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The Money Game

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Nice work if you can get it.

‘We’ve come a long way from Harry Truman,’ said Leon E. Panetta.” At long last, the Clintons release their tax returns (to Drudge first), and the total post-White House tally amounts to $109 million, “with the former president collecting nearly half of that money as a speaker hired at times by companies that have been among his wife’s most generous political supporters.” The numbers are still being parsed, and the connections to key members of Clintons’ post-presidential rogues gallery — Ron Burkle, Vinod Gupta, the Quellos Fund, etc. — itemized and assessed. Still, the news that leaps off the page here is [a] the Clintons have done very well for themselves since leaving the White House, and [b] speechifyin’ pays top dollar in certain circles. “Sen. Clinton’s financial disclosure forms have offered a glimpse into her husband’s speaking career and the nexus between his clients and her campaign donors. The New York investment giant Goldman Sachs paid him $650,000 for four speeches in recent years…On one day in Canada, he made $475,000 for two speeches, more than double his annual salary as president.

Now, how ’bout those Foundation records?

Affordability matters.

Among the debts reported this month by Hillary Clinton’s struggling presidential campaign, the $292,000 in unpaid health insurance premiums for her campaign staff stands out.” This was buried in a story over a month ago, but now it gets its own lede: While endlessly touting her insurance mandate as the be-all, end-all of health care reform, Sen. Clinton’s campaign hasn’t been paying the insurance bills. (This is in addition to screwing over local businesses and charities whenever possible, because apparently struggling mom-and-pop operations don’t need to be paid as quickly as corporate behemoths.)

Clinton donors: Our money, our rules.

We have been strong supporters of the DCCC. We therefore urge you to clarify your position on super-delegates and reflect in your comments a more open view to the optional independent actions of each of the delegates at the National Convention in August.” My, that’s classy. A group of twenty top Clinton fundraisers (among them Robert Johnson, of BET, drug hysteria, and estate tax fame) attempt to blackmail Speaker Pelosi into backing the Senator’s convention coup…or else!

Uh, did they not hear about Obama’s $55 million haul, overwhelmingly from small donors, last month, or the $32 million he made in January? Welcome to the 21st century, y’all: Fatcat donors who think their money trumps the will of voters have gone the way of Betamax, HD-DVD, Pets.com, and the landline. But, way to embarrass yourselves, and your candidate, by wildly overstating the importance of your lucre. Honestly, you might as well take your checks over to the GOP — I’m sure your credit’s good with them.

Where there’s smoke?

“‘What is the holdup?’ said Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks the role of money in politics. ‘She hasn’t exactly made it clear as to what process is making it so cumbersome to just release them.” Campaign finance watchdogs wonder aloud why Sen. Clinton still hasn’t released her tax returns for the past seven years. “‘This is a level of disclosure the American people have come to expect and deserve from those in the White House, or those who aspire to the White House,’ said Mary Boyle of Common Cause, a government reform advocacy group.” And let’s remember, we’re not talking about her 2007 returns, which may not yet be complete. We’re also talking about the previous six years, which should just be sitting on file, and would take all of five minutes to release to the public. That is, unless there’s something shady therein…

The Numbers Game: 55, 3, 76.

[It's] a humbling achievement, and I am very grateful for your support,” Obama said in another fundraising appeal. “No campaign has ever raised this much in a single month in the history of presidential primaries. But more important than the total is how we did it — more than 90 percent of donations were $100 or less.” The fundraising numbers for February are released, and Sen. Obama raised a record-breaking $55 million (i.e., a full $20 million more than Sen. Clinton.) In other good campaign news, Obama picked up three more supers today (to Clinton’s one: Barbara Boxer.) And TPM’s FlyontheWall explains why the 76 UADs (unpledged add-on delegates) further complicate Clinton’s situation. Did I mention this was over?

More Endorsers. | One Million Strong.

It’s been a long, hard and difficult struggle to come to where I am now.I’ll say…Rep. John Lewis officially switches to Obama. Also, North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan announced his backing of the Senator from Illinois today, bringing Obama’s superdelegate total to 200. (He still lags behind Sen. Clinton by 56 in the supers category, but has picked up a net total of +34 since Super Tuesday.) Finally, if you’re looking for more endorsements, there are at least 999,998 more of ‘em out there: The Obama campaign reaches one million individual donors, and counting. Update: When Rep. Lewis says this was a tough decision for him, he wasn’t kidding.

The Money Pit.

Hillary Clinton ended January with $7.6 million in debt – not including the $5 million personal loan she gave to her campaign in the run-up to the critical Super Tuesday elections, according to financial reports released Wednesday.” With the January FEC reports filed, Politico takes a look at the sinking fiscal ship that is the Clinton campaign. The key graphs: “According to the reports, Clinton raised about $20 million in January, including her loan. She spent nearly $29 million during the month. She reported a cash balance of $29 million. But more than $20 million of that is money dedicated to the general election. Her personal loan accounts for more than half of the remaining approximately $9 million, leaving just about $4 million in cash raised from donors. But even that money is illusionary when measured against the reported $7.6 million in debts.” So add that all up and you get: no money. (Hence, the fatcat 527.) But the silver lining for Sen. Clinton? At least she’s making interest on that loan.

Over at TNR, Christopher Orr emphasizes this finding from the piece: “More than $2 million of the red ink is owed to chief consultant and adviser, Mark Penn.” So that goes a long way toward explaining why he’s still employed over there these days, despite his obvious incompetence.

And a commenter in the same TNR thread teases out another key line buried in the article: “[T]he lengthy laundry list of IOUs also includes unpaid bills ranging from insurance coverage, phone banking, printing and catering at events in Iowa, New Hampshire and California.” Wait a tic: Sen. Clinton, she of the much-touted mandate, is now ducking the insurance bills? Hmm…maybe affordability is the real problem after all.

Update: Politico‘s Kenneth Vogel has more on where the money went, including $10 million to Mark Penn and $1300 to Dunkin Donuts.

Update 2: The NYT piles on the terrible financing issue: “Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s latest campaign finance report, published Wednesday night, appeared even to her most stalwart supporters and donors to be a road map of her political and management failings…’We didn’t raise all of this money to keep paying consultants who have pursued basically the wrong strategy for a year now,’ said a prominent New York donor. ‘So much about her campaign needs to change — but it may be too late.‘”

The Clinton Money Crunch.

We are very frustrated because we have a Supreme Court that seems determined to say that the wealthier have more right to free speech than the rest of us. For example, they say you couldn’t stop me from spending all the money I’ve saved over the last five years on Hillary’s campaign if I wanted to, even though it would clearly violate the spirit of campaign finance reform.

So said Bill Clinton only a little over a month ago. But, as per the norm with the Clinton campaign, things have now changed: Word leaks out that Senator Clinton is not only planning to self-finance her candidacy with personal “loans” (a la Mitt Romney), but that she already gave her campaign $5 million out-of-pocket last month. (Indeed, money’s gotten so tight around the Clinton camp that, according to Time‘s Mark Halperin, senior staff are now going without pay.)

Meanwhile, Sen. Obama is on pace for another $30 million month and has room to grow, mainly because he’s relying on a wider pool of small donors rather than (as per Senator Clinton) a smaller pool of maxed-out donors and an army of lobbyists. (Which reminds me, Senator Obama accepts donations here.)

I for one doubt Sen. Clinton’s campaign will really run out of cheddar. If anything, the campaign probably put the story out there so as to encourage their supporters to donate in the same fashion as Obama’s have. Still, this Clinton cash crunch further indicates how much of their election strategy was predicated on a Super Tuesday knockout punch. Having swung and missed, the Clinton camp is now nearing broke, and seriously hurting.

More to the point, even notwithstanding the inherent shadiness of self-financing, which no less than Bill Clinton attested to above, this move puts President Clinton’s penchant for troubling deals — such as his recent venture in Kazakhstan — right in the thick of things. Hard to ignore in any event, now this story comes front and center. If the Clintons are breaking into their private stash to get Senator Clinton elected, where did the money come from?

32 Large.

Obama’s one-month tally is the most ever reported for January of a presidential election year, Federal Election Commission reports show…Plouffe said the Obama campaign counted 170,000 new donors in the last month, bringing its total to 650,000.” Whatever happens Tuesday and thereafter, it looks like Sen. Obama has the money to play. “‘Our strongest day of the whole month was the day after the New Hampshire primary,’ which Obama lost to Clinton, Plouffe said. ‘We took a lot of encouragement from that because it showed the resolve of our donor base.’Update: As TNR’s Christopher Orr deadpanned, 32 million? Pff. Bill Clinton can make that over dinner.

Dolla Dolla Hil, Y’all.

Well, if the family business issue is bothering primary voters, it’s not being reflected in the funding tallies. In the third leg of the all-important money primary, Hillary Clinton comes out tops in 3rd quarter fundraising with $27 million raised, with Obama clocking in at $20 million and Edwards — who’s announced he’ll accept public financing — coming in third at $7 million. “Overall, Sen. Barack Obama has raised slightly more than Clinton for the primary, and the two look to be fairly evenly matched financially as they head into the final stretch before the first electoral contests in January.” And, whoever your primary candidate is, the real silver lining here is that Dems overall have raised twice as much as the GOP. “‘This just shows the difficult political climate that Republicans are facing,’ said Scott Reed, a Republican strategist. ‘The bright side is that next spring, the Republicans will have plenty of money to give the candidate who goes up against Hillary Clinton.’” We’ll see.

Obama’s 31.

Round 2 of the money game is in the books, and, surprisingly (or perhaps not), Barack Obama came out on top with $31 million to Hillary Clinton’s (estimated) $27 million. (John Edwards pulled $9 million, Richardson $7 million.) “Obama’s war chest in the second quarter was built on the strength of 154,000 new contributors, giving him well over a quarter-million donors since he started the race…[Clinton's] fund-raising team has been relying much more heavily on larger donors.”

Money Money Money.

Yes, folks, this is how we choose a president in this country: Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash. The first primary is effectively over, and Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney lead the begging and scraping for loot at $26 and $21 million respectively. On the GOP side, Rudy came in second at $15 million, with McCain trailing at third with $12.5 million. Meanwhile, for the Dems: John Edwards has $14 million, Bill Richardson $6 million, Chris Dodd $4 million, and Joe Biden a clean, articulate $3 million. Still obviously missing, Barack Obama, who is rumored to be up around the 20 mark. While I hate to indulge this stupid financing system, I hope it’s something like that, as I’m still rooting for he or Edwards over Sen. Clinton in the primary, and the Clinton money machine is, without a doubt, a sleek, well-oiled contraption. Update: Make that $25 million for Obama.

First In, First Out.

“‘This process has become to a great extent about money — a lot of money,’ Vilsack said at a news conference in Des Moines yesterday. ‘And it is clear to me that we would not be able to continue to raise money in the amounts necessary to sustain not just a campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire but a campaign across this country. So it is money and only money that is the reason that we are leaving today.‘” Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, the first entrant into the Democratic race, begs out of the 2008 presidential contest, citing money issues. Well, what did you think was going to determine the winner? Issues?

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