Those familiar with the Clinton response to scandal know the process by heart. It inevitably goes something like this: first, deny any wrongdoing; then explain it as a misunderstanding or bureaucratic mistake; when it is clear there is actual wrongdoing begin to stonewall and obfuscate; then move on to simultaneously attacking anyone who brings up the scandal and dismissing the issue as old news.
If that rings a bell it is because we are well on our way down this path with the Norman Hsu fundraising scandal. When the Wall Street Journal first raised the issue of whether there was anything fishy about Hsu – a top Hillary fundraiser or “HillRaiser” - bundling millions of dollars of campaign contributions from donors of seemingly modest means the Clinton campaign initially insisted nothing was wrong.
When it was revealed that Hsu was in fact a fugitive from justice having defrauded millions of dollars from investors and then failed to show up for his court appearance Hillary expressed shock and described it as a breakdown in the donor vetting process.
Following Hsu’s lawyer’s lead, Hillary and other beneficiaries of his money insisted that this was simply a misunderstanding from the past that would soon be cleared up. This despite the fact that Hsu’s past was extremely vague and it wasn’t clear exactly where he acquired the millions of dollars he had been funneling to Democrats like Hillary since 2004. His campaign finance reports were full of old addresses and mysterious and now defunct companies.
They initially refused to return Hsu’s donations, but soon relented and announced they would donate his contributions to charity but keep the bundled funds. Hsu turned himself in, posted bail, and agreed to give up his passport. The Clinton campaign was ready to put the story behind them.
But as with so many other Clinton scandals, things got more complicated. Hsu once again decided to skip his court date and run for it. He never returned his passport as promised, forfeited his $2 million cash bail, and is now in police custody.
Faced with the prospect that one of her top fundraisers is a con artist and a fugitive from justice the Clinton campaign has dug in. They continue to refuse to give the contributions bundled by Hsu to charity despite the fact that there are indications that he may have reimbursed these donors in violation of federal law.
In addition they have refused to release any information about the donors that might offer clues as to Hsu’s connections and the degree of corruption in the process. Hillary Clinton has accepted nearly $175,000 from this suspect donor network and yet has pledged to return only less than $23,000 or 13%. All told Hsu is responsible for nearly $1.6 million in donations to Democrats since 2004.
Remarkably, the media seems almost bored with this whole story. Oh sure, newspapers and other media outlets have mentioned the story. But when compared with the absurd 24-hour frenzy on Larry Craig this scandal has been rather tepid. Attempts to link this scandal to the eerily similar events surrounding her husband’s reelection campaign have been brushed off as desperate attempts to re-fight old battles or even racist.
The fact that the Clinton’s have a history of campaign violations and irregularities hasn’t put a dent in Hillary’s frontrunner status. But there is some indication that the tide may be turning. Obama and Edwards have begun stepping up their rhetoric against Hillary if only obliquely. Chris Dodd has promised not to keep any funds connected to a fugitive from justice.
Just like with her refusal to release important documents from her time as first lady, this provides Hillary with an opportunity to show she is a different candidate. She can release the information about the bundled donors and give the money to charity.
If the past is any indication, however, look for further stonewalling and attacks on the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. After all being a Clinton means never having to say you are sorry.