Thursday, September 13, 2007

Money for Nuthin’ (Updated With Latest Breaking Jason Yoo News, Correction of Misspelling of Our Own Councilmember's Name)

The Wall Street Journal, which is down like white on rice (’scuse us) on Democratic Party benefactor and recently apprehended fugitive Norman Hsu, revealed Wednesday that at least one possible source of the mysterious Chinaman’s heretofore inexplicable largesse was $40 million from a fund headed by Joel Rosenman, an investment banker who, as the WSJ put it, “first gained fame as one of the creators of the Woodstock rock festival in 1969.”

Yeah! Wooden Ships on the Water! This is turning into a story imagined by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity during a night of heavy drinking.

According to the Journal, the Rosenman-run fund, Source Financing, entered into 37 separate deals with Mr. Hsu but recently found that checks from Hsu’s Components Ltd. were being returned for insufficient funds. Hsu’s attraction for Rosenman was understandable:

Hsu told Mr. Rosenman the money would be used to manufacture apparel in China for Gucci, Prada and other private labels, yielding a 40% profit on each deal [our emphasis] …
The Journal obtained a pitch letter from Rosenman outlining the deal for prospective investors, in which the Woodstock majordomo related that the funds would be lent

“ … to U.S. private label designers that needed interim financing to fill orders for a select group of well-known, high-end U.S. apparel retailers."

… In a "step-by-step" outline of a typical transaction prepared for investors, Source Financing describes the way a deal worked with Mr. Hsu. Source Financing would agree to provide bridge loans for seasonal high-ticket, high-quality retail goods made in China for exclusive brand names, according to investors. Mr. Hsu told the company that he would obtain from Chinese manufacturers a price quote for apparel production. He would then add a mark-up and give the quote to a high-end buyer in the U.S.
Now, the Journal reports, Mr. Rosenman’s attorney is asking that the many Democratic beneficiaries of Mr. Hsu’s generosity not return the tainted (and in some cases, it would appear, illegal) campaign donations so that Source Financing and investors in other apparently non-existent Hsu ventures can recoup some of their losses. "It appears that Source Financing Investors joins Hillary Clinton...and many others as his victims," the lawyer says of the presidential candidate for whom Hsu raised $850,000 before he ran out of suckers.


On second thought this story isn’t just a wet dream for right-wing talk hosts---it ties together almost everything that’s gone wrong with America for the past 25-30 years in one not-so-neat and still-developing narrative. Stay tuned, and beware.

Closer to home (yet oh so far away), the Chronicle’s Carolyn Feibel reported that Houston Mayor Bill White, who is said to harbor gubernatorial if not presidential aspirations, is involved in a move to unilaterally extend a “lucrative” food-sales concession at Bush Intercontinental without “a potentially messy competitive bid process.” The beneficiary of this extension would be Jason Yoo, described by the newspaper as “a local businessman” who owns JDDA Concession Management. Yoo has donated at least $28,000 in campaign funds to eight council members and $1,260 to White in the last four years, according to Feibel.

A council vote on the extension has been delayed a week by Councilmember Anne Clutterbuck, who wants the franchise to franchise outlets that sell extortionately overpriced food and drink at Terminal C put up for bid. White says he agreed to negotiate an amended contract with JDDA at the urging of some council members, whom Feibel identified as Jarvis Johnson and Michael Berry. (Update: In a Thursday follow-up Feibel and colleague Matt Stiles add the name of our very own representative on council, M.J. Khan, to the list of Yoo sponsors. Yoo, who according to the Chronicle urped up $4,000 in campaign funds for Khan, is listed as “president, construction co.” in the list of endorsements the councilman is touting in his re-election bid.) The mayor contends he’s wrangled a much better deal than if the city were to seek bids.

That may be so, but we didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or have our self voluntarily committed after reading the council members’ justifications for the extension:

"They had, I guess, a slump in business," said Berry, who received a $5,000 contribution from Yoo in 2005. "And they didn't think it was fair that the contract was up as soon as it was."

JDDA purchased the contract from the previous vendor, Entertainment One Inc., in 2005, but the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and renovations at Terminal C meant lower-than-expected revenues, according to JDDA's attorney, Robert Miller.

Johnson said the extension was the "right thing for the city to do," since food sales declined during the airport renovations.

"The new deal gives us what we need. It also gives the city more income," the councilman said. Johnson received a $2,000 contribution from Yoo this May. Yoo's daughter also worked briefly on Johnson's staff in early 2006. But Johnson and Berry denied any political favors or conflict of interest.
Yes, sure: Jason Yoo and his JDDA, a 65-percent minority-owned business, are victims of circumstance, much like Hillary Clinton and Rosenman of Woostock fame. And what about the legions of suckers who didn’t read or couldn’t understand the fine print in their mortgages … don’t they deserve an extension? Life is soooo unfair.

By the way---for those of us who don’t spend a lot of time loitering at City Hall---who is Jason Yoo?

Is he the same Jason Yoo listed on the steering committee of Friends of the Airport?

The same Jason Woo who founded HBS Construction, a certified Miniorty/Women-owned Business Enterprise and Historically Underutilized Business? (A designation apparently granted to make up for years of discrimination against Korean-Americans.)

The same Jason Yoo listed as a Friend of Bill?

The same Jason Yoo who dropped a grand on Clutterbuck, which the council member told Feibel she’s considering returning “but for reasons unrelated to the airport contract, which she declined to discuss.” Do tell, council lady: it’s the public’s business. Perhaps Clutterbuck has performed some kind of due diligence. We sure hope White has: Democrats need to be extra picky about their “friends” these days.

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