Undisclosed cash flowed at Trump inaugural ball with ties to China, embattled Saipan casino

Source: Palm Beach Post | April 12, 2019 | Lulu Ramadan

Thousands of dollars in donations flowed to an undisclosed source at a Trump inaugural ball with links to China and dubious donors, but no financial records.

In the decked-out ballroom of a ritzy Washington hotel the night before Donald Trump took office, thousands of dollars flowed from political donors and a questionable casino company to an undisclosed bank account.

The lavish Asian Pacific American Presidential Inaugural Gala — the first of its kind, with a buffet-style dinner, cocktail tables draped in white cloth and live entertainment — drew more than 900 people who paid at least $75 per ticket and a handful of sponsors who shelled out much more.

But there’s no trace of the money raised that night, as required by law, The Palm Beach Post has found.

That includes donations by their biggest listed sponsors. Among them: an embattled Saipan-based casino later raided by the FBI, a Guam-based shipyard and a handful of Pacific Island hotel operators, all of which benefited from a foreign labor bill signed into law by Trump a year later.

Raising the political stakes further, one of the event’s four chief organizers, onetime Trump campaign aide Jason Osborne, followed up the event by lobbying for the labor bill to help the Northern Mariana Islands, home to the Saipan casino.

One man in charge of raising money for the event told The Post that the host, the National Committee of Asian American Republicans, collected between $5,000 and $15,000 each from up to 20 listed sponsors. It also took in hundreds of smaller contributions.

As a registered political committee, such contributions must, by law, be reported to the Federal Election Commission. But none were.

The committee’s executive director, Boca Raton tech entrepreneur Zhonggang “Cliff” Li, told The Post that he knows where the money went, “but I don’t want to tell you.”

“That almost sounds like an admission of a reporting violation,” said Erin Chlopak, a former Federal Election Commission attorney. “Political committees have to disclose all of their receipts and disbursements. There’s no ‘I don’t want to’ exception.”

Li has drawn international attention as an associate of Cindy Yang, the one-time head of fundraising for the committee that hosted the gala. Her access to Trump through his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach and involvement in groups linked to the Chinese Communist Party prompted top congressional Democrats to seek a federal investigation.

As the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York investigates allegations of financial abuse by the Trump inaugural committee, which raised a record $107 million, no public investigation has targeted the Asian American Republican inaugural ball, which has links to China and dubious donors but no financial records.

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