Vice President Al Gore isn't the only prominent Democrat who made  lucrative trips to a Buddhist temple during the summer of 1996.  The Chinese-American governor of Washington state, GARY LOCKE, also did so.   The temple's founder, Grand Master Sheng-Yen Lu, his wife, his son and several people self-described as church administrators and priests gave Locke about $14,000 in contributions. Although a state campaign-finance panel  absolved Locke and his campaign of any wrongdoing, the extensive public record clearly shows that the Locke campaign used Buddhist monks as conduits for laundered money.  Here is the exclusive, in-depth story of GARY LOCKE'S LUCKY TRIPS TO THE TEMPLE...

Locke made three trips to the Ling Shen Ching Tze temple in Redmond, Washington,in the summer of 1996. The first visit was July 11, 1996, at 1:15 pm. The second visit was July 27, 1996 at 7:50 pm. The third visit was Sep. 7, 1996, at 1:00 pm. (Click here to see Locke's schedules for those three dates.)  The Sep. 7 visit was inconsequential and is not discussed further.

The July 11 visit

During the first visit, Locke says he received a red envelope from the master of the temple, Sheng-Yen Lu.  The envelope contained $5,000 cash. Locke told his fund-raising consultant, Dia Hujar, to return the money. State law prohibits candidates from taking more than $55 in cash from any one donor. Shortly after Hujar returned the cash, Locke's campaign deposited five $1,000 checks from Master Lu, his wife, his son and two church administrators at the temple.  There is no evidence that the five donors were not the true donors, i.e., there is no evidence that the $5,000 was laundered.

The July 27 visit

What happened at Locke's July 27 visit, however, is a different story. 

This is where the story gets hard to follow. According to the state Public Disclosure Commission, which conducted a cursory investigation of this matter after I first wrote about it in the fall of 1997, the master of the temple handed Locke an envelope containing a $5,000 cashier's check from temple member Moon Chuen Lo. Locke, however, has insisted that the one large donation he personally accepted during his temple visits came on July 11, not the 27th, and was $5,000 cash, not a cashier's check. Then there's Lo, who told the PDC he handed a $5,000 cashier's check directly to Locke. Clearly, someone is not telling the truth.

The story of how Lo's alleged $5,000 cashier's check came to be converted into five separate, sequentially-ordered cashier's checks by the Locke campaign makes absolutely no sense.

Lo told the PDC he gathered $1,000 each in cash from himself, his wife, and three friends in order to purchase a $5,000 cashier's check from Seafirst Bank to donate to Locke's campaign. Yet Seafirst, responding to a PDC subpoena, stated it has no record of the check's existence.

The check somehow landed on Hujar's desk - nobody remembers who put it there - along with a list of the five donors who supposedly pooled their money together to buy the check. Hujar neither returned nor photocopied nor deposited Lo's mysterious check. Instead, she said she "may have cashed it," but she has no record of the transaction and "can't remember" where it occurred.

Using $5,000 in cash from a source that remains undocumented to this day, Hujar then purchased five $1,000 cashier's checks in the names of Lo, his wife, and three other temple members whose names were on Lo's donor list.  Hujar admitted to the PDC that she did not talk to any of the named temple members to get their permission to purchase checks on their behalf.

I'm sorry this scheme is so complicated. Let me make it simple: The PDC concluded that "There is no reason to believe" the donations allegedly bundled by Lo were laundered.

However, there is no record of Lo having bought a $5,000 cashier's check.

There is no record of the Locke campaign having received the check, despite Hujar's insistence in sworn testimony to the PDC that the campaign made "photocopies of every check that comes in."

There is no evidence that Hujar either cashed or deposited the check. Bank records showed that Ms. Hujar used cash -- not a check -- to buy the five $1,000 cashier's checks. The source of the $5,000 cash remains undocumented to this day.

In my own interviews with two of the Buddhist monks (Moon Chuen Lo and Siu Wai Wong), conducted prior to initiation of the PDC investigation, they could not remember if they had contributed to the Locke campaign with cash or a check. Nor did they mention the bundling scheme for which no records exist.

In short, Hujar's testimony related to the check simply is not credible. The evidence is clear: The Locke campaign received $5,000 in cash from a source that still has not been documented and used it to buy checks made out in the names of Buddhist monks.  The Public Disclosure Commission, whose members are appointed by the Governor, absolved Locke of any wrongdoing despite overwhelming evidence of misconduct.

This issue matter to voters who still believe the law matters.  It's illegal to funnel campaign contributions through straw donors.    It's illegal for tax-exempt churches to hold campaign fund-raisers.  It's illegal to accept money from foreign citizens who are not permanent residents of this country. It's illegal to file false public disclosure forms (four years after the temple fundraisers, PDC records still have not been amended with the Buddhist monks' correct addresses and occupations).  It's illegal to commit perjury to cover up a political money-laundering scheme.

Locke and his PDC cronies escaped public accountability in their home state, where the media a demonstrated systemic indifference and incompetence.   Will national Democrats and the national press turn a blind eye, too, as the golden boy from Washington state climbs the political ladder?


Delve deeper into the Ling Shen Ching Tze mystery...

Read the column that started it all.

View the governor's personal campaign calendars for his three dates at the temple.

Check out the Locke campaign's spreadsheet showing temple-related donations totaling $14,170.

A temple spokesman and state campaign finance investigator agree: Michelle Malkin sucks!

My final column about this topic.

Read about Locke's other illegal campaign activities.

Read about Locke's criminal cronies.

Still more questionable Locke campaign activities.

One day after this column ran, Locke returned the donation he received from John Huang.

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