Massive piece just published by Axios in the last two hours, after a year of background work…
EXCLUSIVE: A suspected Chinese spy developed extensive ties with local and national US politicians in what officials believe was an operation run by China’s main civilian spy agency from 2011-2015, Axios found in a yearlong investigation. https://t.co/wQUOW8Jpij
— Axios (@axios) December 8, 2020
A suspected Chinese intelligence operative developed extensive ties with local and national politicians, including a U.S. congressman, in what U.S. officials believe was a political intelligence operation run by China’s main civilian spy agency between 2011 and 2015, Axios found in a yearlong investigation.
Fang’s ties to Eric Swalwell, which began when he was a councilmember for Dublin City, California, demonstrate China’s long game.
- Swalwell rose to prominence rapidly, and in late 2012 became one of the youngest members of the U.S. House.
- In January 2015, Swalwell was assigned a seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, serving as the lead Democrat on the subcommittee on CIA oversight.
Details: Fang’s earliest known engagement with Swalwell occurred through the Chinese Student Association. By 2014, she had risen in local political circles and developed close ties to Swalwell’s office.
- Fang “was a bundler” for Swalwell and other candidates, according to a Bay Area political operative with direct knowledge of her efforts. A current U.S. intelligence official confirmed her activity for Swalwell; a local elected official also said she brought in donors for other candidates. Bundlers persuade others to write checks for campaigns; they can bring in substantial sums of money as well as deepen the campaign’s engagement with target communities, making bundlers a valuable and thus potentially influential ally to a candidate.
- The Bay Area political operative who witnessed Fang fundraising on Swalwell’s behalf was concerned whether donors she brought in were legally permitted to donate. They found no evidence of illegal contributions.
- Fang facilitated the potential assignment of interns into Swalwell’s offices, the political operative said. In at least one case, an intern recommended by Fang was placed into Swalwell’s D.C. office, this person said. A current U.S. intelligence official confirmed the intern placement.
For Fang, targeting Swalwell made sense. His 2012 campaign — which was something of a longshot bid, pitting a young and relatively inexperienced city official against a longtime incumbent from the same party — relied heavily on Asian American support, said a former congressional staffer from the East Bay.
- That made Swalwell’s ties to the Chinese American community, and particularly APAPA, the Asian American civic organization, especially important.