Hillary Victim of her Campaign Aides in Hsu Case?

Hillary-beat reporter Patrick Healy follows the Hsu-prints (sorry) of the twisted campaign money trail left by Norman Hsu, a top Clinton fundraiser and convicted criminal, in Wednesday's "Clinton Sees Fear Realized In Trouble With Donor."

But evenas Healy attacked the competence of Hillary's fundraising operation, it also assisted Clinton by casting her as a passive and blameless figure let down by her aides, avoiding any hint her campaign's corrupted fundraising reflected on her personally.

"Of all the possible vulnerabilities facing Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, Mrs. Clinton has long believed that the one of the biggest was money, friends and advisers say. Some sort of fund-raising scandal that would echo the Clinton-era controversies of the 1990s and make her appear greedy or ethically challenged.

"As a result, Mrs. Clinton told aides this year to vet major donors carefully and help her avoid situations in which she might appear to be trading access for big money, advisers said. Also to be avoided, the senator said, were fund-raising tactics that might conjure up the Clinton White House coffees and the ties to relatively unknown donors offering large sums, like the Asian businessmen who sent checks to the Democratic National Committee.

"Yet nine months into her campaign, Mrs. Clinton is grappling with exactly the situation she feared - giving up nearly $900,000 that had been donated or raised by Norman Hsu, a one-time fugitive and one of her top fund-raisers, whose actions raise serious questions about how well the campaign vetted its donors. As a result, Mrs. Clinton now finds herself linked to a convicted criminal who brought in tens of thousands of dollars from potentially tainted sources.

"The Hsu case has revived ugly memories for voters about the Democratic fund-raising scandals when Bill Clinton was president, the senator's campaign advisers acknowledge, a time when both Clintons were often photographed with people whose money later turned out to be dirty, including Johnny Chung and Charlie Trie. Mrs. Clinton is running on her White House experience in the 1990s, and any attention cast on past fund-raising controversies could threaten her image with voters.

"Even some of her own major donors are aghast that, given the Clintons' past problems with fund-raising, Mrs. Clinton's vetting process did not uncover Mr. Hsu's criminal history. Even though Mr. Hsu had previously donated to other politicians and charities without his past surfacing, these donors say, the Clinton operation had been widely considered one of the best-run in recent campaigns - until now."

The New York Daily News rana sharper story pointing to California businessman Jack Cassidy, who tried to warn the campaign off of Hsu's donations.

"Hillary Clinton's campaign couldn't explain yesterday why it blew off warnings about felon-turned-fund-raiser Norman Hsu- and the Daily News learned FBI agents are collecting e-mail evidence in the widening scandal.

"Clinton was forced Monday to give back a whopping $850,000 raised by convicted scam artist Hsu after learning his investment ventures were being probed by the FBI as a potential Ponzi scheme.

"She earlier gave to charity $23,000 Hsu donated himself after reports revealed he fled sentencing for a $1 million scam in California in 1992.

"Yesterday, the campaign insisted it did all it should to vet Hsu after California businessman Jack Cassidy warned in June that Hsu's investment operation was fishy. Cassidy e-mailed his tips to the California Democratic Party, which forwarded them to the Clinton campaign....Camp Clinton never responded to Cassidy, but dealt with the worried California party members. According to the Los Angeles Times, Clinton's Western finance director, Samantha Wolf, e-mailed, 'I can tell you with 100% certainty that Norman Hsu is NOT involved in a Ponzi scheme,' adding, 'He is COMPLETELY legit.'"

UPDATE: Author Mark Steyn took issue with the Times' headline at National Review Online: "So the story is not the scandal but Hillary's 'fear' that she might be 'vulnerable' to such a scandal. How come Republican Senators can't get that kind of sympathetictreatment?"

Steyn suggested a similar headline for Larry Craig's scandal: "Craig Sees Fear Realized in Trouble With Adjoining Stall"