Democratic fundraiser convicted of corruption

Associated Press | May 19, 2009
By Tom Hays

NEW YORK (AP) - Longtime fundraiser Norman Hsu was convicted Tuesday of violating campaign finance laws in a case that became an embarrassment to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other prominent Democrats he courted.
A jury in federal court in Manhattan deliberated less than three hours over two days before returning the guilty verdict. Hsu, already jailed following an earlier guilty plea, showed no reaction as he was led out of court.

"I think he expected it because it was quick," said his attorney, Alan Seidler. The lawyer said there would be an appeal.

Hsu, 58, had been accused of using clients of his fraudulent investment business, including actors and other political novices, as straw donors to make thousands of dollars in campaign donations. The scheme was designed to bypass rules limiting the amount any single individual or group can donate.

During the trial that began May 12, television actress Susan Chilman testified that she given nearly $42,000 to Clinton and other Democratic candidates. Once she took out her checkbook, Hsu would simply give her a name and an amount, then later reimburse her, said Chilman, who's had roles in "Brothers & Sisters," "CSI Miami" and "ER" under the stage name Susan Pari.

Jurors also heard testimony from several other investors who recounted how Hsu showed off his political connections by decorating his home with photos of himself with marquee Democrats. One witness testified she met President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, President Bill Clinton, Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island at fundraisers she attended with him.

Prosecutors played a voicemail recording of Clinton, then a senator, effusively praising Hsu for his loyal support.

"I've never seen anybody who has been more loyal and more effective and really just having greater success supporting someone than you," she told him. "Everywhere I go, you're there. If you're not, you're sending people to be part of my events. You know, we're going to win this campaign, Norman, because you single-handedly are going to make that happen."

After Hsu's 2007 arrest, the senator returned more than $800,000 to donors whose contributions were linked to him.

The defense suggested Hsu was framed by "greedy" investors who cut non-prosecution deals with the government. His attorney argued his client's decision to plead guilty to separate securities fraud charges before the trial gave him credibility.

Hsu's trial came just days after he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of wire and mail fraud, admitting that he cheated investors of at least $20 million in a Ponzi scheme.