- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s team has told the Federal Election Commission that she continued her campaign even after endorsing Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama on June 7, a claim that lets her transfer millions of dollars from her presidential bid to her Senate campaign.

The former first lady made the $6.4 million transfer from her White House campaign, which remains more than $7 million in debt, to Friends of Hillary on Aug. 28. That date would fall outside the legal deadline for making such a move if her campaign were to have ended June 7.

Her campaign treasurer told federal regulators that Mrs. Clinton spent more than a quarter-million dollars engaging in “vigorous political activity” throughout June, according to newly released FEC filings.

“The committee continued to actively contest for delegates at the state and local delegate-selection events during the month of June,” campaign treasurer Shelly Moskwa wrote in a letter to the FEC dated Nov. 20. “Nothing in Senator Clinton’s remarks indicated that she was withdrawing from the race.

“While she indicated that she was suspending her campaign, the term ‘suspension’ has no legal meaning,” Ms. Moskwa wrote.

Precisely when Mrs. Clinton, who is expected to be Mr. Obama’s secretary of state nominee, dropped out of the Democratic presidential primaries is emerging as an important legal question for FEC regulators examining the transfer of funds. Such transfers are legal if donors give their permission, and the Clinton campaign has said donors indeed authorized the move.

Still, such transfers also must take place within 60 days of when a candidate withdraws from the race, according to FEC rules. The Aug. 28 transfer date fell more than 80 days after her June 7 concession to Mr. Obama, in which she told supporters in Washington that “we must elect Barack Obama our president. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him.”

Given Mrs. Clinton’s concession speech in early June, the FEC has raised questions about the timing of the Aug. 28 transfer, sending a letter to the Clinton campaign last month asking for more details.

In response, Ms. Moskwa told the FEC in a letter that the campaign had complied with the 60-day rule because, despite Mrs. Clinton’s endorsement of Mr. Obama in early June, there were still efforts afoot to “actively contest for” delegates.

“The committee engaged in vigorous activity through paid staff to make sure that her delegates were selected and seated at each of these events,” she wrote, adding that the delegate-selection events occurred “throughout the month” and concluded June 29.

“These additional delegates resulted in an increase in the number of delegates pledged to the senator who were seated at the national convention,” Ms. Moskwa wrote.

A copy of Ms. Moskwa’s Nov. 20 letter was posted on the FEC Web site last week.

In an e-mail to The Washington Times on Sunday night, Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s Senate office, said his boss backed Mr. Obama entirely as soon as she conceded.

“It’s not like it’s June 30th today, and we don’t know how this all ended. It’s November 23rd, and we know that Senator Clinton released her delegates at the convention, she herself voted for Senator Obama, and then she stopped the roll call and asked for Senator Obama to be named the nominee by acclamation,” he said.

When asked why Mrs. Clinton would need to be pursuing delegates after June 7, Mr. Reines said that campaign activity through the rest of June “was minimal and more importantly, transparent.”

He noted, for example, that Chelsea Clinton traveled to the Texas state convention two days after the concession speech and that her trip was covered by the media.

“There was minimal residual political activity in the weeks after June 7th that only involved maintaining delegates already pledged during the primaries,” he said, adding that June primaries were held in Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana.

“Essentially, it was seeing the process through to its complete end … That’s all. Nothing more.”

Still, Ms. Moskwa in her letter to the FEC called June “an active month with substantial political activity.”

Throughout June, the Clinton campaign continued contesting delegates, paying staff to travel to delegate-selection events, renting booths and footing the bills for banner ads, convention booklets and get-out-the-vote expenses, Ms. Moskwa told the FEC.

It wasn’t until June 29 - the day Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton held a “unity” event in New Hampshire - that the Clinton campaign stopped efforts “aimed at garnering additional delegates,” according to Ms. Moskwa’s letter.

FEC officials were unavailable for comment late Sunday.

More than four months later, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign remains mired in debt. If she gets the expected appointment to be Mr. Obama’s secretary of state, she wouldn’t be allowed to personally raise money to retire her debt, though her presidential campaign committee can continue trying to pay off her bills.

On Wednesday, supporters received e-mails from the Clinton presidential campaign with a message from former Clinton White House social secretary Capricia Penavic Marshall.

“As we look forward to a new era in Washington, there is still one piece of unfinished business where Hillary needs your help,” she wrote. “We need to do all we can to help Hillary by acting now to reduce her remaining debt.”

Most of Mrs. Clinton’s outstanding debt stems from more than $5.3 million owed to Penn, Schoen & Berland Assoc. LLC, headed by Mark Penn, former chief strategist to the Clinton campaign. There’s no deadline for when Mrs. Clinton must repay Mr. Penn.

In fact, former President Bill Clinton’s 1996 presidential campaign fund lists more than $100,000 in remaining debts, though all of them are reported as “disputed” on recent FEC filings. The figures include more than $80,000 to Penn & Schoen in connection with disputed consulting fees and polling work.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Penn declined to comment and referred questions to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, which did not respond to questions about whether officials planned to renegotiate or dispute any of the money owed to Mr. Penn’s firm.

Despite the debt, Mrs. Clinton has still been spending tens of thousands to help elect fellow Democrats through her political action committee, HillPac. In September and October, HillPac spent at least $80,000 in campaign donations to members of Congress.

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