Justice Department Opens Investigation of Bush Soft Money Contributor

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 26 -- The U.S. Department of Justice has begun an investigation into a supporter of President George W. Bush who financed a last-minute 250,000-piece mailer that Senator John McCain credited with defeating him in the South Carolina primary. The loss effectively ended the Arizona senator's bid for the Republican nomination.

The Justice Department action came in a response to a request made to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft complaining that Richard T. Hines, a $550,000 foreign agent for Cambodia, had failed to report his political expenditures in the South Carolina primary, as the Foreign Agents Registration Act requires.

The complaint came from John Edward Hurley, president of the Confederate Memorial Association, who claims that Hines was also responsible for funding litigation against his Washington, D.C.-based organization. The sworn testimony of Vicki Heilig, who sued the association, indicated that the litigation cost over $400,000.

Heilig is a relative of Paul Heilig, a manager of congressional affairs for The Boeing Company who lobbies for intelligence appropriations and for preserving the trading status of the People's' Republic of China, an ally of Cambodia.

The Boeing Company, a major soft money contributor, gave $2,000 to the Ashcroft Victory Committee, according to Federal election Commission records.

A Wall Street Journal article of last July identified Hines as a longtime political activist and friend of senior White House advisor Karl Rove. Rove, Hines and another friend and political ally, Warren Tompkins, strategized the South Carolina primary campaign for Bush.

Both Hines and his wife have served in previous Republican administrations. Under Reagan, he was assistant to the administrator for industry and business affairs at the General Services Administration and she was in the White House Office of Domestic Affairs. Mrs. Hines later became deputy assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs during the elder Bush's administration. This was when Herbert Harmon, a former president of the Reserve Officers Association, became the lead attorney in the litigation against Hurley and his association.

Federal Election Commission records show that the Hines couple has made significant political contributions in election cycles running back to the eighties. A 1995 article in the Washington Times said that Hines had written a $50,000 check at the request of the then House Speaker Newt Gingrich for the controversial National Empowerment Television project which was part of a House inquiry.