Hillary Rodham Clinton and her team were mum Wednesday about the revelations of close ties between her 2008 presidential campaign and an illegal fundraising operation based in Washington, while a new poll showed erosion in her popularity.
For the third day in a row, Mrs. Clinton’s press aides refused to respond to questions about her knowledge of the criminal case or whether she still has confidence in a top adviser who solicited campaign donations from disgraced Washington businessman Jeffrey Thompson.
Thompson, convicted of funding a “shadow campaign” for D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray in 2010, also pleaded guilty this week to funneling more than $600,000 in illicit donations to aid Mrs. Clinton’s bid for the White House. Court documents say that a top Clinton campaign official, Minyon Moore, asked Thompson to pay for canvassers and “street teams” to reach minority voters in four key early-primary states during Mrs. Clinton’s battle for the Democratic nomination against Barack Obama.
Mrs. Clinton, considered the undeclared front-runner for the 2016 Democratic nomination, took another hit Wednesday in a new poll that showed her vaunted popularity slipping.
The Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, which was conducted before Thompson pleaded guilty, showed the combined percentage of people who view Mrs. Clinton very positively or somewhat positively has dropped to 44 percent, down from 58 percent in December 2012. Her negative rating rose to 34 percent, up from 28 percent in December 2012, when she was nearing the end of her service as secretary of state.
The poll also found that an endorsement by Mrs. Clinton would be a net negative for candidates running for office this year, with 25 percent of respondents saying they would be more likely to vote for someone she endorsed, and 34 percent saying they would be less likely to vote for that candidate. Forty percent said her endorsement would make no difference.
The survey did hold some qualified good news for Mrs. Clinton. While her popularity has eroded, she’s still more popular than President Obama. Only 22 percent of respondents said Mr. Obama’s endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a candidate this year, while 42 percent said the president’s endorsement would make them less likely to vote for that candidate.
And a poll in Iowa last month found Mrs. Clinton was still the overwhelming favorite among potential Democratic candidates for 2016.
Prosecutors said this week Mrs. Clinton had no direct knowledge that Thompson was providing her presidential campaign with illegal, off-the-books contributions. According to the court filings, the shadow campaign for Mrs. Clinton began in February 2008.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that Ms. Moore, a senior adviser to the Clinton campaign responsible for minority outreach, asked Thompson to fund the operation, first in Texas. Court papers identified Ms. Moore, who has denied any wrongdoing, as “Individual A.”
The Texas operation reportedly included members of the League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation’s oldest Hispanic civil rights organization. LULAC does not endorse candidates, but several key members supported Mrs. Clinton.
Court documents stated that the street teams funded by Thompson distributed Clinton campaign posters, lawn signs and stickers. The court papers also said that Ms. Moore worked with Thompson and another participant who pleaded guilty, Troy White, on similar outreach operations in Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina and Puerto Rico.
Prosecutors revealed emails indicating that Ms. Moore sent campaign information to the team, including strategy for the North Carolina primary with the subject line “This is what they will need in NC — Please advise.”
White responded, according to the documents: “These are the cities we can cover in NC: Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Fayetteville, Wilmington, Winston-Salem. Let me know what you think ASAP.”