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Did indicted educator curry favor with former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski?

Alaska Dispatch
Loren Holmes photo

The New York Times notes former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's cozy relations with Taiwan in a long story recounting the life and death of Dr. Cecilia Chang, a high-profile Taiwanese-American who served for decades as dean of St. Johns University in Brooklyn, N.Y., before she was indicted on state and federal fraud and embezzlement charges. Chang subsequently committed suicide by slitting her wrists, turning on the natural gas, closing all the doors and windows and setting her home on fire.

Chang was accused by the federal government of stealing more than $1 million from the university. Charging documents portrayed her as a con artist who took a quarter-million dollars from a Saudi prince in exchange for promises to arrange academic conferences "that never happened," the New York Times reported. She also gave full-tuition grants to Tawainese and U.S. students with powerful political connections, including one such grant in 2004 to Murkowski's granddaughter, while he was serving as Alaska governor.

Before that, when Murkowski was a U.S. senator for Alaska, he and other powerful members of Congress attended pro-Taiwanese conferences at St. Johns at the request of Chang. Murkowski wrote a letter to the president of Taiwan, again at Chang's behest, urging continued financial support for St. Johns from that South China Sea country.

Six years out of office and two years after Chang had become subject of a federal investigation, Murkowski continued his public relationship with Taiwan, most recently traveling there with his wife, Nancy, to act as an election observer.

Neither Frank Murkowski nor his daughter, current Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, would comment for the New York Times article, found here in its entirety.

CORRECTION:  A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Taiwan was a US protectorate.