Team Obama Helped Clinton Retire 2008 Campaign Debt
Bloomberg’s Joshua Green reports on “Obama’s Parting Gift to Hillary Clinton.”
Last week campaign disclosure reports revealed that Hillary Clinton had finally retired the debt from her 2008 presidential campaign—with a little help from the guy who beat her, Barack Obama. Clinton’s debt once totaled more than $20 million, although it had dwindled to about $250,000 by last year. That’s when a team of top Obama donors decided to surprise Clinton, and thank her for her loyal service, by raising enough money to pay off her bills. As secretary of state, she was forbidden from political fundraising.
According to a person involved in the effort who did not want to be named talking about internal fundraising strategy, the effort was launched last April by Steve Spinner, a California finance chairman for the Obama campaign; Jane Stetson, the former Democratic National Committee finance chairwoman; and Henry Munoz, the incoming DNC finance chairman. The challenge was tougher than it may appear, since it required a particular kind of donor. In order not to run afoul of campaign finance laws, the Obama team had to find people who had not already given Clinton the 2008 maximum primary donation of $2,300 or maxed out their total federal candidate donations during the 2012 cycle ($46,200). And of course, those people also had to be warmly disposed toward Clinton and still have plenty of free cash on hand.
The team found them by assigning an intern to comb through the records at OpenSecrets.org and see who still had room to give. In the end, it took the checkbooks of about 120 people and several months to retire the debt—I’m told the last check arrived in early July. And as it turned out, the Obama folks substantially overshot the mark. Clinton’s campaign, which has not yet formally been shut down, now shows a surplus of about $205,000.
A half million dollars is a pretty sweet parting gift.
I’m vaguely queasy about this. It’s legal, although only through extreme care. And, certainly, the nature of our system is that politicians–including and up to the president himself–are constantly seeking private donations. But it seems strange to have an ostensibly apolitical public official be on the receiving end of that sort of largess, let alone with the arm twisting of the president.
This is yet another in a seemingly endless string of “the real crime is what’s legal” cases. It’s not the conduct of any of the players here that concerns me so much as the game.