Actress testifies at NY campaign corruption trial
NEW YORK — A television actress testified Wednesday about her real-life role in a campaign corruption scandal that has embarrassed some of the Democratic Party’s biggest names.
Susan Chilman told jurors at the federal trial in Manhattan of longtime fundraiser and admitted investment cheat Norman Hsu that she was completely clueless about the politicians she supported at his behest.
“I didn’t know who the candidates were,” Chilman said.
The prosecution witness — with roles in “Brothers & Sisters,” ”CSI Miami” and “ER” under the stage name Susan Pari — testified that in recent years she had given nearly $42,000 to Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democratic candidates.
Prosecutors say the defendant persuaded Chilman and other clients of his investment business to make thousands of dollars in donations so he could bypass rules limiting the amount any single individual or group can donate. It’s alleged that once they donated, he would reimburse them.
Once Chilman took out her checkbook, Hsu would simply give her a name and an amount, she said.
“If I didn’t know how to spell it, he would spell it,” she said.
Chilman was among several investors who have recounted how Hsu wowed them by showing off his political connections. Another witness has testified she met President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Bill Clinton, Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island at fundraisers she attended with him.
On Tuesday, prosecutors played a voicemail recording of Hillary Clinton effusively praising Hsu for his loyal support. After his 2007 arrest, the senator returned more than $800,000 to donors whose contributions were linked to him.
Hsu, 58, has pleaded not guilty to making illegal campaign contributions. His trial comes just days after he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of wire and mail fraud, admitting that he cheated investors of at least $20 million in a Ponzi scheme.
Prosecutors said he used investors’ money to pay off earlier investors and to live a lavish lifestyle that included lots of jewelry, fine wines and champagne, vintage clothing and four-star restaurants.