Matt Lauer may have approached Hillary Clinton from the left (as if she were a centrist) on health care on Tuesday’s Today, but Lauer was the only morning show host to ask the former First Lady about her campaign-finance scandal surrounding the crook Norman Hsu. ABC, CBS, and CNN all whistled past her campaign’s decision to refund $850,000 in contributions that Hsu “bundled” to her campaign. Granted, Lauer simply asked “How to you respond?” But in a follow-up Lauer also tweaked her campaign’s claim that they used an “abundance of caution” in returning the money, asking if there was perhaps not so much caution in the original fundraising.
Lauer did not remind the audience that the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996 was riddled with illegal foreign contributions that were returned -- but only after the news media started reporting on it. Geoff Dickens did the transcript:
LAUER: A couple of other questions that your campaign's been dealing with lately. Let me talk about Norman Hsu. He's in jail right now on, apparently he had a 15-year outstanding warrant. Your campaign returned an $850,000 contribution from him. Just so people understand, he's a bundler, that's not his money. This comes from 260 individual donors. The, the question is, you know there are a lot of red flags here. What happened? The New York Times writes this, "This hurried--but not hurried enough--giveback, one of the largest on record, lays bare again how easily campaign professionals can allow greed to trump healthy skepticism and good sense when supporters like Mr. Hsu arrive on the scene with eye-popping contributions." How do you respond?
CLINTON: Well obviously, everyone was taken aback, to say the least not only the dozens of candidates who were the beneficiaries of contributions but the people who actually gave him money for investments and it was, it was a terrible and rude awakening. The fact is we need to move toward public financing. I've been saying that for years. I will strongly support that as president and my campaign has a good system for checking. This missed, this was missed. It was missed by everyone who looked. So-
LAUER: So when your, when your campaign returned the money, they said you're operating under an abundance of caution. Are you saying there wasn't that same abundance of caution when the check arrived?
CLINTON: Well yes, of course, we always check everything and check every person but, you know, it wasn't just my campaign. Unfortunately this goes back several years and the databases that were used didn't have this information. As soon as people found out, we all took action.
As soon as she found out? An editorial in Tuesday’s edition of Investor’s Business Daily (available at IBDeditorials.com) could have been read by Lauer as a rebuttal:
Hillary's presidential campaign knew since at least June that there were serious questions about China-born Hsu, her own top fundraiser now behind bars.
Yet she agreed to return the $860,000 he bundled for her from mostly Asian donors only after the scandal broke in the press. Even so, she's declined to publicly identify the 260 donors, and may ask for some of the funds back.
Now as then, Ickes is involved, this time as an adviser to her campaign. And the same guy who courted all the shady Asian donors in last decade's Clinton campaigns is heading Hillary's fundraising now. His name: Terry McAuliffe. Seems they're up to their old tricks.
Hillary claims she had no reason to vet big Asian donors to her presidential campaign, no reason to be suspicious of them. She suggests critics who think she should have been more suspect are racist.
"We reject the suggestion that suspicion should be based on ethnicity in America," her spokesman said.
But the Ickes notes clearly show Hillary had every reason to check out Hsu, with whom she and Bill snapped photos and whom she let fete her campaign manager in all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas.
The editorial also explores a similar pattern in 1996, when the Clinton campaign planned to delay any return of funny money until after the election, despite knowing in April it had a problem:
The smoking gun came in the form of handwritten notes taken by deputy White House chief of staff Harold Ickes.
"Charlie Trie — Money orders — Don't report names if $ are returned," Ickes wrote. "Could return all $ & ask people to resend it if they want."
Then this: "BC/HRC to put it out of his mind and wait until after the election." BC stands for Bill Clinton, HRC for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Ickes cited "HRC" several other times in his notes.
If this sounds like deja vu, it is.
Or deja Hsu?