Friday, May 09, 2008

Why Obama Should Not Pay Hillary's Debt

First of all, let me note a few points. She's loaned her campaign $11,450,000. That's a pretty outrageous vanity. Imagine enjoying an ego so robust that you feel your ego is worth that much. I can't get my head around that. Second, her debt is better than is generally known, according to George Stephanopoulos (hat tip Jason Linkins at The Huffington Post, video available at the link)
The second big problem for the Clinton campaign right now is money. We know that Senator Clinton loaned herself a little more than $11 million. Going into April, the campaign finance reports show the campaign was carrying a debt of $10 million to $15 million. My sources are noW telling that that number is far higher. The campaign debt is far higher than ten million dollars. It could be double that, maybe even more. And the lack of money and load of that debt could be driving the decisions inside the Clinton camp in coming days.
Stephanopoulos notes it could be more than 20M.

As far as I'm concerned, I'd be happy to have her humiliated, declare bankruptcy, become an indentured servant to pay off her debts.

Thomas Edsall outlines the obstacles for Obama to pay off her debts. He notes two:
  1. the deep and growing animosity of Obama supporters towards Clinton, whom they see as raising issues of race and 'elitism' that will hurt the Illinois Senator in November. And then he goes on to cite her remarks yesterday to USA Today.
  2. The second is less obvious: Mark Penn...Penn's interest in any negotiations are sure to be pressed very aggressively by the Clinton campaign's new Chief Operating Officer, Howard Paster. Paster was brought in immediately upon Penn's retreat, and, as it happens, Paster is Penn's boss. (in the private sector)
He further notes that it's campaign finance laws:
Under federal campaign finance law, the Obama campaign cannot directly pay off Clinton's debts, or the $11.43 million she has loaned the campaign, because that would violate campaign contribution limits. But if Obama is the nominee, he and his donor base could provide invaluable help to her in raising money through signed appeals, joint fundraisers and by other methods.
Like me, his supporters feel outraged at the idea of helping her and her debts. Comments flooded both The Huffington Post as well as Talking Points Memo. Josh Marshall., founder of TPM, properly notes that Hillary knew the risks.
Using more than $10 million raised in large part by small individual donations to pay back the Clintons who appear to be worth many tens of millions of dollars simply seems wrong.

This isn't meant to sound ungracious. I don't begrudge the Clintons their very substantial wealth. And even for really, really rich people, $11 million isn't nothing. But that is simply too much money raised from small givers to give to people who loaned it with full knowledge of the odds and have more than enough money to really know what to do with.

Frankly, I'm surprised that it's even being suggested. It would be a mistake for the Clintons to ask (and just because people are chattering about it -- don't assume they have or will), a mistake for Obama to offer and one that would risk a severe backlash.

That's not what people gave their money for.

Let her rot in upper-middle class poverty hell.

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