The Smoking Gun
January 1, 2009
|Norman Hsu in court, Sept. 2007.|
As if being linked to one high-profile criminal case weren’t enough, President-elect Barack Obama’s name may soon pop up in another federal prosecution, this one involving a massive Ponzi scheme (no, the other massive Ponzi scheme). In addition to the Rod Blagojevich pay-for-play probe, Obama could figure in the upcoming fraud trial of Norman Hsu, the disgraced Democratic fundraiser who was charged last year with operating a $60 million pyramid scheme. According to investigators, Hsu, a major Hillary Clinton fundraiser, pressured investors to donate money to political candidates with whom he was aligned. In a letter last week to U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero, Hsu’s lawyer, Martin Cohen, requested a 60-day delay in the start of Hsu’s trial, scheduled to open January 12 (Cohen cited the “extraordinary level of negative publicity” generated by the recent arrest of alleged Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff). In his December 22 letter, a copy of which you’ll find below, Cohen also noted that Hsu was already “notorious for his political activities” and that it was “inevitable” that his client’s “connections” to Bill and Hillary Clinton “and other democratic notables–including perhaps the president-elect–will be introduced at trial.” Before becoming a key fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, Hsu co-hosted a 2005 California fundraiser for Obama’s political action committee and introduced the Illinois Democrat to Marc Gorenberg, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who later joined the Obama campaign’s national finance committee. Prosecutors allege that Hsu directed his investors to donate money to specific candidates, and then reimbursed them in violation of federal campaign laws. Unswayed by Cohen’s argument, Marrero declined to delay the trial, which will begin a week before Obama’s inauguration.