Millions Racked Up in Campaign Debt

She's just completed a grueling political marathon, spending 17 months scouring the country for donations and votes in an epic presidential campaign. But for Hillary Clinton, now comes the really hard part: retiring a mountain of campaign debt.

Records show that Clinton's campaign owed more than $20 million as of April 30 — and that was before she spent millions of dollars more in the final month of primaries and caucuses.

Settling those debts will be "challenging," said Hassan Nemazee, one of Clinton's campaign finance chairmen. "The natural constituency to turn to pay off that debt are people who are precluded from helping you because they already have given the maximum" under the law.

For losing candidates, campaign debts can linger for years, enduring symbols of failures they would rather forget. At the same time, the unpaid bills can cause hardships for campaign workers and vendors waiting for payment. Some end up receiving just pennies on the dollar — if they can get paid at all.


Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., still owes $262,358 from her failed 2004 White House bid, while the Rev. Al Sharpton owed more than $300,000 from his 2004 presidential campaign at the time of its last financial report.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, ran for president this year even though he still owed $459,000 from his failed 2004 White House race. Now he's in the hole for another $1.1 million.

One of Hillary Clinton's one-time rivals, telegenic former New York district attorney Jeanine Pirro, might want to avoid hearing any debt cases when she puts on a judicial robe in the new CW Network series, "Judge Jeanine Pirro," which debuts this fall. Pirro owes more than $500,000 from her aborted 2006 campaign for Clinton's Senate seat, records show.

"We worked on that bill for a long time and got nowhere," said Angie McAtee, vice president of Southwest Publishing, a Kansas-based direct-mail company owed $34,099 by Pirro's campaign. "They absolutely would not talk to us."

Then there is former Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, who was shadowed for more than two decades by nearly $3 million in debts from his unsuccessful 1984 presidential bid. His creditors included banks, lawyers, a bumper-sticker maker and 161 workers owed at least one week's pay each.

"I regret that it is still there. I wish that it was not there," Glenn said in a 2002 interview. "We tried, and tried very hard, to raise money afterward. … But you just get down to where you're not getting anything for all your effort."

In 2005, Glenn finally gave up. He notified the Federal Election Commission that he could not pay the bills and was given permission in 2006 to disband his campaign committee.

The 2008 presidential race, which at one time featured nearly 20 contenders and has shattered all fundraising records, has set a new standard for campaign debts.

On the Democratic side, in addition to Clinton and Kucinich, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware owes $1.2 million, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut owes $380,000 and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has $317,000 in debts.

Republican debtors include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who owes $3.6 million. A Giuliani spokeswoman said repaying the money is "Giuliani's No. 1 priority outside of helping to elect John McCain as president."

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