- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

Want a chance to attend the finale of “American Idol”? You can - just send a donation to the presidential campaign of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton, who amassed millions of dollars in debt during the Democratic primary against Barack Obama, cannot solicit donations on her own behalf now that she is serving in Mr. Obama's presidential Cabinet, but Democratic strategist James Carville can do so.

In an e-mail sent to the lapsed campaign's mailing list Thursday, Mr. Carville asked supporters to help pay off Mrs. Clinton's debt.

“I knew it was going to take an extraordinary effort to help pay off Hillary Clinton's campaign debt. But now, I think we can do it and have some fun at the same time,” Mr. Carville wrote.

Mr. Carville, who worked as campaign strategist for former President Bill Clinton, detailed the “fun part” of the fundraising pitch as “exclusive prizes.”

An immediate contribution of as little as $5 earns a chance to win:

c “A day with President [Bill] Clinton. Head to New York City to attend several interesting events with President Clinton followed by your own special New York City weekend.

c “Attend the American Idol season finale. You and a guest will watch live as the American Idol judges make their final comments and decisions on this year's most anticipated season finale!

c “Want to talk politics with me? How about spending a weekend in DC. You will have lunch with me and my great friend Paul Begala. We will talk about politics, you will get to tour all the amazing sites DC has to offer and who knows what else could happen!

“Your contribution today not only gives you the chance at winning one of these fantastic prizes - it'll also help our dear friend, Hillary Clinton, pay off the very last of her campaign debt,” Mr. Carville wrote. “This means a whole lot to Hillary, and I know she appreciates everything you do for her.”

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton were spotted strolling outside the Oval Office Thursday afternoon, surprising staffers of first lady Michelle Obama, who were escorting reporters back from the new White House garden.

The former rivals were smiling as he showed Mrs. Clinton his daughters' swing set south of the Oval Office.

The president shooed reporters away as he and Mrs. Clinton took a seat at a picnic table and they offered a friendly wave.

As of Dec. 31, Mrs. Clinton had $5.9 million in campaign debt remaining. The bulk of that - more than $5.3 million - is owed to her fired consultant, Mark Penn. Though she has not paid a dime to Mr. Penn, Mrs. Clinton has shaved $1.7 million from her debt since Mr. Obama picked her for the Cabinet.