Senate Committee Faces Conflicting Accounts of Gifts to Torricelli

Documents obtained exclusively by Fox News are raising new questions in the ethics investigation of Sen. Robert Torricelli.

The New Jersey Democrat insists he's done nothing wrong and says he is confident his name will be cleared.

The Senate ethics committee expects to wrap up its investigation next week.

In general terms, the committee is investigating several questions: whether Torricelli violated the Senate ban on gifts worth more than $50, whether Torricelli's conduct reflected badly on the Senate and whether Torricelli used his official influence improperly.

At issue, David Chang who pleaded guilty to making over $50,000 in illegal contributions to Torricelli's 1996 campaign and is serving 18 months in federal prison. He claims he also gave Torricelli expensive gifts and cash in exchange for official favors.

Torricelli adamantly denies he received any gifts and testified under oath to that effect.

But sources at the FBI told Fox News that they found a $1,600 television and a $3,500 grandfather clock in Torricelli's home that receipts and testimony from several witnesses indicate were purchased by Chang.

The senator, sources said, has testified that 6 months after the items were delivered, he gave Chang two checks made out to cash for $800 and $200 respectively, which if they were meant as reimbursement, would not amount to the full purchase price.


As for official favors, Chang claimed the alleged gifts were in exchange for Torricelli's help with Korean business interests. Torricelli adamantly denies and has testified under oath that he never lobbied on behalf of Chang or his firm.

However, documents obtained exclusively by Fox News indicate that in 1995 when Torricelli was a House member running for the Senate, he wrote the State Department, saying, "I wholeheartedly recommend Nikko Enterprises and, in particular, their Senior Vice President David Chang. "

Then he wrote: "North Korea owes Nikko Enterprises approximately $71 million ... I hope you will join me in urging the North Korean government to settle their account with Nikko Enterprises."

In 1997 and again in 1999, Chang accompanied Torricelli to South Korea. The State Department notes from the 1999 meeting obtained by Fox News indicate that Torricelli brought Chang along to an official meeting with North and South Korean finance ministers and repeatedly referenced Chang's business interests.

Torricelli says he never lobbied or used his influence to improperly help Chang.

But after that 1999 meeting in South Korea, the U.S. ambassador publicly apologized and expressed outrage that Torricelli brought up Chang's business concerns and brought Chang to a meeting that was supposed to have been about North and South Korean relations.