President Clinton welcomed an investigation into whether he improperly signed a waiver in 1996 to approve exporting satellite technology to China. He said Sunday the decision was not swayed by six-figure donations from an executive who benefited.
But the Justice Department has opened a preliminary inquiry into possible influence on the president's decision of more than $600,000 in donations to the Democratic Party by Bernard Schwartz, chairman of Loral Space and Communications Ltd., a government official said. The export waiver covered Loral and another company.Speaking in Birmingham, England, where he was attending the economic summit of world leaders, Clinton said he had heard about the new allegations but insisted the money did not change the United States' China policy.
"All foreign policy decisions, we made in the interest of the American people," the president said.
"If someone tried to influence them (decisions), that is a different issue. There ought to be an investigation," he said.
India's nuclear tests, and the possibility that Pakistan and a regional nuclear arms race might follow, also are heightening congressional interest in the subject.
Investigations are gearing up in both the House and the Senate into the administration's decision to let Loral and Hughes Electronic Corp. export satellites to be launched atop Chinese rockets.
Critics claim that, along with the satellites, the two space firms gave China technology that helped it improve guidance systems of its long-range ballistic missiles, including some aimed at the United States. China and India are longtime rivals and fought a border war three decades ago.
Republicans see their investigation into the waiver as a political winner this summer. They hope to tie the contracts to big campaign donations that Schwartz and other executives of both firms made to Democrats.