Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign announced late Wednesday that it will give all money donated by a leading contributor to charity after it was revealed that the donor, Norman Hsu, was a fugitive from the law.
Hsu, who may have raised more than $1 million for Democrats, including $23,000 identified by the Clinton campaign, said he had done nothing wrong and had asked no favors in return. But a California prosecutor says Hsu pleaded no contest to grand theft and was facing a sentence of up to three years in prison when he disappeared in 1991, The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
"In light of the new information regarding Mr. Hsu's outstanding warrant in California, we will be giving his contributions to charity," Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, told FOX News.
Hsu, an apparel executive who made his first-ever political contribution — to John Kerry — in 2004, is listed as one of the top 20 Democratic fundraisers in the country and is one of Clinton's "HillRaisers" — people who rustle up at least $100,000 for Clinton's campaign, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Among those who have said they will return or donate money raised by Hsu are Kerry and Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts; Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California; Al Franken, a Senate candidate in Minnesota; Reps. Michael Honda and Doris Matsui of California; and Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania. Hsu also has contributed to Sen. Barack Obama's political action committee.
Hsu, who is described by friends as warm, charming and dapper, told the newspaper this week that his generosity is a byproduct of the enormous success he has had in the U.S. According to The Los Angeles Times, however, some of that gain was ill-gotten.
In 1991, Hsu pleaded guilty to grand theft after raising $1 million in investments for a phony business, Ronald Smetana, who handled the case for the state attorney general, said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times. Bench warrants were issued when he failed to show up to his sentencing hearing.
"He is a fugitive," Smetana said. "Do you know where he is?"
Hsu's lawyer, Lawrence Barcella, said Hsu doesn't remember ever making a deal with authorities, but he does recall a legal case that was part of a settlement with creditors when he went through bankruptcy. Barcella submitted a statement from his client to FOX News late Wednesday saying he will refrain from raising donations until the matter is resolved.
"I believe I properly resolved all of the legal issues related to my bankruptcy in the early 1990s. Therefore, I was surprised to learn that there appears to be an outstanding warrant — as demonstrated by the fact that I have and do live a public life. I have not sought to evade any of my obligations and certainly not the law," Hsu said. "I would not consciously subject any of the candidates and causes in which I believe to any harm through my actions."
Hsu's profile was raised after a search of records revealed that some of the people he asked to contribute to Democratic causes don't outwardly appear to be able to afford the donations.
For instance, among those who have "bundled" their contributions along with Hsu's is one San Francisco family of seven adults whose home is small and under the airport flight path, jobs are average and $213,000 in donations are closely coordinated with Hsu's.
Hsu's relationship to the Paw family apparently goes back a decade, and Winkle Paw, 35, is an employee of Hsu's New York companies, The Wall Street Journal was first to report. Barcella told The Los Angeles Times the Paws have their own cash, and "Norman never reimbursed anyone for their contribution."
Another New York family of three that runs a plastics packaging plant in Pennsylvania and is tied to Hsu donated more than $200,000 in the last three years, the Times states.