Danher Wang insisted to a federal jury on Wednesday that she did not know the campaign contributions she helped funnel to a U.S. senator were illegal.
Wang, 53, testified in the federal trial of her estranged husband, Jian-Yun “John” Dong, 55, who is accused of conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham between 2007 and 2009. Dong is founder of the Mount Pleasant-based biotechnology firm, GenPhar.
Wang and Dong are accused of getting people, including their own employees, to contribute money to Graham’s campaign, which they would then reimburse. Dong took this tactic because he wanted to contribute more money to Graham than was allowed by the Federal Election Commission, prosecutors said.
The idea, prosecutors have said, was to win Graham’s help in steering federal funds to the company, which was developing vaccines for the Ebola and Marburg viruses. Prosecutors have said Graham is not accused of any wrongdoing and was unaware the funds were tainted.
Wang pleaded guilty last week to her role in the alleged scheme and agreed to testify against Dong.
Wang was soft-spoken as she answered questions by the prosecution and Dong’s attorney. Her English was choppy at times, and she spoke with a strong accent.
Wang repeated several times that she did not know what she was doing was illegal. Prosecutors said Dong was aware that donating through conduits after reaching campaign contribution limits was unlawful.
“He don’t like me ask questions,” she said. “I probably should, but I didn’t.” Wang said she just wrote the checks. Wang pointed to Dong as the decision-maker regarding the campaign contributions. The two have been going through a divorce.
In the past three days, the prosecution presented several former employees of GenPhar, who testified that they contributed to Graham’s campaign at Dong’s request and that they were reimbursed.
Other witnesses told the jury earlier this week that they told Dong what he was doing was illegal.
On Wednesday, a lobbyist hired by Dong and GenPhar, testified that Dong also asked him to act as a conduit for contributions to Graham’s campaign, a request he declined, he said.
It’s unclear how many witnesses the defense plans to call to testify and whether Dong is among them.
The trial is expected to resume this morning.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.