Friday, September 21, 2007

What Did Hsu Do to Violate the Campaign Contribution Laws?

Of the three charges filed against erstwhile fundraiser Norman Hsu, one alleges that he "willfully violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by making contributions to various candidates for President of the United States, the United States Senate, and the United States House of Representatives in the names of others in excess of $25,000 or more during the calendar year of 2006."  The criminal complaint (available in an earlier post here), which runs sixteen pages that includes the factual description of the case by the lead FBI agent, goes into great detail about the alleged scheme to defraud investors of $60 million, and less on the campaign contribution charge.  The campaign contribution allegations revolve around alleged "pressure" Hsu and others put on investors to contribute to candidates he identified.  The complaint states that Hsu admitted to making "implied threats" to investors to donate to candidates or they could not invest with him in the future.  But is that an illegal contribution by Hsu?  Fundraisers put different forms of pressure on people to donate all the time, and contributors to PACs run by one's employer or business association may be subject to strong "persuasion" to give money to show loyalty.  Can it be that pestering people to contribute is a crime, especially if it is done to stay someone's good graces?  More details are sure to follow when the grand jury returns its indictment, but at this point it's not clear exactly what constitutes the alleged violation of the campaign finance laws. (ph)

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