Clinton Campaign $22.5 Million In Debt at the End of Last Month

By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to return to Senate politics next week, now that her run for the Democratic presidential nomination is over, but a campaign finance filing made plain last night that the effects of that losing effort will continue to weigh on her political future.

Clinton's campaign was $22.5 million in debt at the end of May, $3 million more than a month earlier. More than half of the latest debt ($12.2 million) was owed to the candidate herself.

Clinton received $12.6 million in contributions in May, and she had $3.4 million cash on hand left for primary spending. She also had $23.3 million for the general election, money she cannot use to pay off her primary debt.

Clinton has shunned most public appearances since her departure from the race on June 7, but she is expected to campaign with Sen. Barack Obama at a pair of events late next week, the first joint public events for the former rivals.

On Thursday night, Clinton will introduce Obama to a group of her top donors at the Mayflower Hotel in the District, a bid to smooth relations between her supporters and the presumptive Democratic nominee. She is also scheduled to speak that day to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.

Clinton is expected to return to Capitol Hill early in the week, according to a senior Democratic aide, and could appear on the Senate floor as early as Tuesday morning to vote on a housing crisis bailout package. Votes are expected later in the week on a sweeping new surveillance bill that would effectively shield telecommunications companies from privacy lawsuits, and a war funding bill that also includes new education benefits for veterans. Clinton, and possibly Obama, could be present for both.

"A week from today, you will have seen [Clinton] at the Capitol," her spokesman Philippe Reines said by e-mail yesterday.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said that next Friday's joint appearance may be limited to one event but that the campaign is not ready to announce details.

Speaking to reporters yesterday in Jacksonville, Fla., Obama defended his decision a day earlier to opt out of the federal financing system for the general election after pledging to seek a deal with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to use public as opposed to private money. McCain continued to bash Obama on the issue yesterday, accusing him of breaking his word and saying the decision compromised his claim to credentials as a reformer.

But the decision is almost certain to give Obama an enormous financial advantage in the final eight weeks of the race. While McCain will be restricted to spending the $84.1 million that public financing will provide, Obama can raise and spend as much as he can. The Obama campaign reports that he has already attracted at least 1.5 million donors, and Clinton could ask her donors to redirect to Obama the general-election money she must return. Some political observers believe he could amass $300 million or more to spend on the general election.

The Obama campaign announced last night that it raised $22 million in May, a relatively small sum compared with his previous totals -- he raised $55 million in February -- but still $1 million more than McCain's May total of $21 million, the best showing so far for the Republican. McCain finished May with just under $32 million in the bank, compared with Obama's $43 million, although about $10 million of Obama's total can be spent only after the party's nominating convention in August.

At his news conference, Obama said he had opted out to preserve his ability to compete with independent conservative groups he expected to challenge him, although no such well-funded national organizations have materialized.

He asserted that his fundraising rules, which bar contributions from federal lobbyists and political action committees, represent meaningful campaign finance reform.

When a reporter pointed to the dearth of well-heeled, GOP-aligned independent groups emerging, Obama responded by asserting that they could "pop up pretty quickly and have enormous influence," adding: "And we've already seen them -- and there was an ad run in South Dakota . . . where it took a speech that I had made, extolling faith, and made it seem as if I had said that America was a Muslim nation."

He continued, "We've already seen attacks on my wife from, you know, the Tennessee Republican Party. I don't think I'm off the wall here to see that, you know, there are a lot of outside groups that are potentially going to be going after us hard."

Later, speaking to supporters at a Jacksonville fundraiser, Obama said of Republicans, "We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid. They're going to try to make you afraid of me: 'He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black? He's got a feisty wife.' "

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