Bill Sammon, The Examiner
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Hillary Clinton's links to illegal fundraising by Asian-Americans in 1996 should have made her wary of accepting $850,000 from a fugitive Asian-American this year, a rival presidential campaign said Tuesday.
The criticism came from an adviser to former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson, who chaired a Senate investigation into illegal contributions by Asian-Americans to Bill Clinton's re-election campaign and the couple's legal defense fund in the 1996 election cycle.
Thompson adviser Rich Galen said Clinton's 2008 campaign has become "the sequel" to her husband's scandal-plagued 1996 campaign.
Late Monday, Clinton announced she was returning $850,000 raised by fugitive Norman Hsu, who jumped bail in 1992 after being convicted of defrauding investors of $1 million. Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said the campaign was "unaware" of a warrant for Hsu's arrest.
Galen was unconvinced.
"You have to look at this with a great deal of skepticism that - having been through this sort of thing in '96 - that nobody thought to say, 'Hey, you know, we better take another look at this before we take all this money,' " he said.
"And the fact that nobody did - or if they did, they decided to just put their finger in front of their lips and say shhh and try to sneak off into the distance - tells you a great deal about the fact that the Hillary Clinton campaign is the Bill Clinton campaign redux."
Wolfson said, "We reject the suggestion that suspicion should be based on ethnicity in America.
"Mr. Hsu donated to numerous charities and more than two dozen candidates and committees," he told The Examiner. "Despite conducting a thorough review of public records, our campaign, like these others, was unaware of Mr. Hsu's decade-plus-old warrant."
In 2005, prior to raising funds for Clinton, Hsu co-hosted a fundraiser for Barack Obama, who later became a Democratic presidential candidate. Obama's campaign is now investigating the validity of $19,000 in contributions it accepted from people associated with Hsu.
"Are you suggesting we should have racially profiled Hsu because he's Asian?" Obama spokesman Bill Burton asked.
Clinton is returning donations to 260 people who were recruited by Hsu. The FBI is investigating whether these were merely "straw" donors who were funneling money from Hsu to Clinton to skirt campaign finance laws.
In March 1996, Bill and Hillary Clinton's legal defense fund accepted money from straw donors recruited by Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie. The Taiwan-born Democrat hand-delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of checks and money orders in two manila envelopes to the defense fund.