Clinton’s debt becomes State issue

Kai Ryssdal Dec 5, 2008

Clinton’s debt becomes State issue

Kai Ryssdal Dec 5, 2008


Kai Ryssdal: This is Marketplace from American Public Media. I’m Kai Ryssdal. Just when you thought you were done with campaign finance stories for another four years, Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s gone and ruined your day. Not just him, really — his boss and Hillary Clinton, too.

Backing up an Obama campaign promise, today Biden sent out an e-mail blast asking supporters to help retire Senator Clinton’s campaign debts. She still owes more than $7 million.

It’s kind of a problem for her because assuming she’s confirmed as Secretary of State, there are laws that say she can’t go out and raise the money herself.

To help figure out what options the Senator has we’ve called Jeanne Cummings again. She writes for Politico. Jeanne, good to have you here.

Jeanne Cummings: Thank you for having me.

Ryssdal: All right Jeanne, I can think of two possible sources of money that Hillary Clinton has right now. One is her Senate re-election campaign account. First of all, why can’t she use some of that?

Cummings: Well, she had already transferred her balance into her presidential campaign and so much of that money was already absorbed.

Ryssdal: The other source of money I can think of that she might have some access to is from the guy who won the race, who we learned last night, has raised $750 million through the course of the campaign. He, though, can’t really use that money, right?

Cummings: He needed the campaigns with $30 million in the bank, but the trouble is if he were to give money to her, he would have to do it under the limits of donations, because it would count as a political donation. So, he could only give her $2,300.

Ryssdal: And that’s really not going to help very much is it?

Cummings: No, that won’t help. However, if he headlined an event for her and a lot of people showed up with that kind of money, he could raise some money pretty quickly.

Ryssdal: What’s your take on the Clintons as fundraisers? Are they effective at going out there and asking people for their money?

Cummings: They’re very effective at it and that’s why I think if she’s determined to wipe this off, the two of them, she and her husband, could do so very quickly. They’re big personalities, they have a great sense of loyalty with the party activists, the party base — they know all the big fundraisers in the party, they know all the really wealthy people in the party and so they can tap into all of those networks and probably raise, you know, several million dollars in really short order.

Ryssdal: What happens if she doesn’t get this done for some reason?

Cummings: Well, that’s a really good question. And I think if she stiffs some of these vendors, that’s a kind of reputation that sticks with a candidate — not a good thing to leave people handing out there, especially small businesses and that sort of thing. Even during the campaign we had, when we did an early story about how she was postponing a lot of these payments, what we discovered is that certain vendors in Iowa and New Hampshire were calling ahead to people they knew in South Carolina and later states and warning them to get their cash upfront. So this business community can talk to each other and you don’t want to leave a lot of hard feelings behind.

Ryssdal: Jeanne Cummings covered politics and money for Politico. Jeanne thanks a lot.

Cummings: You’re welcome.

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