Hillary Clinton races against deadline to erase campaign debt

By Carol Eisenberg

December 5, 2008 at 5:26pm

Hillary and Bill Clinton have stepped up their efforts to retire millions of dollars in campaign debt from her failed bid for the White House before she becomes the nation’s top diplomat.

At the beginning of November, Clinton still owed $7.5 million to vendors who supplied her campaign - of which $5.3 million is owed to the polling firm of longtime political strategist Mark Penn.

  • On Tuesday, a day after Obama named Clinton, Bill Clinton sent an e-mail to supporters asking them to send a note of congratulations to his wife and including a link so they could help reduce her debt.
  • Both Clintons will take part in a Dec. 15 “conversation” with “Ugly Betty” actress and Hillary Clinton supporter America Ferrera, at the Manhattan Center. The invitation says supporters who recruit at least 10 people to give the maximum $1,000 donation will get a “VIP seat upgrade and backstage photo with Hillary.”
  • The New York senator also plans to sell a children’s book, Dreams Taking Flight by Kathleen Krull, about her pioneering candidacy. Clinton’s mother, Dorothy Rodham, planned to send an e-mail to supporters later this week asking them to purchase the book to help raise funds to reduce her daughter’s debt.
  • Vice President-elect Joseph Biden also sent an email to supporters today, asking them to contribute to Clinton to honor “an outstanding commitment we made during the election.”

The large portion of the debt owed to the firm of Mark Penn, has reportedly complicated fund-raising efforts since some Clinton supporters blame Penn for her campaign’s failures, while Obama supporters resent his comments about the president-elect.

But the effort to defray the debt will only become more difficult. After Clinton becomes secretary of state, the federal Hatch Act would greatly limit her ability to solicit money.

A 2001 advisory opinion by the federal Office of Special Counsel said a federal employee with a campaign debt would be prohibited from “personally soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions.” That means Clinton’s political committee could keep raising money to pay off her creditors, but without her direct involvement.

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