A show of unity, but not cash

Times Staff Writer

If Democratic Party unity can be measured in dollars, then the party has a ways to go.

Barack Obama’s financial backers have given Hillary Rodham Clinton about $430,000 in the two months since he exhorted them to help pay off her campaign debt, which includes nearly $11 million in unpaid bills to vendors and consultants.

Clinton donors, however, have given Obama more than $3 million in the same period, a Times review of their campaign finance reports shows.

As they head into the party convention, Obama and Clinton have made a show of publicly proclaiming their unity. Money is a key ingredient of the reunification process.


Clinton played host to Obama at a fundraiser in Washington in June, and Obama has sent e-mails to his major contributors asking them to help Clinton whittle down her bills.

The candidates personally have given one another’s campaigns the maximum under federal law for both the primary and general elections. Obama’s check for $4,600 is dated July 31. Some of their top campaign strategists have done the same, as have many of their major fundraisers. Obama’s national finance committee chair, Chicago billionaire Penny S. Pritzker, gave Clinton $4,600 on July 2, Federal Election Commission filings show.

But in June and July, many more Clinton donors gave to Obama, who will claim the party’s nomination Thursday in Denver. At least 76 Clinton backers gave Obama $4,600, and about 475 gave Obama $2,300, the most they could give for a single election.

By contrast, about 80 Obama donors gave Clinton $2,300 checks or more.


The Clinton donors who gave $4,600 to Obama include author-physician Deepak Chopra; New York billionaire Ronald Perelman; NBA Commissioner David Stern and his wife, Diane; and San Diego National Bank board Chairman Murray Galinson.

In the analysis, The Times looked at all donors who had given to Obama since the start of the campaign in January 2007, and then gave to Clinton in June when she suspended her campaign and in July, the latest monthly data. The same review was done of Clinton donors.

Clinton’s debt is about $23.9 million. She has decided against trying to recoup $13.1 million she lent to her campaign. She also has not started repaying $5.4 million she owes the firm founded by her former chief strategist, Mark Penn, but is focusing on paying off smaller vendors.

Clinton spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said the New York senator also was pleased with the showing. “We have been and continue to work together to find opportunities to raise money,” she said.


The Obama campaign would not address why more of its donors were not contributing to Clinton. But Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro said Obama is “very pleased that so many who supported Sen. Clinton in the primary have taken active roles in the Obama campaign.”

Obama’s campaign estimates it has helped Clinton raise more than $500,000 and intends to have other fundraisers this fall.

“It is all political spin. In reality you have to pay off your own debt,” said Garry Mauro, an attorney who was Clinton’s Texas campaign chairman. “Hillary and her supporters are going to have pay off her debt. We’re going to have do it ourselves.”

Mauro, who ran for Texas governor against George W. Bush in 1998, is a lobbyist and cannot give to Obama, who refuses money from lobbyists. However, Mauro said he has “encouraged anybody who has asked” to donate to Obama. “The way to win is to outspend the other guy,” Mauro said.


One Obama donor who heeded the Illinois senator’s call is Jeffrey Bleich. A San Francisco attorney, Bleich has known Obama since about 1989, when the presumptive Democratic nominee was a law student at Harvard and Bleich was a clerk for then-federal Judge Abner Mikva. Obama’s campaign credits Bleich with helping Obama raise more than $200,000.

Last month, Bleich gave Clinton $2,300.

“The reason that I gave to Sen. Clinton is because ultimately this is about overcoming differences,” said Bleich, who was preparing to head to the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where he will be an Obama delegate. He said he gave the money to underscore to Clinton backers that “Obama is different.”

“It’s more than words. It’s about bringing people together,” Bleich said.



Times researcher Maloy Moore and data analyst Sandra Poindexter contributed to this report.