Hillary’s $7.5 Million Problem

Nov 20, 2008 3:31pm

ABC News’ Tahman Bradley Reports: Hillary Clinton continues to carry $7.5 million of debt owed to vendors from her failed presidential bid which ended in early June, her campaign finance report covering the month of October shows.

Even though the election is over, Clinton can continue to raise money for unpaid bills, as long as contributors clearly designate their contributions as being specially for retiring presidential campaign debt. There’s no time limit on how long a candidate can carry debt.

The campaign retired a few hundred thousands dollars of debt in October after bringing in $774,299 last month.

Clinton lost all opportunities to get back the $13.1 million in personal money she loaned the campaign. Campaign finance law restricts the amount of time a candidate can pay back personal loans in an effort to limit candidates from self-financing campaigns. Clinton needed to pay herself back by the final day of the Democratic convention.

If Clinton accepts the position of Secretary of State, or some other post in the Obama administration, she would be barred by The Hatch Act of 1939 from soliciting and receiving political contributions. The Clinton campaign organization, however, can continue to raise money for the purpose of retiring debt even if the senator accepts an appointed position in government. Raising a small amount of money from loyal donors without help from Clinton might be doable, but raising $7.5 million without the candidate seems like a tall order.

Campaign finance law is pretty flexible in a candidate’s ability to retire debt after a presidential election is over and a little innovative campaign treasury maneuvering could yield a faster way for Clinton to erase most of the remaining debt. On August 28, Clinton’s Senate account received $6.4 million in contributions that were first designated for the presidential campaign for use in the general election. That money could theoretically be transferred back to the presidential campaign and used to knock out vendor debt.

The Clinton presidential campaign this week was still hunting for help with unpaid bills, sending supporters an e-mail asking for money.

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