing or opposing a candidate in writing or in speech, or raising money for a candidate.

Yet, at one of the two events, Grand Master Lu expressed his unabashed wishes that Locke be elected governor, then senator, vice president and, someday, president. Moreover, as an internal Locke campaign memo states, "The funds in question were all received at the temple. . . ."

-- Did the donors and the Locke campaign comply with public disclosure rules?

The Public Disclosure Commission requires individual donors to list their residence and employer. But several of the temple donors failed to list their occupation. Others reported their address as that of the temple.

The Rev. Shi Lian Ning, a temple spokesman, acknowledged to Locke staffer John Stonham that the information was incorrect and that some of the temple donors were merely volunteers, according to an internal campaign memo from Stonham to campaign-finance chairman Bill Marler dated Feb. 20, 1997. PDC records have not yet been amended with the accurate data.

-- Did the donors use their own money to make their contributions?

State law expressly forbids individuals from making contributions on behalf of another person or entity. Yet Grand Master Lu presented Locke with a donation "on behalf of everyone," according to a feature article by the ethnic newspaper International Examiner, which covered one of the special temple events.

How much was that original donation? Did it violate the state's legal limit for individual contributions? Was it then funneled, as in the case of the Hsi Lai fund-raiser, through straw donors?

What about the donors' checks? Were they written from one account or many? In the same handwriting or not? Bill Marler (who was not involved in arranging the temple events) confirmed last week that the campaign possessed copies of the temple donors' checks.

However, Marler said late last week that the campaign had decided not to provide The Times with copies of the checks or any further details about the temple events.

Those involved directly in the temple fund-raiser are reluctant to answer questions about the donations. The governor's office did not return a phone call seeking comment. Phone calls to Locke staffers Stonham and Dia Hujar - both of whom attended at least one of the temple events - were not returned. Hand-delivered written questions to temple donors were unanswered. Rev. Ning refused to discuss the fund-raisers and declined to schedule an interview with Grand Master Lu.

According to the Feb. 20 internal campaign memo, Rev. Ning told Locke campaign staffer Stonham that all the donors had the financial wherewithal to make their contributions. But the lack of accurate information about donors' occupations and whereabouts makes it difficult to validate Ning's assertion.

I did track down temple donor Siu Wai Wong, a bald, robed 40-year-old priest who lives in a modest Redmond condo not far from the temple.

Wong could not remember when or by what means he had given a $1,000 contribution to Locke. He also refused to say whether he was a U.S. citizen, explaining in perfect English that his "English is not so good."

The last question is pertinent because under campaign-finance law only U.S. citizens and legal permanent aliens can make individual contributions to local, state and federal campaigns. Wong referred all other questions to a woman he said was his niece. She wasn't at home and has yet to respond to requests for information.

I also located Kwok Lung Chan, another $1,000 donor listed as a temple priest. Chan was genuinely unable to communicate in English and seemed perplexed at the name "Gary Locke." She, too, referred questions to a relative who was not at home and has not responded.

At the address listed for Shu-Chuan Chen, a $2,000 donor, a young man who identified himself as Chen's cousin said "she hasn't lived here for three years. I've seen her, but I don't know where she lives." Calls to Chen's reported employer, T.D. Investments of Tukwila, were not returned.

In a telephone interview, $1,000 donor Moon Chuen Lo insisted that it was his money - but could not recall when he had given the donation and whether he had given cash or a check to the campaign. Nor could he recall whether he had sent his donation to Locke by mail or handed it to the candidate at the temple.

Attempts to track down Xiao-Guang Shen of Redmond, who contributed the maximum $1,100 on July 30, 1996, failed. A search of Washington state tax-assessor records, deed-transfer records, voter-registration rolls, phone books and a state driver's-license database turned up empty.

Locke staffer Stonham noted in his memo that he himself "was unable to locate all of the individuals" associated with the temple who had donated to the campaign.

Why did Locke and his campaign staff collect money at the temple not once, but twice? Paul Hendrie of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics says the law is "absolutely clear" that tax-exempt temples cannot hold fund-raising events or make in-kind contributions to campaigns.

"But legality aside," Hendrie observes, "it's unseemly in the first place to be collecting money at any house of worship. It rubs against the whole notion of separation of church and state. Common sense says this is something campaigns just shouldn't do." Michelle Malkin's column appears Tuesday on editorial pages of The Times. Her e-mail address is: malkin1@ix.netcom.com. ----------------------------------------------------------------- Locke's temple donors

Name Address Amount Occupation Employer .

Kao, Ming-Shou 1656 204th $1,000 Church Temple of

Ave. N.E. administration Buddhism

Redmond, WA 98502 Redmond . .............................................................. Kao, Shwu-Lin Ko 1656 204th. $1,000 Church Temple of

Ave. N.E. administration Buddhism

Redmond, Wa. 98503 Redmond . .................................................................

Lu, Fo-Chi 17102 N.E. 40th Court $1,000 Student

Redmond, WA 98502 # ................................................................. Lu, Li-Hsiang 17102 N.E. 40th Court $1,000 Church

Redmond, WA 98502 # administration .

Lu, Sheng-Yen 17102 N.E. 40th Court $1,000 Church

Redmond, WA 98502 # administration . .................................................................... Shen, Xiao-Guang 17012 N.E. 40th Court $1,100

Redmond, WA 98502 ..................................................................

Chan, Kwok Lung 3309 173rd Place N.E. $1,000 Priest .

Redmond, WA 98502 . ................................................................... Liu, Lin Wan 17632 NE 34th Court $1,000 .

Redmond, WA 98502 . ................................................................... Wong, Siu Wai 16340 NE 83rd St. $1,100 Priest .

Redmond, WA 98502 . .................................................................. Lo, Moon Chuen 19642 134th Court S.E. $1,000 .

Renton, WA 98055 . .................................................................. Lo, Shek Shuk Yee 19642 134th Court S.E. $1,000 .

Renton, WA 98055 . .................................................................. Chen, Shu-Chuan 17020 NE 40th Court $2,000 # # .

Redmond, WA 98502 . ..................................................................

# Address of Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple

# # $900 over legal individual limit ($1,100 per primary or general election) Source: Locke campaign records ----------------------------------------------------------------- Seattle Times

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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