U.S. v. Hsia

Decision Date10 September 1998
Docket NumberNo. Crim. 98-0057(PLF).,Crim. 98-0057(PLF).
Citation24 F.Supp.2d 33
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, v. Maria HSIA, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Nancy Luque, Reed Smith Shaw & McClay, Washington, DC, for Defendant.


PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, District Judge.

This case is before the Court on defendant's Motion No. 1 (to Dismiss the Indictment for Violation of Due Process), Motion No. 2 (to Dismiss Counts in the Indictment for Their Positive Repugnance to the Federal Election Campaign Act), Motion No. 3 (to Dismiss Count 1 of the Indictment for Failure to State an Offense), Motion No. 5 (to Dismiss Counts 2 through 6 for Failure to State an Offense (Causation)), Motion No. 6 (to Dismiss Counts 2 through 6 for Failure to State an Offense (False Statements)), Motion No. 7 (to Dismiss Count 4 and 5 for Failure to State an Offense (Soft Money)), Motion No. 9 (to Dismiss Indictment Because it Offends the First Amendment) and Motion No. 10 (to Dismiss Indictment Because It Selectively Prosecutes Maria Hsia). For the reasons discussed below, the Court dismisses Counts 2-6, the false statements counts, and denies all other motions.1


Maria Hsia has been indicted on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States by impairing and impeding the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") and the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS"), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and five counts of causing others to file false statements with the FEC, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 and 2(b). All six counts are predicated on political campaign solicitations by Ms. Hsia that allegedly involved the use of "conduit" contributors to hide the "true" or "actual" sources of the funds in violation of various provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act ("FECA"), 2 U.S.C. §§ 431, et seq.

FECA provides a detailed and comprehensive scheme to regulate the financing of federal elections by, among other things, limiting contributions to electoral campaigns and requiring candidates to report receipts and expenditures. Of specific relevance to this case, FECA provides that "[n]o person shall make contributions" that exceed certain limits set forth in the statute, 2 U.S.C. § 441a; that "[n]o person shall make a contribution in the name of another person or knowingly permit his name to be used to effect such a contribution," 2 U.S.C. § 441f; and that it is unlawful for "any corporation whatever ... to make a contribution or expenditure in connection with any election at which presidential or vice presidential electors or a Senator or Representative in, or a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, Congress are to be voted for, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any of the foregoing offices." 2 U.S.C. § 441b(a).

A "contribution" is defined by the statute, in relevant part, as "money or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office." See 2 U.S.C. § 431(8)(A) (emphasis added).2 Because most of FECA's restrictions apply only to funds contributed "for the purpose of influencing any election for Federal office," many political committees have set up separate accounts for money that has been donated: money that has been contributed subject to the proscriptions of FECA ("hard money") is deposited into a "federal" account and is used to finance federal election campaigns, while all other money that is donated ("soft money") is deposited into a "non-federal" account and is used for, among other things, state and local campaigns or issue advertising.

FECA requires "political committees," including national political parties, to exert "best efforts" to identify each person who made "contribution[s]" in the aggregate annual amount of $200 or more and to report that information to the FEC. 2 U.S.C. §§ 432(i), 434. FEC regulations require national political party committees to report any receipt of funds over $200, regardless of whether the funds are deemed "hard" or "soft" money. 11 C.F.R. § 104.8(a), (e). The statute charges the Federal Election Commission with the administration of FECA and grants the FEC exclusive jurisdiction over civil enforcement. 2 U.S.C. § 437c. It provides for both civil and criminal enforcement, and specifies criminal penalties for certain violations, up to a maximum of one year imprisonment and/or a fine. 2 U.S.C. § 437g(d). The Department of Justice prosecutes criminal violations of the statute. 2 U.S.C. § 437g(a)(5)(C).

Count 1 of the indictment charges that Ms. Hsia, a Buddhist, conspired with the International Buddhist Progress Society ("IBPS"), a tax-exempt religious organization doing business as the Hsi Lai Temple (the "Temple"), and other unnamed co-conspirators to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, impeding and defeating the lawful functions and duties of the FEC and the INS in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.3 The indictment alleges that Ms. Hsia solicited IBPS to make contributions and donations through "conduits" (some of whom were monks, nuns and volunteers from IBPS) and that Ms. Hsia in some instances acted as a conduit for donations or contributions. The indictment alleges that Ms. Hsia (1) impaired and impeded the FEC by concealing the fact that IBPS was the true source of the contributions, and (2) impaired and impeded the INS by submitting documents to the INS stating that IBPS was not participating in political campaigns so that the INS would permit foreign nuns and monks associated with IBPS to enter or remain in the United States when she knew that IBPS in fact was making political contributions.

Counts 2-6 charge Ms. Hsia with causing the making of false statements to the FEC in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 1001. These counts appear to be based on conduct similar to (if not the same as) that alleged in Count 1. The indictment alleges that Ms. Hsia knowingly and willfully caused various political committees to submit material false statements to the FEC by concealing the identity of the true source of contributions from the committees which relayed the false information to the FEC. Each count addresses a different report submitted to the FEC by a political committee which allegedly contained false statements about the identity of actual contributors. Count 2 pertains to a July 18, 1995 report and Count 3 to an October 17, 1995 report by the Clinton-Gore '96 Committee; Count 4 relates to an April 15, 1996 report and Count 5 to a July 15, 1996 report by the Democratic National Committee; and Count 6 pertains to an October 24, 1996 report by the Patrick Kennedy Committee. Counts 2 and 3 do not identify the actual source of the contributions, but Counts 4-6 allege that IBPS was the actual contributor. Counts 2-6 all allege that Ms. Hsia solicited the contributions at issue, but only Count 6 alleges that Ms. Hsia herself wrote a contribution check for which she was reimbursed by IBPS.

A. Defendant's Motion To Dismiss Indictment For Its Positive Repugnance to the Federal Election Campaign Act

Ms. Hsia argues that the Federal Election Campaign Act, 2 U.S.C. § 431, et seq., impliedly repeals the more general provisions of the Federal Criminal Code, specifically the false statements statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1001, and the conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371. This Court already has ruled that under accepted principles of statutory construction, repeals by implication are not favored and there must be substantial evidence that Congress expressly intended to preempt a general statute with a more specific statutory scheme in order to deprive a prosecutor of discretion to determine on which of a variety of seemingly applicable statutes to base a prosecution. Under this traditional analysis, FECA does not impliedly repeal or preempt the more general criminal statutes on which the prosecutor and grand jury have proceeded. See United States v. Trie, Criminal No. 98-0029, 1998 WL 427550, at *9 (D.D.C. July 17, 1998). Ms. Hsia maintains, however, that because the conduct regulated by FECA is political speech subject to First Amendment protection and because Congress carefully crafted and later amended FECA in order to avoid infringing on First Amendment rights, FECA necessarily occupies the field and impliedly repealed more general criminal statutes that are not tailored to protect First Amendment rights of political speech and association.

18 U.S.C. § 371 and 18 U.S.C. § 1001 broadly proscribe criminal conduct and have been applied in a wide range of circumstances. FECA, on the other hand, specifically proscribes certain conduct in the context of federal elections and provides both civil and criminal penalties for certain violations of the Act. 2 U.S.C. § 437g(d). The government does not argue that FECA's criminal provisions are unavailable to it in prosecuting Ms. Hsia. Rather, it argues that the more general criminal provisions also are available regardless of whether FECA provides a criminal penalty for the charged conduct and that the government has the discretion to decide under which statutes to proceed, the misdemeanor provisions of FECA or the felony provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and 18 U.S.C. § 1001. It relies on the established principle that "whether to prosecute and what charge to file or bring before a grand jury are decisions that generally rest in the prosecutor's discretion." United States v. Batchelder, 442 U.S. 114, 124, 99 S.Ct. 2198, 60 L.Ed.2d 755 (1979). See also Bordenkircher v. Hayes, 434 U.S. 357, 364, 98 S.Ct. 663, 54 L.Ed.2d 604 (1978); United States v. Moore, 423 U.S. 122, 138, 96 S.Ct. 335, 46 L.Ed.2d 333 (1975).

Ordinarily, general criminal provisions remain available to supplement a specific statutory scheme unless there is evidence...

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    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 171 No. 1, December 2022
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