Bizarre times we live in, no doubt about it. While the left obsesses over the bathroom antics of a relatively obscure Idaho senator and the social right gets their opportunity to wag a finger in disapproval at the hapless hypocritical closet case, a genuine scandal involving a Democratic fundraiser who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money and raised hundreds of thousands more all for Democratic candidates perks along growing stranger by the hour.
Norman Hsu is a man with apparently no known source of income who also may have knowingly tried to skirt campaign finance laws. At the very least, questions should be asked by the FEC about various business addresses given by Mr. Hsu on his disclosure forms, all of which lead to dead ends. Various companies Mr. Hsu claimed to be operating do not exist now nor is it clear that they ever existed at all.
Investigators believe that after Mr. Hsu skipped his court appearance in 1992, he went to his native Hong Kong and then continued working in the garment trade. At some point, Mr. Hsu, a naturalized American citizen, returned to New York and in 2003 made the first of what became hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to Democratic campaigns around the nation.
People who met him said they knew only that he ran an apparel business. Efforts to learn more about his trade hit dead-ends yesterday. Visits to companies at addresses listed by Mr. Hsu on campaign finance records provided little information. There were no offices in buildings in New Yorkâ€™s garment district whose addresses were given for businesses with names like Components Ltd., Cool Planets, Next Components, Coopgors Ltd., NBT and Because Menâ€™s clothing â€” all listed by Mr. Hsu in federal filings at different times.
At a new loft-style residential condominium in SoHo that was also listed as an address for one of his companies, an employee there said that he had never seen or heard of Mr. Hsu. Another company was listed at a condo that Mr. Hsu had sublet in an elegant residential tower in Midtown Manhattan just off Fifth Avenue, but an employee there said Mr. Hsu moved out two years ago, after having lived there for five years. The employee, who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about residents, said he recalled that Mr. Hsu had received a lot of mail from the Democratic Party.
Could the People’s Liberation Army in China be up to their old tricks of trying to buy influence in the Democratic party?
Here’s a fellow who never gave a dime to a political campaign before returning from Hong Kong 4 years ago. With no known source of income and some demonstrably confusing – perhaps even shady – FEC disclosure practices, the entire matter is beginning to stink of some kind of slush fund. Hsu could be a front man for some other fundraiser. Or he could be a foreign agent. But at this point, it is fair to say he is not who he claims to be.
You might recall the 22 individuals – many of them prominent Clinton-Gore intimates and supporters – who were convicted of fraud or funnelling Asian money into the 1996 campaign. It was a massive effort by the PLA to influence the Clinton Administration and steer hardware and technology – some of it on a restricted list from the Department of Commerce – to the PLA. Corporate fundraisers like the Loral Corporation were allowed to transfer restricted satellite and missile technology to the PLA while other security controls on trade with China were either enforced in a lax manner or thrown out the window altogether.
Of course, it was impossible to prove that the Clinton Administration had been bribed by the PLA but the inference was plain as day. In exchange for contributions to the Clinton campaign, his presidential library, and his personal legal defense fund, the Chinese got access to restricted technology and hardware. It was one of the the biggest (and most underreported) campaign financing scandals in American history.
The Chinese denied everything – and then quietly went about the business of reforming the PLA by divorcing the army from any commercial enterprises. Apparently, the profit motive was at work in the scandal as much as the desire to steal technology. By 2000, the PLA was completely free of any commercial taint.
Enter our friend Mr. Hsu who apparently fled the United States to avoid jail time in his swindling case in 1991. He arrived in Hong Kong where investigators believe he went into the garment industry. Could he have made a fortune in the cutthroat Far East garment industry? As a naturalized American citizen, he almost certainly would have been at a disadvantage in the tightly knit, familial Chinese society – unless he was able to acquire valuable contacts to help him in that hyper competitive market.
It might be interesting to find out who those contacts might be. I am also curious to discover if prosecutors seized any of Mr. Hsu’s assets following his no contest plea in the 1991 swindling case. If he hid any money as a result of any judgments against him, that too, would be a crime. Otherwise, one might question where he acquired the capital to go into business in Hong Kong.
And then there is the matter of the Paw family and questions about how this middle class family has been able to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars over a 3 year period to the Democratic party. The fact that the amount of many of those donations closely track the amounts given by Mr. Hsu would seem to indicate that Hsu may have reimbursed the Paw family for their contributions.
Just recently, Hsu hired William Paw’s 35-year-old son, Winkle Paw to work for “several of his apparel businesses” according to the Wall Street Journal yesterday. As the New York Times reports today, those “apparel businesses” are fictitious. It would be a legitimate inquiry to try and determine if the “salary” being paid to Winkle Paw isn’t part of a deal to repay the Paws for their contributions.
Mr. Hsu is a cipher. With Democratic politicians scrambling to return his direct donations to their campaigns, one wonders how long it will be before they are forced to return monies that he “bundled” for these same candidates thanks to his attempts to skirt FEC regulations.
The last question would have to be when is the media going to get serious about this story? The laughable notion that Senator Craig’s stupidities should take precedence over this developing scandal is ridiculous. And yet, the Washington Post has no stories listed on its website involving Mr. Hsu. They do, however, have two stories and a couple of columns on Larry Craig.
The New York Times, to their credit, is apparently looking into the story as is the Wall Street Journal. The San Francisco Chronicle has the local angle detailing Hsu’s contributions to races involving assemblymen and the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Washington Times carried a story culled mostly from wire service reports.
Perhaps when the press is done flogging Mr. Craig and his errant toe tapping, they will concentrate on something a little more important:
Just who is Mr. Hsu?
Ed Morrissey asks the same questions about the source of Hsu’s largesse while detailing the comical explanations of Democratic politicians about why they took money from a convicted con man:
Bob Kerrey has the most laughable explanation, however. The former Senator runs the liberal New School, which made him a trustee after Hsu started showering Democrats with cash. Kerrey explained that he added Hsu to the trustee roster because “I liked his personal story, coming from China, and he had an interest in fashion as well.” All it takes to become a trustee at the New School is to be an immigrant who has an eye for the runway. That says much more about the New School than Kerrey intends.
All of this begs the question: where does Hsu get the money? All of his supposed resources are frauds. Hsu himself is a convicted con man, but the money he threw around was very real. Where did it come from, and what was its purpose?
Hsu was affiliated with two businesses â€” Components Ltd. and Coopgors Ltd. â€” that have listed addresses on Fifth Avenue. But the building actually houses luxury apartments, not commercial offices, according to a doorman, who has worked there for the last 15 years. The doorman said Hsu lived in the building for a few years but moved out about four years ago.
A few blocks away on Broadway Avenue, office mates on the 10th floor of a building listed as the address for five of Hsuâ€™s businesses said they had last seen him this week, when he picked up his mail.
He moved into the office about two years ago but never unpacked his boxes, said Ken Mulligan, 31, a sales executive for J.P. Doumak, a fabric supplier. He said Hsu would not visit the office space for months, then would show up for a few hours, say â€œhello,â€ check his mail, make a few phone calls and leave.