And again not too far away, at 88 E. Broadway beneath the Manhattan bridge, where vendors chatter in Mandarin and Fujianese as they hawk rubber sandals and bargain-basement clothes.
Dishwashers, waiters and others whose jobs and dilapidated home addresses seem to make them unpromising targets for political fundraisers are pouring $1,000 and $2,000 contributions into Clinton's campaign treasury. In April, a single fundraiser in an area long known for its gritty urban poverty yielded a whopping $380,000. When Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) ran for president in 2004, he received $24,000 from Chinatown.
At this point in the presidential campaign cycle, Clinton has raised more money than any candidate in history. Those dishwashers, waiters and street stall hawkers are part of the reason. And Clinton's success in gathering money from Chinatown's least-affluent residents stems from a two-pronged strategy: mutually beneficial alliances with powerful groups, and appeals to the hopes and dreams of people now consigned to the margins.
Clinton has enlisted the aid of Chinese neighborhood associations, especially those representing recent immigrants from Fujian province. The organizations, at least one of which is a descendant of Chinatown criminal enterprises that engaged in gambling and human trafficking, exert enormous influence over immigrants. The associations help them with everything from protection against crime to obtaining green cards.
Many of Clinton's Chinatown donors said they had contributed because leaders in neighborhood associations told them to. In some cases, donors said they felt pressure to give.
The other piece of the strategy involves holding out hope that, if Clinton becomes president, she will move quickly to reunite families and help illegal residents move toward citizenship. As New York's junior senator, Clinton has expressed support for immigrants and greater family reunification. She is also benefiting from Chinese donors' naive notions of what she could do in the White House.
As with other campaigns looking for dollars in unpromising places, the Clinton operation also has accepted what it later conceded were improper donations. At least one reported donor denies making a contribution. Another admitted to lacking the legal-resident status required for giving campaign money.
Clinton aides said they were concerned about some of the Chinatown contributions.
"We have hundreds of thousands of donors. We are proud to have support from across New York and the country from many different communities," campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson said. "In this instance, our own compliance process flagged a number of questionable donations and took the appropriate steps to be sure they were legally given. In cases where we couldn't confirm that, the money was returned."
The Times examined the cases of more than 150 donors who provided checks to Clinton after fundraising events geared to the Chinese community. One-third of those donors could not be found using property, telephone or business records. Most have not registered to vote, according to public records.
And several dozen were described in financial reports as holding jobs -- including dishwasher, server or chef -- that would normally make it difficult to donate amounts ranging from $500 to the legal maximum of $2,300 per election.
Of 74 residents of New York's Chinatown, Flushing, the Bronx or Brooklyn that The Times called or visited, only 24 could be reached for comment.
Many said they gave to Clinton because they were instructed to do so by local association leaders. Some said they wanted help on immigration concerns. And several spoke of the pride they felt by being associated with a powerful figure such as Clinton.
New take, old game