Hsu What?

Posted: Aug 31, 2007 6:40 PM
Hsu What?

Hillary Clinton is once again facing questions about inappropriate campaign contributions.  Anyone with knowledge of recent history is not shocked.  The Clinton’s have a long history of questionable campaign fundraising.

Many, however, will once again try to paint this history as “old news” and as irrelevant to the current campaign.  But this pattern of behavior calls into question both her judgment and ethics and is directly relevant to her campaign for president.

Carl Bernstein’s recent sympathetic Hillary biography gives some insight into how this pattern developed.  According to Bernstein, when her future husband Bill was running for Congress in 1974 he was approached by a lawyer representing Arkansas dairy interests and offered a contribution that would – are so it was believed - insure his victory in an important county and in turn signal his support for the dairy industry if elected.

In a very close race his advisors argued for taking the contribution, but Hillary was adamantly opposed to taking the money.  Bill sided with Hillary and went on to lose by just 2 percentage points.  Bernstein then concludes:

Subsequently, she would be far less committed to the high road and much more concerned with results . . .By the time her husband’s reelection as president (and a decade after that, her own preparations for running for president), she would preside over a vast fund-raising apparatus and bowed to no one in her willingness to stretch the rules of campaign finance.

The recent revelations about prominent Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu has caused the issue to resurface. 

Mr. Hsu first came to light after the Wall Street Journal ran a story noting how he was suspiciously bundling large sums of money from sources with apparently modest income.  The Clinton campaign defended Mr. Hsu and the donations until it was revealed that he was wanted for an outstanding warrant after being accused of defrauding millions of dollars from investors in a business scheme.  Having pled guilty to grand theft, Mr. Hsu never showed up in court as he had promised.

The Clinton campaign is now promising to give the $23,000 they have received from Hsu to charity but plan on keeping the money he bundled from other sources.  Meanwhile, this seems like déjà vu all over again for those with any familiarity with Clinton history.

In the mid to late 1990s the Clinton administration was rocked by scandal amid accusations of improper contributions and alleged links between the contributors and the Chinese government.  Democratic fundraisers like Charlie Trie, Johnny Chung, John Huang, and James Riady illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Democratic campaign - and the Clinton legal defense fund - coffers in exchange for access to the White House.  In many instances the First Lady was directly involved and contributions were even accepted in her office. 

Her initial Senate campaign was also involved in campaign finance improprieties.  Hollywood mogul Peter F. Paul organized lavish fundraisers in partnership with the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the New York Democratic Party.  The resulting New York Senate 2000 Committee, whose chief beneficiary was Clinton, underreported the in-kind contributions from these events by over $700,000 according the FEC.

Other questionable Hillary campaign donations in recent memory:

- She accepted $63,000 from former IMClone CEO Sam Waksal who was indicted for insider trading, bank fraud and obstruction of justice.

- Prominent Clinton fundraiser and supporter Vinod Gupta has been accused of helping to bilk senior citizens out of millions of dollars and is the a target of a shareholder lawsuit accusing him of using company funds for personal and political use.  He has also provided the Clintons with corporate jet usage worth over $900,000.

- She accepted at least $8,000 from a Saipan based sweatshop owner Willie Tan and his family.  Tan was involved with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s efforts to win sweetheart trade deals.

It is unlikely that this latest campaign finance controversy is going to derail Hillary’s campaign for the Democratic nomination.  The media seems to have little interest in pursuing these often complex and litigious cases.

But it is worth remembering that Hillary’s rhetoric about transparency and honesty doesn’t match up to her actions.  Hillary decided a long time ago to do whatever it takes to get elected.  And if it that means stretching campaign finance laws to the breaking point, so be it.