- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2013

She’s been keeping a low profile, but Republicans say Hillary Rodham Clinton’s potential presidential ambitions can only be hurt by the heavily covered recent stories involving her scandal-plagued friend Anthony D. Weiner’s sexcapades in New York and her close confidant Terry McAuliffe’s tangles with federal regulators over a former business enterprise.

The Republican National Committee this week said both Mr. Weiner and Mr. McAuliffe “are mounting headaches for Hillary,” highlighting the ties both men have to both Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, long one of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides and advisers, is reportedly taking an extended vacation from working with Mrs. Clinton after her husband admitted he continued his lewd online behavior following his 2011 resignation from Congress. Mr. McAuliffe, who cochaired Mr. Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign and Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid, has had to fend off questions about possible political favoritism in his management of an electric-car venture shortly before he began his current race for governor of Virginia.

The two stories have the Clintons trying to put some distance between themselves and their former associates.

Mr. Clinton says he and his wife aren’t taking sides in the New York mayor’s Democratic primary race, which includes Mr. Weiner, and allies insist Mr. McAuliffe’s Virginia gubernatorial campaign should not be seen as a trial run for a potential Clinton presidential bid in 2016.

“There are too many people running for mayor who have been my supporters, who supported her for senator, her for president,” Mr. Clinton told CNN while on a trip to Rwanda for his global foundation. “We are a hundred miles from that race and everyone understands that we are not going to be involved, as long as our personal friends and people who we feel obligations [to] are involved.”

For example, the city’s public advocate Bill de Blasio, another candidate in the crowded race for the Democratic nomination, was Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager when she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000.

Mr. Clinton has been more magnanimous to Mr. McAuliffe, his chief moneyman during his time in the White House in the 1990s. The former president hosted a Florida fundraiser that brought in $400,000 for the McAuliffe campaign, and Mr. Clinton personally has donated $100,000 to the former Democratic National Committee chairman, who is running for governor against Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II.

But people close to the Clintons also have tried to swat away the idea that Mr. McAuliffe’s campaign is laying the groundwork in any way for her would-be 2016 presidential run.

And Brian Coy, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said the campaign is about the contrast between Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Cuccinelli.

“This is a race about which candidate will do a better job for mainstream Virginia families on jobs, education and transportation, and Virginians have a choice between Ken Cuccinelli’s extreme social agenda and Terry McAuliffe’s ‘jobs first’ vision for our commonwealth,” he said.

At the same time, Republicans have rushed to tie Mrs. Clinton to Mr. McAuliffe and the electric-car company he founded that is ensnared in two federal investigations.

The federal government is investigating GreenTech and its sister company, Gulf Coast Funds Management, LLC, over a visa program they have used to attract foreign investors. Gulf Coast has another tie to Mrs. Clinton — it is run by her younger brother, Anthony Rodham.

Mr. McAuliffe, who said he only knows about the investigation from what he’s read in media reports, left GreenTech in December, though he did not reveal that fact until April.

Republicans “essentially want to link her to McAuliffe as much as possible,” said Bob Holsworth, a former Virginia Commonwealth University professor and longtime observer of politics in the state. “Frame McAuliffe as the Democrats’ [Mitt] Romney, but suggest something even shadier is going on.”

For its part, GreenTech said in a recent statement that the company is fully cooperating with the requests for information from the Securities and Exchange Commission and that it believes the company “is in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.”

The SEC is looking into whether GreenTech guaranteed returns for its investors.

Mr. Holsworth said the GOP is trying to cast doubts about Mr. McAuliffe, but it also is working to damage Mrs. Clinton’s brand in the middle of a race where she could be a valuable surrogate for Democrats.

“I’m not sure yet whether it resonates for voters,” he said. “We have to see how this plays out.”

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