Accuracy in Media

The strange story of Democratic fat cat donor Norman Hsu is rich and revealing, but it certainly isn’t the only controversy that puts the lie to the Democratic claim to have ended the culture of corruption. Other embarrassing developments include the fine assessed to Americans Coming Together, the group backed by Democratic donor George Soros; the New Jersey corruption scandal that has cast a wide net over state Democrats; and Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton’s legal troubles with former donor Peter Paul.

The New York papers, even the Times, are giving the Hsu story significant coverage, since it involves a home-state senator. But the scandal is getting very little TV coverage, and the other stories even less.

By one count, each of the big three broadcast networks did one in depth story about the strange case of Hsu, and one follow-up. But nothing is being done so far in the major media to suggest this is a scandal that reflects badly on the Clintons.

This could easily change, however, as the powerful New York Times could decide that the latest scandal is an indication that Senator Clinton carries too much baggage to be a viable Democratic presidential candidate. Will the paper then pull the plug on Hillary and carry the banner for Senator Barack Obama? Only time will tell.

Funny Money

The Hsu story began only a couple of weeks ago when the Wall Street Journal exposed the more than $1 million that this “businessman” had donated to or bundled for Democratic candidates, with the largest amount going to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. There is strong evidence suggesting that Hsu has been making donations through other people, such as the Paw family in the San Francisco area, in which the head of the household, who earned about $50,000 a year as a postman, and other members of his family, gave more than $200,000 to Democratic candidates and organizations. The house that is listed as their residence used to be owned by Hsu.

Hillary’s campaign tried to make the story go away by stating its intentions to give to charity the $23,000 that Hsu had personally contributed to her campaign. It says it is now planning to give back all $850,000 that Hsu, who also served as a board member of former President Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative, had solicited for her campaign. The Washington Post reported that “Clinton officials said that the senator, acting out of ‘an abundance of caution,’ had directed the campaign to return donations from about 260 contributors tied to Hsu because of his apparent involvement in an illegal investment scheme.”

The Post article called the refunds “among the largest in political history,” and went on to cite then-President Bill Clinton’s refunds of about a million dollars for 1996 donations from various illegal sources. According to a CNN article and other media sources, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), closely controlled by Clinton allies, actually returned about $3 million in questionable contributions from non-U.S. citizens and businesses. This would probably be the largest refund in political history.

The Hsu case has brought up memories of corrupt practices that the Clintons hoped had been buried. A short list includes Clinton Vice President Al Gore’s fundraising calls from the White House, his “fundraiser” from Buddhist Monks at the Hsi Lai Temple, and campaign contributions from such figures as Johnny Chung, John Huang, and Charlie Trie. R. Emmett Tyrrell did an excellent job recalling those days in a recent column that ran in Human Events.

Scam Artist

It turns out that Hsu has a very shady past. In a list compiled by the Wall Street Journal of his donations, it shows how active he was, and raises serious questions about how he went about using others to funnel donations to Clinton, Barack Obama, John Kerry in 2004, and many others. He was, based on many reports from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Journal, and the New York Times, a con man and a criminal. No other terms really do him justice. The Times story tells of one of his business ventures, “Components Ltd., a company controlled by Mr. Hsu that has no obvious business purpose and appears to exist only on paper, has paid a total of more than $100,000 to at least nine people who made campaign contributions to Mrs. Clinton and others through Mr. Hsu.”

In California he had swindled many people out of millions of dollars in a phony latex glove business that state officials described as a Ponzi scheme. According to the Los Angeles Times, “fundraising experts from both parties pointed to warning signs that should have given aides pause.” The most obvious red flag, they said, was “A check of a commonly used database” that showed he had been kidnapped by gang members and had declared bankruptcy in 1990.

After the Journal brought his name to light, California realized it had an outstanding warrant on him, and he had pled guilty and agreed to do some jail time. But instead he went on the lam to Hong Kong and the Philippines, before returning to the U.S. One question that hasn’t been addressed was how he got back into the U.S. Why didn’t his passport set off a red light as he went through customs? The Journal has done a story pointing out that there are probably two million fugitives with warrants out in this country, many with much smaller crimes. But this case has shined a light on this “loophole” in our justice system.

Hsu, after being exposed by the Journal, came to California, put up a $2 million bond and agreed to return in a week. His lawyers had convinced the prosecutors to try to reduce the bond to $1 million, but, according to the New York Daily News, the judge refused. Hsu then took off on the California Zephyr, instead of appearing in court. But he was acting bizarre, taking off his shoes and shirt, and eventually he fell over. Someone on the train called for an ambulance, and he was taken to a hospital. Somehow, not yet revealed, the FBI was tipped off and came to the hospital and took him into custody.

Shock, Shock

Hillary and her cronies have expressed shock at this behavior. After all, why should they be expected to know what Hsu was like? Did anyone in the media blame the Republicans who took money from Jack Abramoff? Or just Abramoff himself? Of course they also blamed the recipients. Clearly the Republicans have had their own corruption problems, with Abramoff, Representatives Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney, and other embarrassments such as Sen. Larry Craig. But the difference is in the media coverage, both in degree and intensity, and how directly the media hold each side responsible. Republicans get much tougher scrutiny and coverage.

Bill Clinton has been on TV everywhere since this Hsu scandal erupted, selling his latest book called Giving. He does not get grilled. To the contrary, the media treat him and Hillary with total deference, as if they are victims in the scandal.

What bears watching is the New York Times having run a couple of hard-hitting stories about the Clinton-Hsu scandal. Could the liberal paper be signaling that Senator Clinton is cooked and that Senator Barack Obama looks like the better Democratic presidential nominee?

Another Scandal

Not to be outdone, the Washington Post has turned up another potential scandal involving the Clintons. In this story, an Indian American businessman, Sant Chatwal, has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the senator’s campaigns, “even as he battled governments on two continents to escape bankruptcy and millions of dollars in tax liens.”

In financial terms, a much larger scandal has virtually escaped media coverage altogether. The last week of August, the Federal Elections Commission fined the George Soros-funded group Americans Coming Together (ACT) $775,000. This was the third largest fine the FEC had ever levied on an organization or campaign. ACT’s violation was that it had violated campaign finance laws during the 2004 election cycle. ACT said it was using the funds for nonpartisan purposes, but the FEC said the money was being used for very partisan purposes―to defeat President Bush.

The amount of money was astounding. According to a posting on the New York Times website by Kate Phillips, a longtime editor at the Times, citing the FEC statement regarding the fine, “ACT raised approximately $137 million in connection with the 2004…The FEC concluded that approximately $70 million in disbursements characterized by ACT as ‘administrative expenses’ for door-to-door canvassing, direct mail and telemarketing were actually attributable to clearly identified federal candidates and were required either to be paid with 100% federal funds or to be allocated between federal and non-federal candidates based on the time or space devoted to the candidates.”

Phillips summarized the FEC’s findings by saying that, “based on complaints by campaign finance advocacy groups like Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center…ACT used millions of dollars in unregulated money to promote the candidacy of Senator John Kerry and the defeat of George Bush for re-election.”

Where is the Outrage?

That certainly sounds like a good deal for Kerry and ACT. Spending that kind of money to get their guy elected, and three years later to only have to pay a fine of less than one million dollars. Where is the outrage from the advocates of campaign finance reform?

But this scandal, too, has a Clinton connection.

Columnist John Fund pointed out that ACT’s “largest donor was the Service Employees International Union, one of the most politically active labor unions. Its largest non-union donor was billionaire George Soros. And who was the group’s president? None other than Harold Ickes, a long-time functionary of the Clinton machine who served as Bill Clinton’s deputy White House chief of staff. Mr. Ickes is now a major player in the huge fundraising apparatus of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who unsurprisingly has run into her own campaign finance scandal (Norman Hsu) this week.”

Another long-running controversy has been Hillary Clinton’s involvement with Peter Paul, a man who spent some $2 million on a 2000 fundraiser for Hillary’s run for the Senate. He believed he had a commitment from Bill Clinton to be a rainmaker for Paul’s company once Clinton left office. This case is still being fought in the courts, as Paul continues to fight to show that Hillary violated several federal campaign finance laws based on her involvement in the event, a celebrity-packed Hollywood gala, and the reporting of the donations she received. This Google video gives a detailed view of the Peter Paul story from the point of view of those convinced that Hillary is personally implicated in this scandal. It is a story that won’t die.

More New Jersey Corruption

Finally, there was the largely one-day story about the 11 Democratic politicians in New Jersey who were indicted last week, by a Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney, Christopher Christie. Surprisingly, as this New York Times article states, many Democrats are blaming no one but themselves. State legislators, mayors and local assemblymen are among the 11 arrested. According to the Times, “Hardly any Democrat was accusing Mr. Christie of playing politics. Instead, many praised him and the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents who worked on the 18-month investigation.” The crimes were mainly bribes for the awarding of contracts.

Political corruption is not going away. But this series of scandals implicates Democrats on the state and federal levels. That is why we are likely to see media interest wane.

The wildcard is the New York Times, which could decide that Hillary is just too corrupt to be elected.

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