Ghosts of 2008 campaign
In between Clinton’s two public appearances this past week came unexpected news, which grew out of a long-standing federal investigation into political corruption in the capital city, particularly the activities of Washington businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson.
As first reported in The Washington Post this past week, investigators have been looking into Thompson’s role in financing a shadow campaign set up to aid Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid.
At a moment in early 2008, when Clinton’s campaign was in trouble and in debt, her advisers were approached by Troy White, a New York marketing executive and music promoter, who wanted to set up “street teams” to help build support for Clinton in several states with upcoming primaries. According to court documents and subsequent reporting by Post reporters, the offer was rejected by Guy Cecil, the campaign’s national political director.
Then, through the intercession of Minyon Moore, a senior adviser to Clinton, White’s services were enlisted, not under the Clinton campaign umbrella but for a separate and seemingly secret operation. Thompson, who is under investigation for allegedly financing a secret operation for the D.C. mayoral campaign of Vincent C. Gray (D), reportedly provided $600,000 in financing.
Clinton campaign officials and Moore have been cooperating fully with federal prosecutors, who are believed to be focused on building a case against Thompson, not going after Clinton’s campaign. Moore is a veteran of Democratic politics and campaigns and well regarded in Democratic circles. She is not a target of prosecutors, and her attorneys think that if she made a mistake, it may have been in assuming that all of what White was doing was being handled properly.
Repeat of past mistakes?
All that aside, this window into Clinton’s campaign has again pointed to systemic problems that plagued her first bid for the White House and could do so again if she runs in 2016, unless she structures her operation differently.
What has made some Democrats wince is the portrait that emerges of a Clinton campaign in which decisions did not stick, campaign leaders operated without clear lines of authority and there were endless avenues for end runs, second guessing and freelancing.
“They had a lot of wildcatting going on,” said a veteran of past Democratic presidential campaigns who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “If that happens in ’16, it doesn’t augur well.”
Clinton is neither in the fray nor fully out, enjoying a kind of best-of-all-worlds existence as she looks toward a time when she must truly decide whether to seek the presidency. Meanwhile, some nagging questions remain that her Democratic allies hope will be addressed as she weighs the bigger decision.
For previous columns by Dan Balz,
go to postpolitics.com.