I know Hillary Clinton is hard up for dough, but should her campaign really have taken money from a suspected (and subsequently convicted) kickback conspirator? In June of 2007, attorney
Melvyn Weiss donated $4,600 to Clinton’s campaign, the legal maximum. By then Weiss was reportedly under investigation for paying kickbacks to people who served as lead plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits that netted his New York law firm hundreds of millions of dollars in fees.
Weiss was indicted on those charges three months later. He agreed to plead guilty this March and did so formally in April. According to a story at cbsnews.com, the “kickback scheme allowed the firm’s attorneys to be among the first to file litigation and secure the lucrative position as lead plaintiffs’ counsel.” The story said that Weiss’s firm “made an estimated $250 million over two decades by filing legal actions on behalf of professional plaintiffs who received $11.3 million in kickbacks,” and that Weiss was ordered to “pay nearly $10 million in fines and forfeiture penalties, and could be sentenced to up to 33 months in prison at a later hearing.”
You might think Clinton’s campaign would have returned Weiss’s money long ago, certainly by last September when he was indicted. But Federal Election Commission finance reports show no record of Weiss getting his money back. (My colleague Taimur Khan called Clinton’s press office for comment but so far has received no reply. I’ll update this story if we hear back.)
Incidentally, Weiss also donated several thousand dollars to Senator Russ Feingold, whose campaign returned it all last fall. Congressman Charles Rangel’s campaign got $4,600 from Weiss last May, which it has kept. (Given Rangel’s fundraising practices—he once asked lobbyists to underwrite his birthday party—that isn’t too surprising.)