WASHINGTON – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose campaign is returning $850,000 in contributions linked to disgraced fundraiser Norman Hsu, indicated Wednesday that donors who contributed that money could donate to her presidential campaign once again.
"We're not asking that that be done," she said in a teleconference with reporters. "But I believe that the vast majority of those 200-plus donors are perfectly capable of making up their own minds about what they will or won't do going forward."
Clinton's remarks were her first public comments on the affect Hsu's unraveling fortunes have had on her presidential campaign. Hsu was a leading money "bundler" for Clinton, earning the title of HillRaiser for his fundraising activities.
"It was very difficult for us to make any decision other than returning the contributions that were in any way connected to him and that is what we decided to do," she said.
Clinton's campaign said this week that any donors whose money was returned could donate once again if they confirm to the campaign that the contributions are from their own personal funds.
Hsu, unknown in political circles until about four years ago, was booked into the Mesa County jail in Colorado around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday after leaving a hospital where he had stayed after failing to show up for a bail hearing last week in California. He had been wanted as a fugitive for missing his sentencing on a 1991 grand theft case to which he had pleaded no contest.
Hsu was booked on an outstanding warrant charge from California, sheriff's officials said. An advisement hearing was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
In the past two weeks, news reports raised questions about his fundraising practices and divulged his fugitive status. Law enforcement authorities said the FBI is now investigating whether Hsu paid donors to contribute to politicians. His lawyer has said Hsu did not break the law and that donors he solicited contributed their own money.
In New York City, prosecutors also are investigating whether Hsu stole millions of dollars from an investment fund. A spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney said Wednesday that lawyers for the fund, Source Financing Investors, referred the matter to her office last week.
Clinton talked to reporters to promote a fundraiser scheduled for later Wednesday at the home of Weldon Latham, national co-chairman for Clinton's campaign and a senior partner at Davis Wright & Tremaine. The fundraiser was designed to feature Clinton's support in minority communities, particularly among blacks.
"I have a long-standing set of relationships in the African-American community that are very important to me," she said. "I want to do everything I can as president to have an administration that reflects the great diversity of our country."
Clinton and her husband, former President Clinton, were expected to join 300 supporters at Latham's suburban Washington home. The event was expected to raise at least $500,000.
That fundraiser comes on the heels of a gala party thrown by Oprah Winfrey for Barack Obama that raised about $3 million.
Asked how Obama's presence in the race has affected fundraising, Latham, who is black, said, "My conversations are longer."
"African Americans are very proud of the fact that they have a legitimate candidate running for office who has a legitimate chance," he said. "But there is every indication to me that the person best qualified to represent our nation, our world and the African American community is Hillary Clinton."
Hsu had been scheduled to appear in court last week to turn over his passport and discuss reducing the $2 million bail he posted related to a 15-year-old arrest warrant. Instead, he left town and a judge issued a new arrest warrant for him.
According to court documents, a tipster on Sept. 6 told the FBI in San Francisco that Hsu was in the emergency room at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo.
He was arrested last Thursday at the hospital after he was taken from an eastbound Amtrak train for treatment of an undisclosed ailment. He is listed in good condition.
Officials said they did not know when he might be released from the hospital and transferred to the county jail.
A spokesman for Hsu said he had not spoken with him.
Hsu raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates and groups until his 1992 theft conviction, for which he pleaded no contest, became known. Many of those candidates, including Clinton, have announced plans to return or donate to charity Hsu's election contributions.
Hsu had spent 15 years on the lam, until he surrendered to authorities in California on Aug. 31.
Prosecutors say Hsu bilked investors out of $1 million by telling them he had a contract to buy and sell latex gloves, but he never purchased the gloves and had no contract to sell them.
Hsu has said he believed he had resolved his legal issues, but that he would halt his work raising political money.