Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Drift of Swine?

What is an assemblage of money donors, a bundled group of political contributors, led by a convicted criminal swindler who flew the coop well over a decade ago to avoid sentencing?

What could we call them? In his popular 2003 book, "Popular Miscellany," Ben Schott lists what might be a potentially good candidate among his "Nouns of Assemblage" at page 11 -- A Drift of Swine.

Until recently, the Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton was very enamored by Norman Hsu (pronounced "shoe"). A story in today's LA Times, addressing how easily "Hsu fit" in the bundling system, and even quotes former President Bill Clinton singling him out for special recognition at a gala dinner for the late Robert F. Kennedy just last year. The story notes how Bill actually began his remarks, all warm and fuzzy, by acknowledging "our friend Norman Hsu."

But now the Clinton campaign does not want us to know very much about this group of Norman Hsu groupies, and they are clearly attempting to get the press off the trail by "returning" the money to those hustled their way by the still-mysterious Mr. Hsu. Rather brazenly, however, they are trying to woo the contributors back after returning the dough. John Kerry in 2004, and many of the announced Democrat candidates for President this cycle -- Clinton, Obama, Biden, Richardson -- are all recent recipients of Norman Hsu-related contributions.

A pessimist pal of ours said in a phone conversation late yesterday that this story will now die because she gave all the money back. Don't you believe it! This story has more moving legs than a giant centipede with RLS!

In the first place, each one of the "returned" donations will be recorded, making them all, in a sense, traceable. There is an FEC-mandated trail for anyone to follow.

Thus, this preliminary WSJ list is only the beginning. And, will those individual donations have been voluntary? Some folks, as cited in this LA Times story, are already saying, "no." And, were they made with their own money, or laundered funds? His attorney denies Hsu laundered any contributions, but the evidence may show otherwise. All of these issues and more are potential problems for the recipients.

Stories similar to, or even more bizarre than the Wall Street Journal's Paw family saga (subscriber only) may begin to emerge on a regular basis.

Secondly, one of the most perplexing issues about this story, has been the origin of the seemingly unlimited funds Mr. Hsu was using to finance this financial machinations. Today, the Wall Street Journal again seems to have supplied one piece of the puzzle, that is, where at least some of Hsu's money came from in the first place. Speculation about Hsu has been running wild, especially considering past Bill Clinton connections to money from mainland China, including the Clinton campaign funding scandals involving Charlie Trie and John Huang. Some may recall that at the time, even the Washington Post editorialized strongly about Mr. Trie's activities, especially when he fled the country and went to China at the height of the Clinton scandal exposures.

As to Norman Hsu, only now is the story beginning to surfacing, and the WSJ has today given us our first glimpse -- that it came from a criminal Hsu raid on a Madison Avenue investment fund called Source Financing:

Where did Norman Hsu get his money?

That has been one of the big questions hanging over the prominent Democratic fund-raiser, as reports have surfaced about hundreds of thousands of dollars he made in political donations, plus lavish parties, fancy apartments and a $2 million bond he posted to get out of jail earlier this month.

New documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal may help point to an answer: A company controlled by Mr. Hsu recently received $40 million from a Madison Avenue investment fund run by Joel Rosenman, who was one of the creators of the Woodstock rock festival in 1969. That money, Mr. Rosenman told investors this week, is missing.

The article also notes that an attorney for Mr. Rosenman has asked that the large number of Democrat campaigns that are now madly scrambling to distance themselves from Mr. Hsu by "returning" or donating to charity many of the funds connected to his fundraising activities, instead hold on to the funds so they can be returned to the "Source Financing" investors so that its large number of investors can be made whole at least to that extent.

Mr. Rosenberg, the attorney for Mr. Rosenman, asked politicians to hold on to the funds so that Source Financing and other investors can be made whole. "It appears that Source Financing Investors joins Hillary Clinton...and many others as his victims," Mr. Rosenberg said in an interview. "We urge candidates who received contributions from Mr. Hsu to retain those funds so that they may be returned to victims of the scheme."

The Clinton campaign in particular seems to be oddly way off balance with the rapidly and multiple-angle stories as they break. For example, what might best be termed sarcastically as the "likely story" of the day yesterday, was from the Washington Post story entitled, "Clinton Campaign Cites Flawed Background Check - No Evidence of Fundraiser's Lawsuits or Bankruptcy Turned Up in Records Search, Spokesman Says." Ditto, with a New York Daily News story which notes the campaign's inability to explain the failure to identify Hsu, and further noting that "FBI agents are collecting e-mail evidence in the widening scandal." The story also notes that the conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch, is looking into the matter for possible ethics violations by the Senator.

The Clinton campaign spokesman, Howard Wolfson actually tried to claim straight-faced that they failed to discover the connection of Norman Hsu to any of the legal troubles -- the bankruptcies, the conviction for running the Ponzi scheme, the flight from justice, and other questionable matters -- because they failed to include his middle name(s) in the computer search they conducted!

Though a commonly used public record search shows that Hsu had multiple business lawsuits filed against him dating to 1985, filed for bankruptcy in 1990, and was a defendant in two 1991 California court matters listed as possible criminal cases, the campaign said its computer checks used insufficient search terms that did not include the two middle names Hsu used in the California case. "In all of these searches, the campaign used the name Norman Hsu, which, like the search results of other committees and campaigns, did not turn up disqualifying information," Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson explained.

Oh, come on! That story is simply not credible on it's face. Presidential campaigns receive Secret Service protection, and anyone getting anywhere near a candidate is thoroughly vetted. Michelle Malkin notes an e-mail she received from a law enforcement source pointing out that because of Secret Service procedures within Presidential campaigns, it is highly likely the Clinton campaign could not have been aware of Norman Hsu's background. Michelle also posts a list of additional commentators on the case.

And, of course, the Clinton campaign story simply does not square with the fact that they were told a few months ago by Jack Irvine, a California businessman, that Hsu was trouble, and they apparently low-balled the advice. Here was that original story! So, now they are saying they knew back in June, and thereafter conducted an utterly incompetent web search?

One associate, Irvine businessman Jack Cassidy, said he had tried to warn authorities and the Clinton campaign as early as June that he feared Hsu was running an illicit enterprise, but had gotten no response." Nobody picked up the ball," said Cassidy, who was not an investor but heard about Hsu's business from a friend. Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson declined to respond to Cassidy's claim, saying only that the campaign had conducted a background check of Hsu, who has emerged in the last three years as one of the Democratic Party's biggest fundraisers.

The story actually notes that Hillary does some of her own research on the web, often searching on-line before meeting with people for the first time. And now, she -- "the smartest woman in the world" -- wants to be the Commander in Chief?

Asked about the warning from Cassidy by the WaPo, here's how the Hillary Clinton campaign addressed the matter in yesterday's article:

Irvine, Calif., businessman Jack Cassidy told the FBI that he sent at least three e-mails to a Clinton campaign official on the West Coast this summer, specifically raising concerns that Hsu was engaged in a risky investment scheme and was using Hillary Clinton's name "in vain" to solicit people for his business proposition, according to a person directly familiar with the matter.

Cassidy's concern was that Hsu was using the Clintons to give credence to his business venture, the source said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing FBI inquiry.

Cassidy also raised his concerns with local police, the local prosecutor, California Democratic Party officials and the FBI, which dispatched agents to interview him and collect documents in recent weeks about Hsu's business and fundraising activities.

Clinton spokesman Wolfson said the campaign did an initial public records search in January when Hsu began raising money. The inquiries from Cassidy this summer prompted the campaign to do a second vetting of Hsu, which turned up nothing derogatory. "When the concerns were raised, we again checked publicly available information and unfortunately did not find this decade-plus old warrant," he said.

Yet, in spite of the following facts -- a) Mr. Hsu has clearly shown to be a substantial flight risk, having run in spite of posting $2 million bail; b) there is good evidence that he either attempted suicide the last time he had a moment's opportunity, having reportedly mailed a suicide note to several people, or something else happened on the train ride to Colorado to cause him to become extremely ill; c) there is growing evidence that the funds he has recently spreading all over were all unlawfully swindled from others, as Hsu had once been convicted of doing before; and, d) that there are a very large number of extremely powerful Democrat political figures in this country who would benefit considerably from the silence of, or actual disappearance of Mr. Hsu -- a Mesa county Judge in Colorado has now set his bail at $5 million dollars! Mr. Hsu reportedly had a checkbook in his possession at the time of his arrest showing available assets totaling $6 million!

Norman Hsu, a previously convicted Ponzi-scheme swindler, simply scammed them all over the past few years! Here's the list of major Democrats who have received donations, either directly from, or bundled through Mr. Hsu, from the latest WSJ story, and who are scrambling to rid themselves of the dough -- more to follow:

The contributions are now haunting the Democratic party. Mrs. Clinton's campaign said on Monday it would refund all of the donations made or raised by Mr. Hsu. More Democrats announced yesterday that they would dispose of funds that Mr. Hsu gave or raised, including Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York ($25,000), Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts ($35,000), Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu ($11,700), Montana Sen. Jon Tester ($4,750), Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill ($20,700) and Pennsylvania Rep. Joseph Sestak ($2,500). Others have given their money to charity, including Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, whose campaign received $2,000 in March from Mr. Hsu.

More Democrats are expected to follow. A Wall Street Journal analysis of campaign finance reform records has linked Mr. Hsu with at least $1.8 million in donations to Democrats since 2004.

Even as of the end of August, the Wall Street Journal's list of recipients of money from Norman Hsu and those whose contributions he bundled, included contributions to the following prominent Democrats, in addition to the ones listed above who had determined that they would refund the contributions.

They include: John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Ed Rendell, Bill Richardson, Harold Ford, Debbie Stabenow, Barack Obama, Maria Cantwell, Bob Casey, Joe Biden, Frank Pallone, Dianne Feinstein, Robert Menendez, Patrick Kennedy, Jim Webb, Tammy Duckworth, Jay Rockefeller, Jack Reed, Al Franken, Tom Harkin, Frank Lautenberg, Tom Allen, Marc Pryor, Harry Reid, Patrick Murphy, Joe Sestak, Ed Rendell, Phil Angelides, Tom Vilsack, Sherrod Brown, Bill Nelson, Doris Matsui, Fiona MMa, and the DNC, the DCCC, the DSCC, as well as various State parties.

(Updated: 09/14 am)

ABC7News, from out on the coast, is now reporting that the Mesa County (Colorado) District Attorney, Pete Hautzinger, noted that in addition to the New York investment fund scam outlined yesterday in the WSJ, above, Orange County, CA authorities out on the west coast are “on the verge” of filing additional fraud charges against Hsu, related to a $33 million dollar scam he was operating in Southern California, one involving different investors than the New York scam.

From the report:

The New York District Attorney is now investigating Hsu for defrauding a New York investment fund out of $40 million dollars and today in court the prosecutor said he heard Hsu was also the target of an investigation of a possible scam in Southern California.

"Orange County authorities are on the verge of filing charges on a very similar alleged scam involving $33 million dollars with 50 different investors," said Hautzinger.
(Updated: 9/14 pm)

According to MediaBistro NBC's Andrea Mitchell will state on Chris Matthew's show on MSNBC over the weekend, that the pressure of the unfolding Hsu story is beginning to tell at the Clinton campaign, and is causing in-fighting amongst staff, with at least one public "shouting match." Too many parallels to past fund-raising scandals?

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