Virginia governor: Feds have found no wrongdoing

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(Bruce Guthrie / CC BY 2.0)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Wednesday that federal investigators looking at donations to his 2013 campaign have told his attorney there’s no indication he did anything wrong.

The governor said on a WTOP radio program that his attorney reached out to federal prosecutors following reports that McAuliffe is a subject of a federal investigation.

“My lawyer reached out to the Justice Department, and asked if they’ve had any indication of any wrongdoing on my part, and the answer was no,” McAuliffe said.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. McAuliffe’s attorney, James W. Cooper, did not immediately return a request for comment.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press earlier this week that McAuliffe is the subject of a federal investigation related to campaign finance.

The governor said he believes the investigation centers around a donation connected to a Chinese businessman, Wang Wenliang. Federal law forbids foreigners from contributing to U.S. political campaigns, but McAuliffe said Wang has held a green card for nearly a decade and is a legitimate donor.

McAuliffe also criticized federal law enforcement officials for leaking information about the probe and said he and Wang have been treated unfairly.

“This poor man has been dragged through the mud for giving a legitimate contribution,” McAuliffe said.

Wang is a member of China’s ruling Communist Party and a delegate from the northeastern province of Liaoning to the country’s ceremonial legislature, the National People’s Congress, according to the body’s website.

Membership in the congress, which meets only once a year, is often awarded based on contributions to China’s economy and society. Proposals raised by Wang at the two-week annual session focused on economic development in the northeast and improving China’s foreign trade links, according to a website run by the Chinese Cabinet’s information office.

In 2012, Wang was awarded an honorary doctorate of business administration from the University of South Carolina, the school said in news release.

It described him as a “major benefactor engaged in U.S.-China relations, Southeast Asia relations and relations on the Korean peninsula,” and said he had supported scholarly and exchange programs at New York University and the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, where he established the Hodges Scholars Program to fund research and scholarships for students and faculty in China.

McAuliffe said he doesn’t think he’s even met Wang, though he believes he has met people from Wang’s company.

A spokeswoman for Wang declined to comment.

One of Wang’s companies, New Jersey-based West Legend, gave $70,000 to McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign and $50,000 to his inaugural committee in 2013, according to Virginia campaign finance records.

Wang’s campaign giving appears limited to McAuliffe. Neither West Legend nor Wang has given to any other state-level campaign, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonprofit money-in-politics tracker. Nor has Wang personally given to federal candidates, according to the Federal Elections Commission’s database.

McAuliffe, a Democrat and longtime friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, said he’s also confident the investigation won’t harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

“I don’t think this has anything to do with Hillary Clinton,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe is a former board member of the Clinton Global Initiative, a program of the Clinton Foundation. The foundation reports that it received $1 million to $5 million from one of Wang’s companies, Rilin Enterprises, but does not say when the money was given.

Rilin, one of China’s biggest architecture and design companies, has taken on multiple international projects, including construction work on China’s consulate in New York City and its United Nations representative office, according to Chinese media reports.

One of Wang’s companies, Dandong Port Group, has a trade deal to ship Virginia soybeans to China. Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore said Dandong has purchased “hundreds of millions” worth of Virginia soybeans in recent years.

Wang is chairman of the group, based in the Chinese city of the same name along the North Korean border.

Wang is also an active environmentalist. Democratic Leader Harry Reid last year thanked Wang for his “commitment and dedication” to restoring the Dandong Yalu River Estuary Wetland in China, according to a statement published in the congressional record.

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