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Not all funds tied to Hsu are rejected

Times Staff Writers

Hillary Rodham Clinton returned more than $800,000 in contributions donated to her presidential campaign that were arranged by alleged swindler Norman Hsu. But campaign officials said Tuesday they had no plans to return more than $260,000 that many of the same donors gave to her Senate political accounts.

Officials said they would return those contributions only if requested to do so by individual contributors.

A Los Angeles Times analysis found that 77 donors whose contributions to the presidential campaign were returned last month also gave to Clinton’s two Senate-related political funds.

Her Senate campaign committee, Friends of Hillary, received $235,000 in donations from the 77 donors later linked to Hsu. Ten of those contributors gave an additional $28,000 to Clinton’s leadership political fund, HillPac.

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In September, Clinton announced that she would return all donations to her presidential campaign that were connected to Hsu, who had been one of her most valued fundraisers. She made the decision after reports in The Times that Hsu was a fugitive from a 1991 fraud charge, that he had been pressing some of his investors to contribute to the senator, and that the FBI was looking into his investment schemes.

The refunds to 249 individual donors underlined Clinton’s effort to sever connections with Hsu, who has since been charged by federal prosecutors with swindling more than $60 million from investors nationwide. Clinton nonetheless has no plans to automatically refund money given previously to her Senate accounts by those linked to Hsu.

“Because we did not keep track of contributions in the same way during the Senate campaign we have no basis for knowing that these individuals were solicited by Norman Hsu,” said Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson. He said the Clinton campaign had gone beyond what it was legally or ethically bound to do when it gave back the presidential contributions.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we went above and beyond and made a decision to return all contributions credited to Mr. Hsu for the presidential campaign,” Wolfson said. “We were not obligated to do so, and in fact other campaigns have chosen to keep contributions in similar situations.”

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Hsu was virtually unknown in the political world before 2004. But he established himself with Clinton and other Democrats by his ability to help campaigns meet a seemingly unending demand for contributions.

Federal law limits the amount any one individual can donate to a candidate or party. But there is no limit on how much an individual can round up in contributions from friends and associates, provided none exceed the individual limit.

The combined contributions, which may add up to tens of thousands of dollars, are typically then delivered to a favored politician as a bundle. Hsu became one of the Democratic party’s most prolific bundlers -- and his ability to deliver earned him invitations to exclusive events with the Clintons and other Democratic notables.

His ties to politicians may also have impressed potential investors in his seemingly high-yield investment schemes. Late 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, Hsu could face up to 45 years in jail.

Hsu remains in the San Mateo County Jail, where he is being held without bail on the 1991 fraud charge, to which he earlier pleaded no contest. Hsu’s attorneys have recently asked the court to withdraw that plea, and they have denied the wrongdoing alleged in the federal complaint.

chuck.neubaurer@latimes.com

tom.hamburger@latimes.com

Times Staff Writers Doug Smith and Robin Fields contributed to this report, as did Researcher Maloy Moore and Data Analyst Sandra Poindexter.

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