- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

The arrest of a fugitive from justice who raised $850,000 for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential candidacy has hurt her campaign by reminding voters of the Clinton scandals of the past, political and legal strategists said yesterday.

“It reminds people of the trials and tribulations of Bill Clinton’s presidency and the 1996 re-election campaign that led to the ‘Chinagate’ campaign-finance scandals,” said Rich Galen, senior adviser to the presidential campaign of former Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican. In 1997, Mr. Thompson led the Senate investigation into those scandals, which resulted in multiple convictions and cost the Democratic National Committee millions of dollars in refunds.

The arrest of Norman Hsu, whose fundraising for Mrs. Clinton has generated questions about the sources and legality of the money he collected, has become an embarrassment for her campaign, which maintains it knew nothing about his shadowy background. He has pleaded no contest to grand theft in an investment-fraud scheme.

“It’s impossible for me to believe that Norman Hsu can walk in with checks totaling $850,000 and that this would not have come to the attention of the candidate,” Mr. Galen said.

The Clinton campaign doesn’t need “to have this type of reminder of what happened in the 1996 election,” said campaign-finance lawyer Jan Baran. “But my view is, this is a political issue, not a legal issue for Clinton. There has to be some evidence that the campaign knowingly accepted contributions that they knew were illegal or had reason to know.”

Clinton campaign officials have said a routine Internet background check turned up nothing suspicious about Hsu. But the Los Angeles Times reported this week that its computer search revealed information about Hsu’s past and that it obtained e-mails from an Irvine, Calif., businessman who warned the Clinton campaign of Hsu’s shady background.

The Clinton campaign is returning all of the checks to the donors that Hsu solicited, but said the donors were free to contribute directly to the campaign on their own.

Questions also were raised about the donors, many of whom did not appear to be financially capable of making the kinds of sizable checks Hsu accepted for the campaign.

“When you start to see money coming from secretaries, janitors and schoolteachers in thousand-dollar amounts, it starts to look suspicious because they are just not typical givers,” said Massie Ritsch, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign-financing practices.

“When you are using someone else’s money for a campaign contribution, it’s called fraud,” Mr. Ritsch said. “It might sound familiar to some voters because there were fundraising scandals in the Clinton administration, but I’m not sure the specifics of any one fundraising scandal sticks in their mind.”

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