JAKARTA, INDONESIA -- In March 2004, James Riady, an Indonesian tycoon and devout Christian, received an honorary doctorate from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas. The university -- which has a scholarship program funded by the Indonesian -- didn't announce the honor. Nor did Riady pick up the diploma in person: He'd been barred from America after pleading guilty in 2001 to a "conspiracy to defraud the United States" through illegal contributions to the campaigns of Bill Clinton and other Democrats.
Last year, however, the Indonesian mogul finally made it to Arkansas. He traveled there during the first of two previously unreported trips he made in 2009 to the United States. He was allowed in only after receiving a waiver from a rule that forbids entry to foreigners guilty of "a crime involving moral turpitude," a term that government lawyers generally interpret to include fraud.
Riady's return to the United States poses a prickly question for Hillary Clinton's State Department: How and why did a foreign billionaire stained by Clinton-era scandals get a U.S. visa after being kept out for so long under the Bush administration?