Chinatown

Yesterday Glenn Reynolds cited the Los Angeles Times’s latest report on Hillary’s dirty money with the tag another Hsu drops. The Times found pockets of financial support for Ms. Hillary in what appear to be unlikely places:

All three locations, along with scores of others scattered throughout some of the poorest Chinese neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, have been swept by an extraordinary impulse to shower money on one particular presidential candidate — Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Dishwashers, waiters and others whose jobs and dilapidated home addresses seem to make them unpromising targets for political fundraisers are pouring $1,000 and $2,000 contributions into Clinton’s campaign treasury. In April, a single fundraiser in an area long known for its gritty urban poverty yielded a whopping $380,000. When Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) ran for president in 2004, he received $24,000 from Chinatown. . . .
The Times examined the cases of more than 150 donors who provided checks to Clinton after fundraising events geared to the Chinese community. One-third of those donors could not be found using property, telephone or business records. Most have not registered to vote, according to public records.
And several dozen were described in financial reports as holding jobs — including dishwasher, server or chef — that would normally make it difficult to donate amounts ranging from $500 to the legal maximum of $2,300 per election….Like many who traveled this path, most of the Chinese reported as contributing to Clinton’s campaign have never voted. Many speak little or no English. Some seem to lead such ephemeral lives that neighbors say they’ve never heard of them.

What’s going on here? Whatever it is, the pattern is not a function of coincidence. The Times reports:

Clinton has enlisted the aid of Chinese neighborhood associations, especially those representing recent immigrants from Fujian province. The organizations, at least one of which is a descendant of Chinatown criminal enterprises that engaged in gambling and human trafficking, exert enormous influence over immigrants. The associations help them with everything from protection against crime to obtaining green cards.
Many of Clinton’s Chinatown donors said they had contributed because leaders in neighborhood associations told them to. In some cases, donors said they felt pressure to give.
The other piece of the strategy involves holding out hope that, if Clinton becomes president, she will move quickly to reunite families and help illegal residents move toward citizenship. As New York’s junior senator, Clinton has expressed support for immigrants and greater family reunification. She is also benefiting from Chinese donors’ naive notions of what she could do in the White House.

The Times story addresses the question of motive, although I am not confident it has it right. But the Times leaves hanging the second question raised by its story: Where is the money coming from? Flip Pidot frames the question as follows:

The unlikely vein of campaign gold Hillary seems to have tapped in Chinatown certainly appears to be of the familiar Clinton scandal genus, but the species isn’t quite identifiable yet — are these straw donors being quietly reimbursed behind closed doors, are they hard-working immigrants being pressured by local heavies to dig deep for their Senator, or might they simply be figmental?

The Times story suggests that the answer might be a combination of these possibilities. In any event, however, the question deserves an answer.

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