Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Discarded Hsu

We're learning a bit more about Norman Hsu, the shady Democratic fund-raiser (and friend of Hillary) who was arrested in Colorado last week, two days after skipping out on his bail hearing in Colorado. The hearing stemmed from Mr. Hsu's flight to avoid jail time in 1992 on grand theft charges, years before he emerged as a major "bundler" of campaign contributions for powerful Democrats, raising more than $825,000 for Mrs. Clinton alone.

First, in true Clintonian fashion, all the money "bundled" by Mr. Hsu will now be returned to contributors. Originally, Mrs. Clinton's campaign planned to return only $23,000 in donations made by Hsu personally, but with more stories emerging about past business dealings--and the feds looking into campaign fundraising activities--the one-time "Hillraiser" became persona non grata. A Clinton spokesman indicates that some 260 donors will be receiving checks from the campaign.

As those checks go out, it will be interesting to see how many are deemed "undeliverable." As you may remember, more than 50 individuals involved in Bill Clinton's 1996 campaign fund-raising scandal either fled the country or took the 5th, protecting themselves against a federal investigation. With a similar probe now taking shape, it wouldn't be surprising if more Clinton donors discover pressing business overseas, or simply "lawyer up" and "clam up."

Meanwhile, Mr. Hsu remains in a Colorado hospital, where he was taken after falling "ill" on an Amtrak train heading for Chicago. For those keeping score at home, Hsu hopped the train instead of showing up for his bail hearing last Wednesday--and after flying back to California on a charter jet. Monday's Wall Street Journal provided new details of Hsu's rather bizarre train trip, as witnessed by fellow passengers:

That night, passengers on in the sleeper compartment across the aisle from his noticed a hat, a book and other items spilling into the hallway from under the door. The next morning, the drapes were still drawn. Returning from breakfast, one passenger peeked through the curtains and saw a person wedged against the door. The passenger, Joanne Segale, a retired school-bus driver from Sonora, Calif., knocked on the window but got no answer. Segale said she saw a man who appeared to be in fetal position, bare-chested. “It appeared this person had fallen out of bed,” she said.

Eventually, three conductors used the crowbar to pry the door open.

Segale said that Hsu “could not stand. He was acting like he didn’t understand them. They tried to get him up but he couldn’t walk.” At one point, Hsu asked the Amtrak attendants if he was in jail, according to Segale.
When Hsu was helped to the bathroom, Segale says she saw “lots and lots of medication in that room. I could see pills on the floor and rolling around.”

But the most intriguing aspect of the Hsu case is the money trail. Both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times have been examining Mr. Hsu's various business ventures, but so far, reporters have been unable to trace the source of the fund-raiser's wealth. However, the NYT did find evidence of close financial ties between Hsu and at least nine other Democratic donors. As the Times Mike McIntire discovered:

The records show that Components Ltd., a company controlled by Mr. Hsu that has no obvious business purpose and appears to exist only on paper, has paid a total of more than $100,000 to at least nine people who made campaign contributions to Mrs. Clinton and others through Mr. Hsu. The payments occurred in the spring of 2003, several months before Mr. Hsu emerged as a contributor to Democrats and more than a year before he started bundling checks from those same people for various campaigns. In all, he has raised more than $1 million for Democrats.

The records make clear that the group was more than just a loose collection of friends, family and co-workers that bundlers typically rely on when raising money for a candidate. Rather, each person had a direct financial relationship with Mr. Hsu, either receiving money from his company or paying into it, even though many of them appear to have other jobs or businesses independent of him. The purpose of the payments, and whether they related to business costs, fees or expenses, is unclear.


The records show that during that one-month period, Components Ltd. took in close to $600,000, about a third of it wired to the company’s account by two people in California and New York who also were part of Mr. Hsu’s circle of campaign contributors. At the same time, the company issued checks and wire transfers totaling $660,000, much of it to the same group of people, including two checks for more than $100,000 apiece that bounced because of insufficient funds.

According to the NYT, their story was based on a month's worth of limited financial records for only one of Hsu's companies. We can only imagine what a thorough examination of Mr. Hsu's complete records would reveal. Of course, locating those records may prove difficult. Over the past two decades, Hsu has done business in his native Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York and (perhaps) other locations as well. During that time, he's been bankrupt twice (once in Hong Kong, once in California), yet he never had any problem in raising large sums of money for his various ventures and favored political candidates.

With the Clinton campaign having officially washed its hands of Mr. Hsu, we wonder if the NYT and Los Angeles Times will stay on the story. Clearly, there is much we don't know about Hsu's financial dealings; how did he acquire such large sums of cash through ventures that were little more than shell companies? Who were those folks in California and New York who wired $200,000 into the accounts of Components, Ltd., and who were the recipients of the checks and wire transfers (totaling $660,000) during the same, month-long period. Following the curious money trail of Norman Hsu should be very interesting, indeed--assuming that the MSM doesn't elect to "buy" the Clinton's explanations (Hey! We're Dong Background Checks on Donors) and simply let the story die.

Additionally, beyond the tangled web of Mr. Hsu's campaign contributions and business interests, there's another, equally important question, as posed by Scott Johnson of Powerline: "Why was it so important to Norman Hsu that Hillary Clinton become President?"


Regardless of what the MSM does, Suitably Flip is still on the case. He's been wading through campaign donor documents and discovered that the former Hillraiser is now running neck-and-neck with Jack Abramoff in the corrupt donor sweepstakes. Flip believes there's more Hsu money to be found and if future discoveries match the current pace, the contributions from the Chinese moneyman could easily surpass those of Mr. Abramoff.

Also, don't miss Flip's recent walking tour of Norman Hsu's New York. After an earlier visit to Hsu's apartment, Flip stopped by the addresses listed for three of his business ventures. Not surprisingly, it was hard to find any trace of the Democratic fundraiser at those locations. But, let's play along and say that Hsu did operate from those addresses. Three locations in mid-town Manhattan. Very pricey. And by the way, Hsu has listed at least residences in the area as well.

Where did the money come from?

1 comment:

Frank said...

If I had to guess, I would say that it is an infrastructure that was built to allow the PRC to have a direct informal (read 'not recorded') pipeline to America's most influential politicians. To say things like "We don't like you to sell X to Japan" while the PRC officially say's "We don't care if you sell X to Japan". Or how about "We would like X to happen in order to help restore trust in our lead filled children's toys."
I certainly don't believe it's as nefarious as "Order your troops to do X so that we can hurt the US."
The PRC plays a game and they are very good at it. This leads me to suspect that Hsu has a counterpart who donates to Republicans.
It's a two way link to the internal government of the PRC so politicians like having it as much as they like the money(well, maybe not for some). It may explain why the FBI appeared to ignore his fugitive status.