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One of the biggest sources of political donations to Hillary Rodham Clinton is a tiny, lime-green bungalow that lies under the flight path from San Francisco International Airport. Six members of the Paw family, each listing the house at 41 Shelbourne Ave. as their residence, have donated a combined $45,000 to the Democratic senator from New York since 2005, for her presidential campaign, her Senate re-election last year and her political action committee.
It isn't obvious how the Paw family is able to afford such political largess. Records show they own a gift shop and live in a 1,280-square-foot house that they recently refinanced for $270,000. William Paw, the 64-year-old head of the household, is a mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service who earns about $49,000 a year, according to a union representative. Alice Paw, also 64, is a homemaker.
The Paw family's political benefaction - modest living conditions notwithstanding - makes them Hillary's third highest contributing household. Just ahead of the Maloofs.
The Paws' political donations closely track donations made by Norman Hsu, a wealthy New York businessman in the apparel industry who once listed the Paw home as his address, according to public records. Mr. Hsu is one of the top fund-raisers for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign.
Kent Cooper, a former disclosure official with the Federal Election Commission, said the two-year pattern of donations justifies a probe of possible violations of campaign-finance law, which forbid one person from reimbursing another to make contributions.
Accompanying the article is a table of contributions made by Hsu, the Paws, and other contributors since 2004, culled from federal election records.
The Paw family is just one set of donors whose political donations are similar to Mr. Hsu's. Several business associates of Mr. Hsu in New York have made donations to the same candidates, on the same dates for similar amounts as Mr. Hsu.
Those New York business associates, as identified by the Journal, include Daniel Lee and Yu Fen Huang (who may well be married, as they're listed at the same street address) and Soe Lee (who actually now appears to live in Pennsylvania).
While the FEC probe will look at possibly suspicious payments to federal candidates, it occurred to me that similar patterns might exist among the New York State financial disclosures. The opportunity to illicitly boost one's contributions could be far greater in state elections, where the individual contribution limits are much higher (more than $50,000 for statewide candidates and $150,000 in aggregate per contributor per year).
According to the NYS Board of Elections website, Lee, Huang, and Lee tend to follow Hsu's lead locally too. During the 2006 cycle, Hsu gave $52,000 to Democrat Eliot Spitzer's campaign for Governor (spread over 6 donations) and $50,100 to Democrat Andrew Cuomo's campaign for Attorney General (spread over 9 donations). Danny Lee made only one contribution to each candidate, both transactions occurring within a day of a major Hsu contribution.
Since winning their respective elections, both candidates have received another $10,000 from Hsu.
But Spitzer and Cuomo aren't the only New Yorkers fortunate enough to win Hsu & Co's favor. Congressman and 2009 NYC Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner (D-Queens/Brooklyn) received $4,250 ($700 shy of the limit) from Hsu last month. That same day, Danny Lee and Soe Lee each kicked in $1,500.
[See updated table below]
Earlier this year, NYC Councilman John Liu (D-Queens) received $4,950 from Hsu, either maxing out or exceeding the contribution limit, depending on what Liu is running for (the filing is incomplete). In the months since, Danny Lee and Yu Fen Huang (the two who reside at the same address) and Soe Lee have tipped another $13,000 into Liu's coffers. Huang and Soe Lee (non-co-habitants) made their contributions on the same day.
These appear to be the only state or local campaign contributions Huang or either Lee has made in the last 8 years.
So what do the patterns mean? Well, pretty much nothing, in and of themselves, beyond suggesting Hsu is merely an effective Democratic fundraiser who occasionally convinces his friends and colleagues to support the candidates he supports.
But the propriety of the Paw situation is so dubious that it's hard to imagine the FEC investigation not turning up some kind of irregularities. If and when it does, and if those irregularities suggest that Hsu has been funneling his own funds through other individuals to skirt campaign finance laws, then the New York State Board of Elections and the New York City Campaign Finance Board ought to waste no time launching their own investigations, for which the above transactions would be logical starting points.
Update: It hadn't even occurred to me that the Paws themselves, the modest-dwelling political fat cats from Daly City might also take an interest in New York's local races, but wouldn'cha know it - they do. Turns out the family is supporting Anthony Weiner in the 2009 Mayoral race. And they showed that support on a very familiar day.
Updating the table above:
Hat tip for that find goes to the author of the Journal story, Brody Mullins, who suggested taking a peek specifically for the Paws in the state disclosures, which I'd dopily neglected to do.
Update: Norman Hsu is reportedly a fugitive.
The Los Angeles Times will report on this website later tonight and in Wednesday's print editions that a major Democratic Party fundraiser named Norman Hsu is wanted by authorities for skipping out on an agreement to serve up to three years in prison after pleading no contest to grand theft swindling charges.
Hsu's lawyer confirmed today that his client was the one involved in the California case but said he did not remember pleading to a criminal case nor facing jail time.
"He is a fugitive," said Ronald Smetana of the California attorney general's office. "Do you know where he is?"
Yes! Of course we do. He's at 160 Wooster Street, #3C, New York, NY, 10012. At least he was as recently as July 11th, when he made that contribution to Anthony Weiner. Here's a map. Go round him up.
If he's not there, try the office at 561 7th Ave (between 40th and 41st), Suite 1301.
(HT: Dan Riehl)
Handcrafted by Flip on August 28, 2007 |
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