Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Norman Hsu Skips Court

Well, I am just grateful that the NYTimes headline isn't: "Asian Donor Fails to Appear in Court."

Norman Hsu, who left California charges of business fraud behind 15 years ago, was supposed to appear in court today to ask for a reduced bail and to turn in his passport. The guy also apparently was funneling his money through a front family for the purposes of increasing donations to candidates. However, he skipped town with passport in hand, probably for some far off locale.

His disappearance added to an already embarrassing episode for Democrats, and especially the presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, which had enlisted Mr. Hsu as a “Hillraiser” — a major bundler of donations from others. But last week came the revelation that Mr. Hsu was a fugitive, having skipped out on a California sentencing hearing related to a business fraud case and moved back to Hong Kong.

Yesterday, the Clinton campaign called for Mr. Hsu to turn himself in.

“We believe that Mr. Hsu, like any individual who has obligations before the court, should be meeting them, and he should do so now,” the Clinton campaign said in a statement.

Even those who had initially defended Mr. Hsu when his legal problems became public were baffled. Bob Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator who is president of the New School in New York City, where Mr. Hsu was a trustee, could not explain Mr. Hsu’s behavior.

“I don’t know what is going on in his mind,” Mr. Kerrey said. “I thought that I knew him, but obviously I didn’t.”

This is the first big blunder by the Hillary campaign, given their very very accurate and measured steps down the dotted line in the middle of the road.

Clinton calling for him to turn himself in isn't really sufficient, she needs to not just blindly take money from all her donors, but hire some more compliance people. This is part of the problem when you are engaged in a nuclear fundraising race - you just keep shoveling in the dough without proper examination. This leaves you open to all sorts of opp research through public records. If campaigns were capped at smaller amounts of cash and we publicly financed them, it might lead to less reliance on major bundlers.

Also, Bob Kerrey has kind of hurt his status as a candidate in Nebraska, since he actually stood by Hsu even when Clinton was backing away from him like she had seen a mammoth tarantula.

I'd say that he reflects poorly on the community, except that there are bad apples everywhere. Hopefully Hsu comes to his senses and gets his life straightened out - I can only imagine the type of shame that his family is feeling at such a huge loss of face. Ironically, it seems that Hsu became a major donor to become a power player and gain face.

HuffPost has two op-eds on the issue, both discussing the Wall St Journal's race baiting on this. I can't say that either is spectacularly well written, but they do provide some perspective on what the "liberal blogosphere" thinks about the issue. Of course, I'd prefer if the HuffPost had some prominent Asian American blogger talking about this from the community perspective.

In the meantime, here's my thoughts:

If it were a white donor who was convicted of a similar ponzi scheme, who had donated to Clinton, would their ethnicity matter? Would newspapers write "Polish American donor ____ ____ " or "Swedish American donor ----- ------"? - I hardly think so.

Who had the most to benefit by sifting through and publishing this opp research? The GOP and other Democratic presidential candidates who didn't take money from him. Unfortunately for the GOP, this issue is not getting much traction, even if the dude comes back in a walrus suit and parades around outside the White House because well, Mr. Larry Craig wants to stick it to the Man, so he's gonna stick around and make it painful for his one-time rival for the Senate Minority Leader seat, Mitch McConnell, who couldn't wait to throw Larry from the train. And a bathroom sex bust is going to get the ink over a shady donor story every time. That's just the way the news cycle and American public opinion works.

On a related note, I guess this explains the sudden rollout of Hillary's most powerful weapon - her husband. Bill Clinton's charm offensive all over Letterman, Oprah, and the like while Hillary goes on Ellen, is a smart tactic, even if the journalist covering this is a weakly disguised Republican. But it's still pretty early in the primaries, not to mention the general election, and Bill isn't something you want to use up all at once. voter love Bill, and so do audiences - he's smart, funny, and reminds us of a time when we had pensions and health care plans, not to mention a booming economy. If Hillary wastes him on this, she's not going to have a lot left for when the GOP really starts training their guns on her. But it's sort of a catch-22 - she can't make it to the general without winning the primaries. But here's a tip for the clever folks at Hillaryland - ration Bill out sparsely. Too much airtime is overkill and saturation, and you really will need him later in the campaign.

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