Following the money: a new campaign issue

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign is offering a daily peek into their presidential fundraising, reassuring donors and supporters and prodding them into maintaining a healthy rate of income.

Sen. Barack Obama’s camp on Friday demanded more than a peek, calling on Clinton to release her tax returns considering the $5 million loan she recently made to her campaign. The Clinton camp said she would make her returns public only if she is the Democratic Party’s eventual nominee.

“There’s an awful lot of information public about Senator Clinton’s finances,” spokesman Howard Wolfson said.

Clinton told an audience in Tacoma, Wash., Friday that her decision to lend the $5 million to her campaign had been a good investment, in part because it triggered a huge wave of new donations.

“When a friend of mine heard I’d loaned my campaign some money, she said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me you needed help. Of course we’ll be there for you,’” Clinton told supporters at a rally at the University of Puget Sound, where she picked up the endorsement of the American Nurses Association.

Since Super Tuesday, Clinton has been raising money at a rapid clip. Wolfson said Friday the campaign has taken in more than $8.4 million from 75,000 new online contributors since the Feb. 5 contests, and more than $10 million total since Feb 1.

Even with the new rush of donations, Clinton has struggled to keep pace with Barack Obama, who brought in $32 million in January to Clinton’s $13.5 million and has also seen a huge money uptick online this month.

Obama’s fundraising got a significant boost in January following the endorsement of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. Kerry has a massive e-mail list of 3 million people that he tapped with a fundraising appeal for Obama on Jan. 10. Likewise, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts raised money for Obama through his 250,000-person e-mail list.

“We have in the last several days considerably closed that gap,” Wolfson said. “And this is a very important development for us going forward.”

Clinton began airing ads Thursday in Washington and Nebraska, which hold caucuses on Saturday, and in Maine, where Democrats will caucus on Sunday. She began airing ads Friday in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, all of which hold primaries on Tuesday. Obama has been advertising in all those states and in Louisiana since last week.

Clinton lent $5 million to her campaign late last month, money the campaigns said she took from her share of joint resources she holds with her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Her financial disclosures, listed only in broad ranges, place their wealth between $10 million and $50 million.

“For someone who claims to be fully vetted, hiding a campaign loan from voters until after Super Tuesday and refusing to release your tax returns until after the primary doesn’t seem like the best way to prove that there are no surprises for the Republicans to find once they start digging,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Friday.

A day earlier, Obama had stopped short of saying Clinton should release her returns.

“I’ll just say that I’ve released my tax returns,” he told reporters on a flight to Omaha, Neb. “That’s been a policy I’ve maintained consistently. I think the American people deserve to know where you get your income from.”

Wolfson reacted by demanding Obama provide more information about his past links to indicted Chicago businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko who raised money for past Obama political campaigns and played a role in the purchase of Obama’s home. Obama has not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with fraud charges against Rezko.

“There’s a lot of information about the relationship between Senator Obama and Tony Rezko that is not known,” Wolfson said. “Senator Obama could do that at anytime. It would clear up a lot of questions that media has asked, that voters want to know about. If disclosure is something that he’s interested in, he’s welcome to go forward.”

Obama’s campaign has given to charity nearly $150,000 in contributions received by Obama’s House and Senate campaigns that came from Rezko, his employees, his associates and his family.

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Associated Press Writer Jim Kuhnhenn reported from Washington.

One Response to "Following the money: a new campaign issue"

  1. SEAL  February 9, 2008 at 10:59 am

    The Clinton camp must really be frustrated. The only piece of possible dirt they can think of to use against Obama is his past association with a man who is now alleged to be dishonest. When the issue first came out Obama was forthright and open and established that he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing by Rezko. But every 30 days we hear the same questions from Clinton’s people about it.

    This and their continued use of Barak’s middle name “hussien” in their references to him shows just how cheap and desperate they are.

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