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Clinton to Return Tainted Money

In a surprise move, Hillary Clinton announced that she would return contributions totaling $850,000 from convicted felon and captured fugitive, Norman Hsu.  Hsu bundled this obscene amount of contributions from about 260 other donors. Clinton’s campaign is following the urging of Public Citizen and others to return the tainted cash to each donor.

As we’ve mentioned before, Clinton is not the first to deal with unsavory fundraisers, and Clinton is not the only candidate to have received money from Hsu.  Around 24 Democrats have accepted campaign contributions from Hsu since 2004.

One can’t help but wonder who the 260 people Hsu collected money from are and what influence was promised in exchange.  So far, Clinton’s campaign isn’t disclosing the names of the donors bundled by Hsu.  The names of these individuals and their ties to Hsu should be public record – just as all bundled contributions should be.

Unfortunately, the ’08 candidates have been even more secretive than Bush and Kerry were in ’04 about who their bundlers are and how much they have raised (are there more Hsus waiting to drop?). None of the presidential candidates in this election are adequately disclosing their bundlers to the public, and none of the campaigns – until now – have bothered to fully check the bundler’s backgrounds. You can bet that each campaign is feverishly doing background checks on anyone who has given them (or their opponents) hefty sums of money. 

Heck, they are probably using www.WhiteHouseForSale.org, since it’s the only place to search what little information is publicly available on big bundlers.  The current lack of transparency begs for a stronger disclosure law. Until then, it’s up to the candidates to show us if they are really serious about transparency in our democracy. So far, all are falling short.

Of course, presidential candidates shouldn’t be at the mercy of bundlers at all.  We need to restore the presidential public financing system to remove the influence of these mega-fundraisers.  A bill to do this has already been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Russell Feingold and Barack Obama and in the House by Rep. Marty Meehan with ten co-sponsors: the "Presidential Funding Act of 2007." What stops the other candidates from endorsing it?  Moreover, if Senator Clinton and the other candidates holding office in Congress really want to demonstrate their leadership skills and commitment to reform, they should move quickly to pass it.

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