Disgraced Democratic party fundraiser Norman Hsu is out of jail tonight, after surrendering to authorities for a 15-year-old arrest warrant.After being led away in handcuffs this morning, Hsu posted the $2 million bail set by California Superior Court Judge H. James Ellis and was released. Hsu, an apparently wealthy apparel magnate, had pleaded no contest in 1992 for what authorities have called a Ponzi-like fraud scheme involving latex gloves that cost investors more than $1 million.But after entering his plea, Hsu failed to appear for sentencing. At the time, he reportedly faced up to three years in prison. When Hsu didn't show, a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Until news of his criminal past broke two days ago, Hsu was a major donor and fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.'s presidential bid. He has also donated to the presidential campaigns of Democratic Sens. Barack Obama, Ill., and Joseph Biden, Del.
Hsu reportedly raised well over $1 million for Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, by eliciting donations from others and giving generously from his own pockets. Questions have been raised in the last few days about many big contributions from Hsu's contributors, which appeared incommensurate with the modest incomes of the individuals and families who gave them. (Photo of Norman Hsu with Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., courtesy of Stephen Schwartz.)
While suspicious, no evidence has surfaced that any donations are illegal. Both Hsu and the Clinton campaign have denied wrongdoing. Clinton's presidential campaign confirmed an upcoming fundraiser Hsu was slated to host has been cancelled. The campaign recently said it would donate $23,000 to charity, the same amount that Hsu had personally given her.
Hsu is described as warm and generous, but an air of mystery surrounds him and his wealth. He was reportedly the alleged victim of a 1990 kidnapping by Chinese gang members in San Francisco, possibly over a debt. After his arrest and alleged kidnapping, Hsu returned to Hong Kong for several years, returning to the United States in 1996, according to his attorney.
Since 2004, Hsu has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates and committees, and personally donated nearly a quarter million dollars. He has reportedly hosted several fundraisers, including pricey birthday parties for at least two congressmen.
On Thursday, Obama's campaign said he would give to charity the $2,000 Hsu contributed to his 2004 Senate campaign and the $5,000 Hsu gave to his political action committee, Hopefund. Hsu's $43,700 in donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and $2,500 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also will go to charity, both groups announced Thursday.
Associated Press writer Paul Elias contributed to this report.
This post has been updated.