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.
Hsu skipped a court hearing this week before being arrested Thursday night and forfeited $2 million in bail.
He was finally taken into custody by the FBI on Thursday night at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., authorities said.
After failing to show up for a routine bail hearing Wednesday, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge H. James Ellis revoked Hsu's bail and issued a warrant for his arrest.
A person close to Hsu's family, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the pending criminal case, said multiple communications that Hsu made in recent days raised concerns about his safety, including fears about possible suicide. "There were some serious concerns," the source said.
Hsu's criminal attorney, who has not spoken publicly about his client since Wednesday, said he had no idea where he had gone. In the ensuing days, Hsu sent repeated communications to relatives signaling that he was contemplating suicide.
Hsu emerged on Thursday morning, boarding Amtrak's California Zephyr in Emeryville, Calif., bound for Chicago.
About 11 a.m., as the train approached Grand Junction, the engineer radioed a dispatcher that a passenger had fallen on the train and would need medical attention, possibly including a backboard, local fire officials said. That passenger was Hsu.
He hobbled off the train at the Grand Junction station 15 minutes later and was taken by ambulance to St. Mary's Hospital, where he remains in fair condition.
Local police officials said they were called late in the day by the FBI to help them secure Hsu and place him under arrest in his hospital bed. Agents are waiting for Hsu's condition to improve, at which point he will be brought before a federal magistrate and ordered transferred back to California, according to Joseph Schadler, an FBI spokesman in San Francisco.
Once he is back before a San Mateo County judge, state prosecutors said yesterday, they plan to resume the 15-year-old felony grand theft case against Hsu, and will ask to have him held without bail. He pleaded no contest to those charges in 1992.
Hsu's guilty plea had left him facing a possible sentence of up to three years and a demand he pay full restitution to the two dozen victims, according to Gareth S. Lacy, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office.
Gorenberg said he is worried about Hsu. "Despite it all, I still love the guy," he said. "Despite everything you read, every experience I ever had with him was nothing but delightful, and I just scratch my head."
Political researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report