Clinton Donor Wanted By Fbi In Scheme To Funnel Money

The businessman, influential in Pakistani circles, also aided Boxer.

Campaigns Surprised

March 03, 2007|Robin Fields and Chuck Neubauer | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — A Pakistani immigrant who hosted fundraisers in Southern California for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is being sought by the FBI on charges that he funneled illegal contributions to Clinton's political action committee and Sen. Barbara Boxer's 2004 reelection campaign.

Authorities say Northridge businessman Abdul Rehman Jinnah, 56, fled the country after an indictment accused him of engineering more than $50,000 in illegal donations to the Democratic committees. A business associate charged as a co-conspirator has entered a guilty plea and is scheduled to be sentenced in Los Angeles next week.

A federal law enforcement source said prosecutors had not dealt with the political committees in conducting their investigation and had no evidence that the committees knew the contributions were illegal.

Officials for both committees said they were unaware of the investigation or indictments until they were contacted by The Times, and said they would not keep the donations.

The case has transformed Jinnah from a political point man on Pakistani issues, a man often photographed next to foreign dignitaries and U.S. leaders, into a fugitive with his mug shot on the FBI's "featured fugitives" wanted list.

Jinnah's profile peaked in 2004 and 2005 as he wooed members of Congress to join a caucus advancing Pakistani concerns and brought Clinton to speak to prominent Pakistani Americans, lauding their homeland's contributions to the war on terrorism and calling relations with Pakistan beneficial to U.S. interests.

Jinnah and his family donated more than $100,000 to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates. Now friends say they believe Jinnah has returned to Pakistan.

Attempts to reach him and his relatives were unsuccessful. A "For Sale" sign stood in his yard on Thursday, and a neighbor said the family had not lived there for months.

Jinnah's troubles appear to have begun when he attempted to circumvent election laws by reimbursing friends, business contacts and their family members for contributions made in their names, according to court records. Federal statutes set limits on contributions to federal campaigns and political action committees and bar donations made in the names of others.

Authorities say that from June 2004 to February 2005, Jinnah directly or indirectly solicited contributions from more than a dozen "conduits," reimbursing them with funds from his company, All American Distributing, a seller of cellphone service and accessories.

Authorities said the scheme allowed Jinnah to get around limits then in effect on individual donors of $5,000 per year to PACs and $2,000 per election to candidates, as well as the ban on using corporate money for political donations.

Jinnah's case has been handled with discretion by the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, which recently lost a high-profile case against former Clinton campaign official David Rosen. Rosen was acquitted of charges of filing false reports about a Hollywood fundraiser given for Clinton in 2000.

The indictment of Jinnah, handed down in May without a news release, mentions only the initials of the committees that received the illegal donations, referring to them as "HP" and "FB." However, the charging document filed against Stuart Schoenburg, who authorities say is a co-conspirator, identifies one of the committees as HillPac, the leadership committee Clinton formed after her first Senate campaign and which she still uses.

Though Clinton cannot use HillPac to fund her presidential campaign directly, it has allowed her to donate to Democratic candidates and organizations, as well as to pay some political staff and travel expenses.

The Times was able to identify donations to Boxer's campaign by cross-referencing dates and contributors' initials listed in the indictment with campaign finance records. The "FB" in the indictment stood for "Friends of Barbara Boxer."

According to the indictment, Jinnah arranged $30,000 in donations to HillPac by having Schoenburg, a Tarzana television producer, approach family members and others to act as straw donors.

Schoenburg and five others contributed $5,000 apiece. Jinnah later reimbursed them with funds from his corporation, prosecutors say. In one instance, authorities allege, Jinnah and Schoenburg agreed to write "production" in a reimbursement check's memo line, falsely indicating it was payment for production services.

"The campaign clearly had no knowledge of these activities," said Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Clinton.

He said HillPac would not keep the contributions cited in the indictment, as well as others from Jinnah and his family.

The indictment says Jinnah also found 14 straw donors to give $28,000 to the 2004 reelection campaign of Boxer (D-Calif.). Among the contributors were five employees of Jinnah's company, Schoenburg and several members of Schoenburg's family, records show.

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