Hsu Steered Major Fundraiser to Obama

Norman Hsu, right, in California recently with attorney Somnath Raj Chatterjee, left.
Norman Hsu, right, in California recently with attorney Somnath Raj Chatterjee, left. (By Paul Sakuma -- Associated Press)
By Matthew Mosk and John Solomon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 8, 2007

Before becoming a major bundler for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, disgraced Democratic donor Norman Hsu helped host a 2005 California event for Barack Obama's political action committee and introduced the senator from Illinois to one of the biggest fundraisers for his presidential bid.

Federal Election Commission records show that Hsu gave $5,000 to Obama's Hopefund PAC in connection with the fundraiser and that people publicly identified with Hsu and his companies gave an additional $19,500 to the PAC in 2005 and 2006.

Mark Gorenberg, who now sits on Obama's national finance committee and is one of his biggest fundraisers, said Hsu organized an early 2005 event for the Hopefund and invited him to help raise money.

"He introduced me to Barack Obama," Gorenberg said of Hsu. "He was working on an event for Barack's PAC, and he asked me to help, and I did. Barack came up to San Francisco, and [Hsu] introduced him to a bunch of people."

Obama's campaign, which has donated to charity $7,000 in direct donations that Hsu made to Hopefund and his Senate campaign committee, confirmed last night that Hsu hosted a small event for the PAC in March 2005 in Los Angeles.

"We don't know how much that event raised, but we have received an estimated $19,000 from people who were associated with Hsu in published reports, all prior to Obama becoming a presidential candidate," spokesman Bill Burton said.

"We are in the process of sending these people letters to check the validity of their contributions. When Obama entered the presidential race, Hsu had decided to support Senator Clinton and bundle for her campaign," Burton said.

Obama announced Thursday that he plans to introduce legislation to require congressional and presidential candidates to disclose the identities of bundlers and the amounts they raise.

Gorenberg, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who oversaw California fundraising for Sen. John F. Kerry's 2004 presidential bid, and other members of Obama's national finance committee are committed to raising at least $250,000 each for the campaign.

Hsu said in a July interview with The Washington Post that although he has become a strong backer of Clinton, he had worked on Obama's behalf and had connected Obama with Gorenberg. "I was the person who got him involved in Obama fundraising," Hsu said.

Hsu earned the designation "Hillraiser," having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the past six months, according to a source directly familiar with her fundraising. In total, Hsu has helped raise more than $1 million for Democratic candidates and causes.

Earlier this month, focus on his fundraising activities led to revelations that Hsu was a fugitive in a 15-year-old California criminal case, leading to his downfall in political circles.

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