LOS ANGELES -- Last week in Washington, the Republican Party held the single biggest political fund-raiser in American history, a lavish black tie affair that raised $9 million. The largest donation -- $400,000 -- came from Michael Kojima, a mysterious Japanese-American businessman from Los Angeles who sat at the head table with President and Barbara Bush.
The next day, party stalwarts, reporters and prominent Japanese-American businessmen began asking each other, "Who is Michael Kojima?"
The Republican Party, the party of traditional family and business values, isn't going to like the answers.
For starters, Mr. Kojima's two teen-aged sons call him a "con man."
His company, International Marketing Bureau, from whose assets he told fund-raisers the donation came, is nine months delinquent on its California state tax return. Moreover, records show, it is run out of the office of his wife's student exchange program -- a purportedly charitable endeavor incorporated for "public benefit."
When one of Mr. Kojima's several former wives heard about her husband's generous donation this week, she burst into tears. Mr. Kojima, she said, still owes her $100,000 -- not to mention child support payments she says he failed to make over the years.
"He doesn't even support his own sons," said Soon Kojima, a Los Angeles garment designer who has a $100,000 court judgment against her former husband. "How can he give so much to the Republican Party? I do not understand. I ask President Bush, please give money back. I would be very, very appreciative. My sons need (the money) for college."
Also chasing Mr. Kojima are North Carolina flounder fishermen, Indonesian bankers, Japanese shippers, and a Los Angeles shopping center chain. All told, the party's newest deep pocket appears to be well over $1 million in debt.
Mr. Kojima's questionable past exemplifies precisely the sorts of problems that have led to widespread calls for cleaning up the virtually unlimited flow of big-money contributions into political campaigns.
In theory, current federal law limits political contributions to $5,000. But in practice, loopholes allow virtually unlimited contributions. Congress recently passed a law to place some limits on those loopholes, but Mr. Bush is expected to veto the bill.