Sinfully delicious. Remember, Hsugate began not with Hsu himself but with the Paw family, who somehow churned out a cool $50K in contributions to the Cause — most of which coincided with Hsu’s own donations — even though they live in a small house near the San Fran airport. As far as I know, it’s still unexplained how they came up with the cash. Now comes the LA Times with allegations of a broad base of “poor” Chinese donors, some of whom seem to have scrounged up the money legitimately to get a photo op with the great lady, some of whom seem to have done so at the behest of “neighborhood associations” which exert “enormous influence” over recent immigrants, and some of whom — well, some of whom may not exist. Dummy businesses in Norman Hsu’s case, dummy donors here?
Dishwashers, waiters and others whose jobs and dilapidated home addresses seem to make them unpromising targets for political fundraisers are pouring $1,000 and $2,000 contributions into Clinton’s campaign treasury. In April, a single fundraiser in an area long known for its gritty urban poverty yielded a whopping $380,000. When Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) ran for president in 2004, he received $24,000 from Chinatown…
Clinton’s success in gathering money from Chinatown’s least-affluent residents stems from a two-pronged strategy: mutually beneficial alliances with powerful groups, and appeals to the hopes and dreams of people now consigned to the margins…
Many of Clinton’s Chinatown donors said they had contributed because leaders in neighborhood associations told them to. In some cases, donors said they felt pressure to give…
The Times examined the cases of more than 150 donors who provided checks to Clinton after fundraising events geared to the Chinese community. One-third of those donors could not be found using property, telephone or business records. Most have not registered to vote, according to public records.
And several dozen were described in financial reports as holding jobs — including dishwasher, server or chef — that would normally make it difficult to donate amounts ranging from $500 to the legal maximum of $2,300 per election.
There are a good 10 more paragraphs I want to quote, including the entire section on “Missing Persons” down near the end, but fair use prevents me. You’re hereby formally advised to read the whole thing, noting in particular at least one instance of a donation from someone who’s not legally entitled to donate because he’s not a permanent resident. The sexy part is the donors who can’t be located but I’m actually more intrigued by the “pressure” being brought to bear by those neighborhood associations. Norman Hsu brought pressure on the contributors he bundled too, essentially making donations to the Clinton campaign a toll people had to pay if they wanted in on his lucrative “businesses” per the federal criminal complaint against him. If the Times is right about the importance of those associations in helping to settle and assimilate immigrants within the community, the pressure they’re capable of applying is orders of magnitude greater — although, ironically, perhaps not illegal.
Two exit questions for you, one of which has already largely been answered in Norman Hsu’s case but which resurfaces here anew. One: When is Obama going to take off the gloves on this issue? He’s uniquely positioned to risk alienating a “minority community” by asking some tough questions, and his polls are near the point where he’s got little to lose. And two: Where’s the money coming from?
Update: There are enough worthy stories in the LAT that it’s worth registering at the site, but if you can’t be bothered see if you can get in through Google News. Note that they assigned no fewer than eight reporters and researchers to this story so they’ll probably be following up.
Update: Says Frank J., “The thing about donations from the Chinese is that no matter how much you get, you’ll want more an hour later.”