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Clinton finance report lists refunds to 249 Hsu donors

Times Staff Writers

The full extent of accused swindler Norman Hsu’s political network was revealed for the first time Monday in campaign finance reports filed by presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who refunded $804,850 in contributions from 249 Hsu associates.

The donors came from 22 states and Washington, D.C., but Californians accounted for the largest amount refunded from the Hsu network, $308,000. New Yorkers contributed $286,000, and $55,000 came from donors in New Jersey and Connecticut. Investors in both California and the New York area were major participants in Hsu’s financial operations.

Last month, federal prosecutors charged Hsu with fleecing investors of $60 million and reimbursing at least two for political donations made in their names.

Among those who received a $4,600 refund was Wilfred Hsu, a San Francisco real estate investor not related to Norman Hsu. He said Monday that he donated at the fundraiser’s request but never invested in his alleged schemes.

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He said he was disheartened by the turn of events that led to the refund. “I’m not thrilled about this whole thing. When I got the money, it was consolation of sorts in the midst of this whole fiasco,” he said.

Regardless of whether he donates money to Clinton again, Wilfred Hsu remains a supporter. “She is certainly capable of becoming a great president,” he said.

In the 2005-2006 election cycle, the 249 donors gave as much as $670,000 to federal candidates other than Clinton, a comparison of the names with other campaign records shows. Among the other recipients, the largest appeared to be the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee at $78,000, followed by Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill with $43,000, and Harold Ford, a Tennessee Democrat who lost his race for the U.S. Senate, at $42,000.

Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.) received $28,000 and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee received $27,000. A political action committee for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) received $24,500, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s campaign got $19,000.

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The Los Angeles Times arrived at the amounts by comparing the names and residences of Clinton donors linked to Hsu with the names of donors to other candidates in federal elections between 2004 and 2007.

Last month, the Clinton campaign announced it would sever ties with Hsu and refund donations he had drawn from others.

The announcement followed reports in The Times that Hsu had been a fugitive for 15 years, that his investment business was being scrutinized by the FBI and that some Hsu investors felt they had been pressured to contribute to Clinton.

The refund, as described at the time by the Clinton campaign, was one of the largest in history but officials declined to release any details. On Monday the campaign reported the full list of those it considered Hsu donors.

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Some of the donor names were familiar, having surfaced as the Hsu drama unfolded. The family of Joel Rosenman of New York, for example, received $18,400 in refunds from the Clinton campaign, according to the third-quarter reports filed Monday.

Rosenman had set up an investment fund that provided $40 million to Hsu to invest in apparel manufacturing. Rosenman and his investors have sued to get their money back, saying the apparel companies existed on paper only.

The family of Martin Waters received $13,800 in refunded donations. Waters was an early investor in a Hsu “bridge loan” scheme and set up a company through which others in Orange County funneled investments to Hsu, according to court documents. Waters’ company has also sued to get its money back.

Susan Waters, Martin’s wife, said the family only donated to Clinton’s campaign because of Hsu’s pressure. “I’ve never been a Democrat and I’ve never given to a political campaign in my life,” she said.

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Waters called Clinton’s decision to return the money “honorable.”

The Paw family of northern California received $23,000 in refunds, according to Clinton’s report. The Paws’ activities first came to light in a Wall Street Journal report in August that revealed the family had made large donations to Clinton and other Democrats even though their address and economic status made them unlikely donors.

The family, headed by a mail carrier named William Paw, contributed more than $240,000 to a variety of Democratic candidates since 2004, often on the same dates that Hsu gave. The family declined to comment.

Hsu is being held without bail in the San Mateo County jail, where he awaits sentencing in a 1991 theft case, in which he pleaded no contest 15 years ago before fleeing for Hong Kong. His lawyers have said he is innocent of the more recent fraud charges.

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Donors who received $4,600 refunds include Los Angeles actress Susan Pari Chilman; Silicon Valley venture capitalist Charles Beeler and his wife, Jennifer; and author Hillary Valentine.

The Beelers and Valentine were scheduled to co-host a Clinton fundraiser in Woodside on Sept. 30 with Hsu. The Clinton campaign canceled that event and held one in nearby Atherton.

Chilman, the Beelers and Valentine could not be reached for comment.

Hsu, 56, was once one of Clinton’s most-valued supporters. Although unknown before 2003, by 2006 he had become a fixture at major fundraising events for Clinton-related causes, including the senator’s campaign.

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As word of his generosity spread, the slight, well-dressed man from Hong Kong was embraced by campaign staffers and political friends. Clinton’s top campaign advisor, Patti Solis Doyle, and three associates spent a couple of nights in Las Vegas as Hsu’s guests to celebrate the senator’s 2006 reelection.

The friends and luminaries melted away after Hsu’s activities in fundraising and business were disclosed in August and September.

Last month, U.S. Atty. Michael J. Garcia of the Southern District of New York unsealed a 16 page complaint charging Hsu with mail fraud, wire fraud and violating the Federal Election Campaign Act by reimbursing associates for their political donations.

If convicted on those charges, he could face up to 45 years in prison.

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In addition to providing a look at Hsu and his operation, Monday’s campaign finance report also opens a window onto the practice of bundling, in which one individual or group of individuals delivers a favored politician or party a large number of checks from others.

Federal law now limits the amount an individual can contribute to a candidate or party. But there is no limit on how much an individual can round up in smaller contributions from friends and associates, and then deliver to a favored politician as a “bundle.”

tom.hamburger@latimes.com

robin.fields@latimes.com

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chuck.neubauer@latimes.com

Times staff writers Dan Morain and Doug Smith and Times researchers Maloy Moore, Sandra Poindexter, Nona Yates and Janet Lundblad contributed to this report.


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