Clinton camp tries to fill money gap

Times Staff Writers

Once the leading fundraiser among presidential candidates, with a $100-million war chest, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that she had lent her campaign $5 million, and aides confirmed that some of her top staff members were currently working without pay.

The day after Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois fought to a draw in the Super Tuesday elections, Clinton attempted to narrow a growing gap between the two candidates' fundraising.

After entering 2008 with slightly more money than Clinton, Obama raised $32 million in January -- more than twice what Clinton raised. On Wednesday, he announced he had raised an additional $5.2 million since the polls closed Tuesday -- money that is expected to go toward television advertising in the remaining primary states.

At a news conference in Virginia, Clinton said she used "my money" to loan herself the $5 million. Later, communications director Howard Wolfson said the $5 million came from joint assets she held with former President Clinton.

The New York senator has written books that have earned her at least $6.6 million. But much of her wealth appears to have come from her husband's business dealings since he left the White House seven years ago.

In her most recent financial disclosure, Clinton reported a joint bank account and a blind trust each worth between $5 million and $25 million. She also disclosed that former President Clinton had earned millions in speaking fees -- as much as $350,000 a speech.

The former president has worked as an advisor to Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle, one of the biggest fundraisers for both Clintons. The former president has indicated he is severing his business relationship with Burkle, though there has been no formal announcement. There has been widespread speculation that Clinton stands to leave with upward of $20 million.

In announcing the loan Wednesday, Sen. Clinton said: "We had a great month fundraising in January -- broke all records. But my opponent was able to raise more money. We intended to be competitive, and we were -- and I think the results last night proved the wisdom of my investment."

Clinton ended 2007 having out-raised Obama, $118.3 million to $103.8 million. But that edge was short-lived.

At the beginning of the campaign, Clinton transferred $10 million from her U.S. Senate campaign account. She raised more by tapping high-end donors who gave her not only the $2,300 limit for the primary but additional money for use in the general election.

Altogether, she raised $20 million from high-end donors that can be used only if she wins the nomination. Additionally, Clinton refunded almost $2.5 million to donors, including many who contributed at the behest of disgraced fundraiser Norman Hsu.

After subtracting general election money and refunds, Clinton ended 2007 having raised $95.6 million for the primary, according to the Federal Election Commission. That includes the $10 million that she transferred from her Senate campaign. Obama, by contrast, raised $97 million in 2007 specifically for the primary.

After his victory in South Carolina, Obama rocked the Clinton campaign by announcing the $32-million haul in January for the remaining primaries. That is nearly the amount that Republican Sen. John McCain raised in all of 2007.

Clinton, by contrast, raised $14 million in January, her aides said. The exact amounts won't be known until later this month, when candidates file reports detailing their January campaign finances.

"Everyone was surprised and impressed by Barack's January number," said a Clinton campaign advisor, who was not authorized by the campaign to speak on the topic and requested anonymity.

The campaign aides won't be working free for long, the advisor said. "Everyone is expecting it to be temporary."

Clinton became the second candidate to give personal money for the campaign. The other, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, dug far deeper, lending $35 million to his campaign.

"I don't think anybody expected this," former FEC Chairman Michael E. Toner said. "There is no more prolific fundraiser than Hillary Rodham Clinton. Here is a candidate who raised more than $100 million, and has an unparalleled fundraising team."

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dan.morain@latimes.com

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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