WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2008 -- Sen. Hillary Clinton accused Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama of suspicious activity with a contributor after being asked in an interview today with ABC's Washington, D.C., affiliate WJLA, why she hasn't disclosed her income tax returns.
"Sen. Obama has some questions to answer about his dealings with one of his largest contributors Exelon, a big nuclear power company; apparently he cut some deals behind closed doors to protect them from full disclosure of the nuclear industry," she said.
Clinton defended her position not to disclose her income tax returns.
"I have said that I will release my tax returns when I am the nominee," the New York Democrat said. "My entire ethics statement is on record at the senate I have liquidated all my holdings, I'm holding everything in cash so there's not even a question of conflict."
Obama was not immediately able to respond to the accusation because his interview with the same station, which aired Monday night, was taped.
Obama's spokesperson, Bill Burton, however did return fire.
"Leave it to Senator Clinton to attack Barack Obama for a bill that she actually co-sponsored and supported. Instead of playing the same Washington games that people are sick of, she should prove how fully vetted she is by finally releasing her tax returns so that voters can see where the millions of dollars she's dropped into her campaign are coming from," Burton said.
In his interview, the Senator took a swipe at Clinton's campaign operation, which has suffered bad news of late with campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle stepping aside on Sunday and word that the senator had injected $5 million of her own money into the campaign.
"I started from scratch and was up against a operation that had been built over the course of 20 years by a former president with the bulk of the Democratic establishment on their side and after setting up a hundred million plus operation with hundreds of employees around the country, it looks like we've played them to a draw so far," Obama said.
"I think that gives you a sense of how we run a campaign, there hasn't been a lot of drama in my campaign. You haven't seen a lot of turnover in my campaign. And the culture of my campaign is one where everybody feels a great sense of ownership."
Obama defended his decision to only accept two more debate invitations, stressing that he doesn't think voters are clamoring for debates and that where he's able to campaign actively, he wins.
"A big state like California where can't cover the waterfront, Sen. Clinton ends up winning because people are much more familiar with her. So, our goal is always to make sure that as much as possible we can talk to voters directly," he said. "And when you've got seven races in seven days we've got to make sure that we are not using all that time preparing for a debate. Now, we've already agreed to two debates in addition to the 18 we've already had. I think it would be hard to argue that we've had a shortage of debates."
On the issue of superdelegates and the possibility that party insiders might determine the Democratic nominee if pledged delegates end up split after the voting ends, Obama cautioned that the Democratic Party should follow the will of the voters. "We've got to make sure that whomever wins the most votes, the most states, the most delegate, that they are the nominee. I think it would be problematic if either Senator Clinton or myself came in with having won the most support from voters and that was somehow overturned by party insiders," he said.
Obama attributed the huge disparity between him and Clinton among Hispanic voters to a lack of information, refusing to acknowledge there's tension between blacks and Hispanics. "That's been a very damaging myth that's been perpetrated during the course of this campaign," he said. "In mayors' races, in legislature races, you've seen Latinos support African American candidates but they need to know who those candidates are."
Clinton also questioned Senator Obama's dealings with Anthony Rezko. "Our financial situation has probably been more investigated than anyone who has been in public life in America. We still don't have a lot of answers about Senator Obama and his dealings with Mr. Rezko."
Clinton and her campaign have complained in the past that they do not receive the same scrutiny as the Obama campaign does, and she reiterated this complaint Monday. "I find it unfair that we have questions going to the other side as well and I don't think that is happening; we have been on the front line of full disclosure ,we have been examined one side up and the other side down."
Clinton also pointed out that Obama has never had negative ads run against him in the past. However, Clinton herself ran negative radio ads against Obama in South Carolina.
Clinton declined to answer whether or not if she thought it was fair that the results in Michigan be counted, despite her opponent's name not being on the ballot. "Well, Leon, both Michigan and Florida should count because these are two states we have to carry; this is not about so much as the ins and outs of the Democratic National Committee as to whether the Democrats are going to win in the Fall."
In his interview, Obama said it wouldn't be fair to allocate voters based on a non-campaign.
In an unusual moment, Clinton stressed that there will be no new scandals from her husband Bill Clinton but qualified her answer, saying that there's no way to predict the future.
At the end of Clinton's interview she was asked about her affinity towards hot peppers. "I'm so glad we are finally talking about an issue that I have some first hand experience with," Clinton said, after fielding questions about various different topics. Clinton went on to explain the peppers she likes "Jalapeños, banana peppers, any kind of hot pepper, I eat them raw, I eat them cooked, I don't know if it works for everybody but it works for me."
Obama was asked if he's been successful in his effort to quit smoking. "It has been tough but that Nicorette gum sure has worked out," he said smiling.