Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign said yesterday that it would give to charity $23,000 it had received from a prominent Democratic donor, and review thousands of dollars more that he had raised, after learning that the authorities in California had a warrant for his arrest stemming from a 1991 fraud case.
The donor, Norman Hsu, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates since 2003, and was slated to be co-host next month for a Clinton gala featuring the entertainer Quincy Jones.
The event would not have been unusual for Mr. Hsu, a businessman from Hong Kong who moves in circles of power and influence, serving on the board of a university in New York and helping to bankroll Democratic campaigns.
But what was not widely known was that Mr. Hsu, who is in the apparel business in New York, has been considered a fugitive since he failed to show up in a San Mateo County courtroom about 15 years ago to be sentenced for his role in a scheme to defraud investors, according to the California attorney general’s office.
Mr. Hsu had pleaded no contest to one count of grand theft and was facing up to three years in prison.
The travails of Mr. Hsu have proved an embarrassment for the Clinton campaign, which has strived to project an image of rectitude in its fund-raising and to dispel any lingering shadows of past episodes of tainted contributions.
Already, Mrs. Clinton’s opponents were busy trying to rekindle remembrances of the 1996 Democratic fund-raising scandals, in which Asian moneymen were accused of funneling suspect donations into Democratic coffers as President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were running for re-election.
Some Clinton donors said yesterday that they did not expect the Hsu matter to hurt Mrs. Clinton unless a pattern of problematic fund-raising or compromised donors emerged, which would raise questions about the campaign’s vetting of donors. Mr. Hsu’s legal problems were first reported yesterday by The Los Angeles Times; The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday about his bundling of questionable contributions.
“Everyone is trying to make the implications that it’s Chinese money, that it’s the Al Gore thing all over again, but I haven’t seen any proof of that,” said John A. Catsimatidis, a leading donor and fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton in New York.
Some donations connected to Mr. Hsu raise questions about his bundling activities, although there is no evidence he did anything improper. The Wall Street Journal reported that contributors he solicited included members of an extended family in Daly City, Calif., who had given $213,000 to candidates since 2004, even though some of them did not appear to have much money.
A lawyer for Mr. Hsu, E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., has said that Mr. Hsu was not the source of any of the money he raised from other people, which would be a violation of federal election laws.
On his own, Mr. Hsu wrote checks totaling $255,970 to a variety of Democratic candidates and committees since 2004. Even though he was a bundler for Mrs. Clinton, his largess was spread across the Democratic Party and included $5,000 to the political action committee of Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois.
Last month, Mr. Hsu was among the honored guests at a fund-raiser for Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, Democrat of Rhode Island, given by Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group at the New York Yacht Club.
Al Franken, a Democratic Senate candidate in Minnesota, said he would divest his campaign of Mr. Hsu’s donations, as did Representatives Michael M. Honda and Doris O. Matsui of California and Representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, all Democrats.
Mr. Hsu’s success on the political circuit was not always matched by success in business.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Mr. Hsu came to the United States when he was 18 to attend the University of California, Berkeley, as a computer science major. He later received an M.B.A. at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, according to a brief biography that appeared in apparel industry trade publications in 1986.
With a group of partners from Hong Kong, Mr. Hsu started a sportswear company in 1982 called Laveno that went bankrupt two years later, not long after he left the company. From that, he cycled through several other enterprises, mostly men’s sportswear, under the Wear This, Base and Foreign Exchange labels.
Mr. Hsu’s career hit a low in 1989, when he began raising $1 million from investors as part of a plan to buy and resell latex gloves.
Ronald Smetana, a lawyer with the California attorney general’s office, said Mr. Hsu was charged with stealing the investors’ money after it turned out he never bought any gloves and had no contract to resell them.
When Mr. Hsu was to attend a sentencing hearing, he faxed a letter to his lawyer saying he had to leave town for an emergency and asking that the court date be rescheduled, Mr. Smetana said.
He failed to show up for the rescheduled appearance, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. That was the last that prosecutors saw of Mr. Hsu.
“We assumed he would go back to Hong Kong, where he could recede into anonymity,” Mr. Smetana said.
The California attorney general’s office declined to comment on how it intends to pursue Mr. Hsu.
Mr. Hsu issued a statement yesterday, saying he was “surprised to learn that there appears to be an outstanding warrant” and insisting that he had “not sought to evade any of my obligations and certainly not the law.”
“I would not consciously subject any of the candidates and causes in which I believe to any harm through my actions,” he said.
At some point, Mr. Hsu resurfaced in New York, where he was connected to several clothing-related businesses, according to campaign finance records, which list his occupation variously as an apparel consultant, clothing designer, retailer or company president. He also began to donate to the Democratic Party, and arranged for friends to do the same.
He has been referred to in news accounts of campaign fund-raising events as an “apparel magnate” and his quick rise in the New York political and social scene — as well as his open checkbook — catapulted him into the big leagues.
He became a trustee at the New School and was elected to the Board of Governors of Eugene Lang College there. He endowed a scholarship in his name at the college and was co-chairman of a benefit awards dinner in 2006 that featured Mrs. Clinton, who had secured a $950,000 earmark for a mentoring program at the college for disadvantaged city youths.
Asked yesterday about Mr. Hsu, Brian Krapf, a spokesman for the New School, said in a statement that “it is inappropriate to talk about a matter involving one of our trustees, particularly while we are still gathering all the facts.”
Patrick Healy contributed reporting.