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Jewish World Review March 10, 2000 /3 Adar II, 5760

Michelle Malkin

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Consumer Reports



Maria H, Granny D, and the media Z's -- Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.

Despite the Clinton-Gore machine's best efforts to rig the outcome, Buddhist bagwoman Maria Hsia got her comeuppance in federal court last week. A jury in liberal Washington, D.C., convicted the Los Angeles immigration consultant last week on five felony counts related to more than $100,000 in illegal contributions to Democratic candidates. The take included $65,000 in straw donations, which Hsia had funneled through monks and nuns the day after Vice President Al Gore's 1996 visit to the Hsi Lai Buddhist temple in southern California.

How did the national broadcast media react to this stunning verdict? In a word: "Zzzzz."

The D.C.-based Media Research Center reports that ABC's World News Tonight spent a grand total of 19 seconds on the story; CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather gave it 23 seconds; and NBC Nightly News ignored the verdict altogether.

On opening day of Hsia's trial last month, I thought I'd have to wade through a crush of cameras to get inside the courtroom. The only people camped outside the federal courthouse were beggars. GOP officials rightly blame ideological neglect for the skimpy TV coverage. ''If (Hsia) had been a Republican operative who had brought money to a Republican candidate, there would have been an absolute uproar in the media and there should have been in this case," noted Republican National Committee chairman Jim Nicholson.

ABC News spokeswoman Eileen Murphy dismissed Nicholson's call for a nationwide protest: ''It's politics,'' she said. Who's playing politics? While downplaying the Hsia verdict and its damage to what's left of Al Gore's credibility, ABC and the other major networks devoted plenty of airtime to a far more trivial, and less threatening, campaign finance story: the march of Doris "Granny D" Haddock.

The 90–year-old grandmother trekked 3,000 miles from California to Washington in the name of banning soft money and passing more ineffective laws. ABC's Good Morning America, NBC's Today Show, and CBS's Charles Osgood all profiled Granny D's "heartwarming" effort to "humanize" campaign finance reform. But what could bring home the message of real campaign finance reform more clearly than the sordid fate of Gore's good friend, Maria H.?

Straight reporting on the enforcement of existing laws is apparently too "political" for network execs and blow-dried news anchors.

Instead of airing puff pieces on quixotic crusades by misguided grandmas in tennis shoes, derelict network newshounds could perform a meaningful public service by investigating the myriad loose ends left untied in the Hsia case:

  • Judicial funny business. Chief D.C. federal judge Norma Holloway Johnson, a Clinton appointee, bypassed the court's normal random assignment process in assigning the Hsia case to fellow Clinton appointee Paul Friedman. Friedman initially dismissed all but one felony counts against Hsia, only to be overruled by a higher appeals court. He disallowed crucial grand-jury testimony to be introduced at trial. Nor did Friedman immediately enter a judgment of conviction, which usually follows a jury verdict.

    Now he has postponed setting a date for Hsia's sentencing until after he hears defense arguments on May 15 for a judgment of acquittal. And next month, this clearly biased judge is set to preside over the case of Thai lobbyist Pauline Kanchanalak, another Democrat fund-raiser accused of funneling foreign donations.

    Why aren't the media watchdogs watching the Clinton-Gore cronies in black robes?

  • Those fugitive nuns. Two key temple witnesses caught up in Hsia's illegal reimbursement scheme destroyed documents related to the fund-raising scandal, according to the Justice Department. The nuns vanished on a "retreat" in Taiwan; the Justice Department has yet to indict them. Surely, there's a globe-trotting TV talking head out there curious enough and capable of tracking them down?

  • The Teflon temple. It is illegal for tax-exempt religious organizations like the Hsi Lai temple to make campaign donations; such political activity also jeopardizes eligibility for the "religious worker visa program," which makes it easier for temple adherents to come to the U.S. Where are federal tax and immigration officials? Why has this money-laundering temple, like Gore, escaped sustained scrutiny and accountability?

It is not too late for the broadcast media to wake up and cover the corruption.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.


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02/24/00: Zoning out religious freedom
02/15/00: The Baby Brain Boondoggle
02/10/00: Buddhist temple untouchables
02/08/00: CDC: Caught Devouring Cash
02/04/00: Hillary's poisoned poster child
02/01/00: Corporate welfare on ice
01/28/00: The silly sound of silence
01/26/00: The Old Media meltdown
01/20/00: The pied pipers of KidCare
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06/15/99: Making a biblical argument against federal death taxes

© 2000, Creators Syndicate