I wrote this week’s column for just one reason. And it’s a bad one.
I could have pretended to be motivated by high-minded goals, like exposing the role of questionable money in the 2008 race for the US Senate. Or calling out the Maine media for failing to adequately cover the story. Or praising the work of Web-based commentators for breaking the news.
But none of that was true. I know the only reason I made even a passing mention of this stuff could be summed up in two words:
That’s a person, not a typo. A person with what may be the best name in politics. Let’s try it again:
See, it’s terrific every time. I didn’t have to think up any other jokes this week, because whenever the subject matter got a little dry, I just mentioned:
I admit Winkle — it’s OK if I call you Winkle, isn’t it, Mr. Paw? — doesn’t have a lot to do with Maine politics. But if I’d just started plowing through this boring slop without him, you’d have been asleep six paragraphs ago. He’s like a little flash of nudity in one of those incomprehensible European art films.
This incomprehensible story began in 1991, when a California businessman named Norman Hsu pleaded no contest to charges of grand theft for defrauding investors of $1 million in a scheme involving phony contracts for latex gloves. Hsu signed an agreement to repay the money and serve three years in prison. Instead, he vanished. Or sorta vanished. Actually, he just moved to New York, where he began raising large sums of money for Democratic candidates. For some reason no one can explain, California law enforcement didn’t notice Hsu, even though he was photographed mixing with celebs at fundraisers.
Getting a little tedious? No problem.
That’s better. Anyway, Hsu made donations to everybody from Hillary Clinton to John Kerry to Al Franken to Maine’s own Tom Allen. And he got his friends to contribute, too. In all, he was responsible for a million bucks going to various candidates, even though it’s not too clear where he got all that dough.
Among Hsu’s pals who gave money were members of the family of William Paw, a mail carrier in San Francisco, whose modest home Hsu once listed as his residence. Delivering letters must pay pretty well, because the Paws donated a total of $213,000 over the last three years. Some of that cash was listed as coming from William Paw’s 35-year-old son, whose name is — you guessed it:
Earlier this year, Hsu hired Winkle as his assistant, giving the guy the steady income needed to be a big-time political donor. Shortly afterwards, Hsu discovered that lingering legal problem out in California. In late August, he turned himself in and was freed on $2 million bail. His lawyer said his client had no idea he was wanted and didn’t recall agreeing to a jail term back in ’91. It’s the sort of thing that could slip your memory in the winkle of an eye.
Meanwhile, Democrats who got money from Hsu were scrambling to send it back or donate it to charity. That group included Allen, who received $1000. “We returned that money the day the story broke,” said Carol Andrews, communications director for the congressman’s Senate campaign.