Donald M. Fraser, Lawmaker Who Bared a South Korea Plot, Dies at 95

Donald M. Fraser, a former Minnesota congressman whose hearings exposed a conspiracy by South Korean intelligence officials and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in the 1970s to buy political influence in America and manipulate United States foreign policies and currency laws, died on Sunday at his home in Minneapolis. He was 95.

A spokesman for Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis confirmed the death.

A liberal Democrat and protégé of Hubert H. Humphrey, the former Minnesota senator and vice president under Lyndon B. Johnson, Mr. Fraser served eight terms in the House of Representatives, from 1963 to 1979. Like Humphrey, he also served as mayor of Minneapolis, in his case for a record four terms.

In the House, he established a strong record on human rights, foreign aid and environmental conservation. (He was an avid canoeist into his 80s, frequenting the Boundary Waters area of northeast Minnesota.) He was also one of the nation’s most outspoken opponents of American involvement in the Vietnam War.

But he was best known as chairman of a panel whose hearings in 1977 and 1978 concluded that the Korean Central Intelligence Agency and Mr. Moon — the Korean businessman, self-proclaimed messiah and founder of the Unification Church — had conspired to bribe American officials to influence national policies and illegally raise and move millions of dollars across international borders.

The hearings grew out of the scandal known as Koreagate, a conspiracy by the Korean C.I.A. to bribe a group of Democratic congressmen to further South Korean objectives, including reversal of a decision to pull American troops out of South Korea. That scandal did not directly implicate Mr. Moon, but it led to resignations, censures and indictments. One American, Representative Richard T. Hanna, a California Democrat, was convicted and imprisoned.

Mr. Fraser’s Subcommittee on International Organizations, pursuing information from a Korean defector, documented a vast plot, dating to 1970, that bestowed cash, gifts, campaign contributions, honorary degrees and other favors on American officials. While some federal agencies knew of the skulduggery, little was done about it, largely because the Nixon and Ford administrations were concerned with strategic ties to South Korea, an ally of the United States.

The K.C.I.A.,Mr. Moon and his church operatives, Mr. Fraser said, “systematically violated U.S. tax, immigration, banking, currency” and other laws to reap fortunes and promote Mr. Moon’s global religious movement, noted for its mass weddings and its links to vast commercial interests. The panel determined that the effort to manipulate American policies had ultimately failed.

Korean officials, the Unification Church and Mr. Moon, who left the country as a subpoena to testify was issued, rejected the subcommittee’s allegations. But Mr. Moon returned to the United States and, in 1982, was convicted of tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He served 13 months. He died in South Korea in 2012.

In “Gifts of Deceit,” a 1980 book about the Korean scandals, Robert Boettcher, who had been staff director of the investigating subcommittee, said that Unification Church followers, derisively known as Moonies, had mounted a propaganda campaign to intimidate Mr. Fraser during the hearings. “Letters went out to thousands of lawyers, clergymen and politicians,” Mr. Boettcher wrote. “They even went after Fraser’s wife and children.”

In 1978, Mr. Fraser ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate seat that had been held by Humphrey, who died that January. Despite strong support in the Twin Cities area, Mr. Fraser had alienated rural voters with his support for abortion rights and gun control. He lost the primary to Robert E. Short, who was defeated in the general election by the Republican David Durenberger.

But a year later he was elected mayor of Minneapolis, the state’s largest city. His 14 years in office, from 1980 through 1994, was the longest mayoral tenure in the city’s history. As American cities faced federal cuts in aid for housing, welfare and other needs in the 1980s, Mr. Fraser oversaw extensive downtown redevelopment under a business-government partnership he promoted.

Donald MacKay Fraser was born in Minneapolis on Feb. 20, 1924, to Everett and Lois Fraser. His father was dean of the University of Minnesota Law School.

Donald attended University High School and, after graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1944, went on active duty as a Navy reserve officer, serving in a radar command in the Pacific in World War II. He earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1948 and began a law practice in Minneapolis.

In 1950 he married Arvonne Delrae Skelton. A women’s-rights activist, she ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of Minnesota in 1986 and managed her husband’s campaigns for the House and Senate. She died last August.

The couple had six children: Thomas, Mary, John, Lois, Anne and Jean. Anne, at age 8, was fatally injured when she was struck by a car in Washington in 1966. Lois committed suicide in 1981. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

Mr. Fraser joined Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, the state affiliate of the national Democratic Party, in the late 1940s and worked in several political campaigns, including Humphrey’s successful 1948 run for the Senate.

He was elected to the Minnesota State Senate in 1954 and served eight years until his election to Congress. In the House, he supported bills to create jobs, finance antipoverty programs, subsidize housing and institute environmental protections. He served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and became increasingly involved in international relations and human rights issues.

Mr. Fraser held hearings in Minneapolis on the Vietnam War in 1965, and in 1968 he spoke against the war at the tumultuous Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In 1972 he joined a congressional coalition seeking to relax United States relations with Fidel Castro’s Communist regime in Cuba, and in 1973 he circulated a petition opposing the military government in Chile.

Mr. Fraser was a Democratic Party reformer, and from 1974 to 1976 was president of the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. He was also president of the National League of Cities in 1993. He was later a consultant to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A fellow Democrat, Senator Amy Kobuchar of Minnesota, described Mr. Fraser in a statement as a “true champion for good.”

“As a congressman he fought for the environment and human rights and exposed human rights abuses around the world,” she said. “As the mayor of Minneapolis he advocated for early childhood education. His mission? Ideas matter in politics. He lived that.”


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