Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Seven Faces of Dr. Fu Man Hsu

The singularly improbable nature of Norman Hsu is revealed in the tone of this NYT blog entry, which tries to keep a straight face but involuntarily conveys the natural incredulity of anyone looking at a set remarkable facts. (Emphasis mine)

The long, leisurely run of Norman Hsu, the prominent Democratic donor who turned out to be a 15-year fugitive from justice, is over. He turned himself in to California authorities on Friday. But don’t think that means reporters (and campaigns) are finished investigating just where all his money—and that of his bundle-ees—came from. Note the last paragraphs of today’s story by Leslie Wayne and Carolyn Marshall:

Similarly, for a number of businesses that Mr. Hsu has listed in recent years as his own, no corporation records are available, and visits to addresses he has given in campaign finance filings found no trace of them. In one filing, he listed his occupation as a co-investor with a New Jersey fashion designer. But yesterday, the designer said he had never heard of Mr. Hsu and had never done business with him.

Dan Morain of The Los Angeles Times finds that “red flags” about Mr. Hsu’s background are fairly easy to spot, calling into question why Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign—and many others—failed to uncover the less savory details during the vetting process.

The suspicions of Dan Morain don't convince those who really want to see Mr. Hsu as an ordinary but misunderstood individual being unfairly profiled by mean conservatives. One commenter at Captain's Quarters, a certain Liberal Joshua, believes there is perfectly simple explanation for Mr. Hsu's money. He says:

The source of Hsu's money has been partially explained by his Washington, D.C. attorney, Lawrence Barcella. Barcella explained that Hsu invested greatly in Silicon Valley after he returned from Hong Kong in 1996.

Barcella also explains in a written statement, dated Aug. 28th, the same day the WSJ first broke the story about the Paw family of Daly City, California, that he had the Paws' personal financial info that proves the Paws had the money to donate to Democratic politicians, as opposed to the WSJ's implication that they were poor and couldn't afford it.

As far as I can see, there is nothing to the charge that Hsu got his money from shady foreign sources who want to influence U.S. politics, and there is nothing to the charge that Hsu reimbursed the Paws for their campaign contributions.

This whole Hsu story looks like it's shaping up to be another one of those stories that anti-Clinton people are going to obsess over, but others are not.

Thus we learn that Hsu's not really in the garment business, nor the fashion business. No, he's invested in Silicon Valley after returning with his pile from Hong Kong in 1996. All this while he was a fugitive. Remarkable, you might think. But as the New York Times explains, being a fugitive is not really all it's cracked up to be. As Hsu's lawyer, James J. Brosnahan, explains, remaining a fugitive for a decade and a half actually demonstrates your high moral character:

We are moving to get this behind Mr. Hsu, who has been leading a life of exemplary conduct for the last 15 years. ... Obviously Mr. Hsu did not do things that a fugitive would do,” Mr. Brosnahan said. “He was a prominent man, getting his picture taken with other prominent people and traveling to California. He has been out in the public, not wanted for anything else or having done anything bad in the last 15 years.

Good thing too, since California's guardians of public order were helpless to find Norman Hsu.

Ronald D. Smetana, a lawyer in the California attorney general’s office who handled the case, said yesterday that after Mr. Hsu’s disappearance in 1992 “we looked for him for a while, but if someone packs up and leaves, there is little we can do.” Mr. Smetana added: “We want to bring this to a conclusion and get him sentenced. That’s where we left off.”

The California Attorney General's difficulty with detection is understandable when you consider how evanescent everything about Norman Hsu is. As the NYT blog noted, Hsu was a man who never let the grass grow under his feet.

For example, prosecutors asserted that as part of a scheme to defraud investors, Mr. Hsu fabricated relationships with several companies, whose representatives told investigators they had never heard of Mr. Hsu, and that he listed a mail drop as a business address. In a November 1991 court hearing, Mr. Hsu’s lawyer argued that he could not be linked, on paper, to a corporation that prosecutors said was created to carry out the scheme.

Similarly, for a number of businesses that Mr. Hsu has listed in recent years as his own, no corporation records are available, and visits to addresses he has given in campaign finance filings found no trace of them. In one filing, he listed his occupation as a co-investor with a New Jersey fashion designer. But yesterday, the designer said he had never heard of Mr. Hsu and had never done business with him.

When all the facts about Hsu came to light recently they shocked, positively shocked, the fundraisers for Hillary Clinton, who never suspected anything might be amiss. As the NYT article went on to say,. "The fund-raiser also said Mr. Hsu was seen as a point of access to Asian supporters and money and that many in Democratic fund-raising circles are surprised by his legal problems."

Despite Hsu's remarkably light footprint on the visible world he was nevertheless able to embark upon a fashion, garment or high-technology business, whichever it is, or maybe it was the latex glove trade; able to make a fortune in Hong Kong after he was a fugitive and return to California to invest in Silicon Valley while he was a wanted man. He was able to maintain himself as a " point of access to Asian supporters" of the Democratic party; able to appear at public functions and have his picture taken with national political figures with approximately the same ease you or I could have ourselves photographed with a clown at the local shopping mall. All without anyone suspecting a damned thing. And to top it off, after he turns himself in on a 15-year old rap, which is a lucky break because the authorities were singularly unsuccessful at finding  him, Mr. Norman Hsu doesn't even ask for a reduction in his $2 million bail bond. He just goes ahead and posts it. To show what a good citizen he is.

Listening to the story of Norman Hsu is a little bit like listening to a joke and realizing, halfway through, that the joke is on you.


Blogger Whiskey said...

Need I point out that during the time period (the 1990's-present) the Attorney Generals for California were Democrats?

Inquiring minds might want to know what favors traded hands to get hands off Mr. Hsu as he traveled the State and the Nation.

9/02/2007 01:47:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

The existence of Norman Hsu naturally raises the question: how many other Norman Hsus are out there. For the Saudis, for the Mexicans, for the Israelis, maybe, for the Russian oil interests perhaps, and for God knows who else. How many?

Consider this: maybe the real reason to avoid war, even in self-defense, is the same reason the Tsarist Empire had reason to avoid war back in 1914. The necessity of never having to put the corrupt parts of the system to the test. The Great War showed up all the secret deals, all the seedy connections, all the unthinkable compromises into which the Russian elite had entered. The revelations the Great War laid bare discredited an entire ruling class.

Maybe the real reluctance to confront the Commies during the 1980s and to confront the Jihadis now is because it inconveniently forces people to choose between things they don't want to choose between.

Of course that's just me being bitter and speculating without purpose. I wish it was just a political party thing. Maybe it largely is a political party thing. I hope it is.

9/02/2007 03:05:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

For me the lightbulb went on when I realized, that if a no-account Third World President like Joseph Estrada could have a psychotic creep like Mark Jimenez providing open access to the Clinton White House then other countries would be stupid not to try. Whether or not they've succeeded is a question I don't expect an answer to.

9/02/2007 03:22:00 AM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

I do think you're onto something, but for a bit more fun, who do you think actually broke the story?

I seriously DOUBT the WSJ reporters diligently pored over the lists of FEC reports looking for "spot the bagman" in the Hillary campaign.

THAT's WORK. Reporters avoid that like the plague. They might actually have to do something that's different from rewriting press releases and work up a sweat. THAT would never do.

I also seriously doubt that their Psychic Friend rang them up with the news. Dionne Warwick gave that up long ago.

My guess is that a campaign, a seriously run, well organized, disciplined to the point of having people pore over FEC lists to find embarrassing donors, and well-funded enough to assign what would appear to be several staffers to this task, is responsible.

This is what, about three-four man-weeks or more going FEC lists (likely on paper) and punching them into the Lexis-Nexis database, reading what comes up?

[Wouldn't it be fun if the FEC reports were online, and you could write a Perl script to grab the info, submit to Google and parse for keywords, dump into a DB? Oh yes it would be such fun!]

The man-hours devoted to that doesn't come on trees, IMHO we are looking at a well funded campaign. That is also organized, has a clue, and knows how to use Lexis-Nexis or some similar database. And dialed their favorite reporters with the news "Look what we found!"

[This suggests of course that the only way to escape from thieves is to set them against each other ala Yojimbo-Last Man Standing.]

The best funded and most organized campaign seems to me to be Romney's. Though I don't know why he'd drop the dime on Shrillary unless he wants to face someone weaker. Obama also took Hsu donations so he's out. Kucinich, Gravel, Biden, and Dodd could neither organize nor fund their way out of a paper bag. Fred's staff is playing musical chairs, McCain has none, and Rudy is not known this election cycle for his well-run campaign (too many cronies). Edwards is funded well enough, and has his own personal fortune, but lacks organizational flair.

If I had to put a finger on someone, I'd put it on the Goreacle. He's got money coming out of his ears, has half the WSJ on speed-dial, and has nothing to do with his life but live down his defeat. Unless ... a "crusader in shining armor comes ... to rescue the party from the evil sleaze of Hillary, and save the planet!" Of course the danger of that play is that he was enmeshed in the Clinton era sleaze but he might be gambling that the tide of sewage won't touch HIM.

Certainly the Goreacle won't do anything of note if Hillary wins the nomination. And saving the planet is looking like last year's fad. Nothing sadder than to be the pet rock. When Chia Pets are in vogue.

My two faves of the moment would be Romney or Gore. Now, having written that, naturally it will turn out to be Dodd or Gravel or Huckabee or whoever. My lovely prognostications for naught.

But still. The ONLY reason for the WSJ reporters having this dropped in their lap is that SOMEONE REALLY REALLY does not want Hillary to get the nomination and/or be President.

Hillary (or rather her staff who thinks FOR her so she doesn't have to) probably knows who it was. [What is remarkable is how many enemies Hillary made in her own party -- people she treated ala Leona Helmsley].

[As for your theory, makes perfect sense. GWB could not fully prosecute a war against Osama and Jihad because he was/is enmeshed with the Saudis. Same for the Dems. Who are also enmeshed with China. Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, the populace is getting angry and in an anti-foreigner mood, from left to right. Let's hope we avoid our Lenin.]

9/02/2007 03:32:00 AM  
Blogger patrick neid said...

If there is anything to this story it will be driven by bloggers and later picked up by newsrooms.

If Mr Hsu is connected to the Chinese in any way we will probably never see him again. I'd be interested to know what restraints were put on him in regards to travel, passports etc.

This guy is dirty--the question is finding out from what. We also know that Hillary is lying, the question is if it's just a white lie. In today's world, as the LA Times mentioned, it takes five minutes to do a background check.

Also of note is a coincidence previously mentioned that the ex head of Loral, connected with the technology transfer to China that Bill Clinton approved against the wishes of several government agencies including the Defense Department, is also on the same board as Hsu at that school in New York headed by ex Senator Kerrey. Occam's razor...

In regards to his attorney claiming silicon valley profits--yeah right. What is this, Hillary's cattle futures redux. To refresh your memory she traded with/through the attorney of Tyson, Arkansas's largest poultry farm and employer and the number one polluter in the state at the time. I believe Bill was then Attorney General soon to be Governor. It's the little old lady in the pink dress making $100,000 on a $1000 investment. The fact that her broker later went to jail is another of those interesting twilight zone moments. His crime if I recall was "block trading".

I bring this up as a point of reference because it is very easy to run graft money through wall street usually through stock and options. Go ask Terry McAuliffe.

As you can see he made 18 million on a $100 investment. Need I say anymore.

Liberal Joshua--a fashion tip. Your knee pads are worn out.

9/02/2007 03:47:00 AM  
Blogger ledger said...

As patrick, whiskey, and wretchard have alluded, this whole arrest of Mr. Hsu is a farce. The guy is highly mobile. The effective bail is a paltry $200,000. How long do you think it will take him or his friends to post it? Not very long.

After he posts bail he will be gone with the wind.

Just another "honest felon" who has skipped the drudgery of prison.

9/02/2007 06:13:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

[Wouldn't it be fun if the FEC reports were online, and you could write a Perl script to grab the info, submit to Google and parse for keywords, dump into a DB? Oh yes it would be such fun!]
if the FEC reports were online -- it would be a simple matter to put out a bid to or
for someone to write the perl script to grab the info. I'm guessing the cost would be a couple hundred bucks.

9/02/2007 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Old time Stalinist Pete Seeger has finally written a blues balad denouncing Stalin.

That man is right on the ball.

9/02/2007 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...

The article on Seeger, though fairly neutral, contained this howler:

"Mr. Seeger said he had concentrated on showing what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had accomplished 'without using guns.'"

Now it's perhaps true that Dr. King himself never carried a gun, but the writer clearly has no knowledge of the period at all if he's never heard of the Deacons for Defense, numerous civil rights workers like Don Kates, Condoleeza Rice's father, the various state National Guards, and state and local police agencies (few of whom were fully in the pocket of the KKK or local fellow-travelers and who thus often made some attempt to neutrally enforce the law)--sorry, dude, but the Civil Rights struggle in the US was nothing if not awash with firearms.

9/02/2007 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

Interesting line of thought,

"The necessity of never having to put the corrupt parts of the system to the test."

There was a reason for the shake ups at State, CIA, and DoD...etc. How deep the surgical blade could cut has always been a matter of speculation, how much needs to be cut still?

"The Great War showed up all the secret deals, all the seedy connections, all the unthinkable compromises into which the Russian elite had entered."

The choice to be bribed, to be corrupted, to be seduced, is still a personal one, it is not ever a political party thing. But the party can, if it so chooses, act the willing and unwitting recipient of what and Hsu so ever it will.

Backing out of such a decision is not so easy. Hsu knows what is tethered to the other end of the rope.

9/02/2007 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

1993-2001: Hire an Arkansas machine politician, get an Arkansas machine politician.

The question for 2008: Hire an Arkansas/Chicago-hybrid machine politician?

9/02/2007 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I don't understand what the big deal is. So China is trying to buy our political process under the table. Countries have been doing that for decades.

The Russians used to bribe everyone in sight, and to buy our secrets. They're not doing that as much now, because they had to drop out when they lost all their filthy rubles.

At one point, the Japanese were trying to buy us.

Lately it's been the Saudi's and other oil ticks dumping money not only into Congress but also buying up TV stations, movie studios and newspapers.

Now, it's China's turn.

My question is: if the person being bought doesn't even realize that that's what happened, what good is it? Did Mr. Hsu even get a night in the Lincoln bedroom? What, exactly, are the favors he's supposed to have purchased with his millions of under-the-table bribes?

At least with the oil ticks, you can see them maneuvering for this or that advantage, but the Chinese maneuvering is so subtle that it doesn't even accomplish anything takes the concept of a very light touch to a whole new level

9/02/2007 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

I'm guessing the cost would be a couple hundred bucks.
I'm thinking too if pajama's media wanted to create a research account and a button at all their sites so that people could kick in to help buy the tools--there'd be plenty of money to do the job. and probably some man hours available to do the necessary research. the problem in this age is that the people who buy the politicians have much more power than the people who vote for them. a constant front page analysis of who is buying whom would be helpful.

It would helpful too to repeal Mcain feingold. (and also move McCain out of public life.)

9/02/2007 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

My question is: if the person being bought doesn't even realize that that's what happened, what good is it?
probably a false assumption. but even if true the democrats are currently under the McCarthy thrall. That means that all spies are good.

9/02/2007 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

I agree with Whiskey, and will take it a bit further.

Who knew of Hsu?

Could be some one on the Clinton Campaign. Hillary may have insulted the wrong person, who takes the rumor to the WSJ to cover her tracks (it would be a her, wouldn't it?). More likely, Hillary found out about the Guy's past after taking the money and wants it to be "yesterday's news" as soon as possible. And part of the "right wing smear conspiracy," too.

How about the Mayor of New York, Mike Blomberg? His operation could have picked up the Guy's "fish smell" and followed up on it. A three way Obama, Romney, Blomberg race might see him President. If so, expect another Hsu shoe to drop. In fact, we may be dealing with a centipede.

9/02/2007 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Yeah HDgreene, that was my thought.

It could be a disgruntled Hillary campaign worker objecting to obviously bundled donations that smell fishy, OR some big-time research.

FEC reports (I looked) are downloadable.

I'll play around with it myself, but my guess is that the data was put in a database and human eyes looked for patterns (i.e. bundled donations, same address) and then various human-eyes patterns, i.e. look for donations with near-same amounts and see who pops up and if they follow an ethnic pattern (the Mafia used Sicilian-owned pizza places in their 80's heroin distribution ring if my memory serves).

The very connected nature of ethnic-family ties makes "spot the connections" much easier I guess.

9/02/2007 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Isn't that a function of the CIA/NSA? Looking for conncted bundles and similar names in different situations that point to interesting conclusions.

Since the CIA has been leaking like anti-administration information like a sieve for several years now, wouldn't it be nice if someone here decided a tit should be in place for all those tat's, and chose to highlight Mr. Hsu and HIllary.

Previous leaks of official information have gone to the NY Times. The fact that this leak is through the WSJ is also interesting. Maybe the spooks, too, have decided the NYTimes has too much baggage any more to be trustworthy.

9/02/2007 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

After reading the whole thread down to this point my vote is for Hillary being the one to "out" the ever agreeable Mr. Hsu.

That's old news,etc,etc.

9/02/2007 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Hillary's donor linked to China missile trader

9/03/2007 12:31:00 PM  

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