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Obama Donors Aren’t Rushing to Aid Clinton / The New York Times

 The New York Times

Obama Donors Aren’t Rushing to Aid Clinton

By PATRICK HEALY

Published: July 9, 2008

A prominent donor to Senator Barack Obama recently sent an e-mail plea to other supporters, asking them — for the sake of Democratic unity — to write checks to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to help retire her $23 million in campaign debt.

Some of the replies are unprintable, given the coarse language, the donor said. A sampling of others included:

“Why would I help pay off debts that Hillary amassed simply to keep damaging Senator Obama?”

“Gas prices are up, the markets are in turmoil, my kid’s fall tuition bill is coming soon. Writing checks to politicians I don’t like is not at the top of my list.”

“Not a penny for that woman. Or her husband. Or — god forbid — Mark Penn,” a reference to Mrs. Clinton’s former senior strategist, whose firm is still owed several million dollars for work that included aggressive attacks on Mr. Obama.

As Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton prepare for their first joint fund-raisers to benefit the Obama campaign, in New York City on Wednesday and Thursday, their two camps are straining under the weight of continued resentments, recriminations and feelings that remain raw since the long primary battle.

Mr. Obama has asked his top donors to help raise money for her debt, and so far they have come up with less than $100,000 (though more in pledges), Clinton campaign officials said — a “paltry sum,” in the words of one.

Several Obama donors said in interviews that they were balking at Mr. Obama’s call for help because they believed Mrs. Clinton accumulated most of her debts after she had lost any mathematical chance of winning the nomination and was hanging on only in hopes of an Obama collapse. The idea of helping her now — and lining the pockets of Mr. Penn, a reviled figure in the Obama camp — is galling to them, they said, especially at a time when they say any available money should go to defeating Senator John McCain and the Republicans in November.

While no other presidential candidate has ever amassed so much personal and campaign debt en route to losing the nomination as has Mrs. Clinton, both Clinton and Obama donors say the larger problem for Democrats is that if the Obama camp is seen as unhelpful, Mrs. Clinton, her husband and their supporters could prove something less than a force for unity.

Among the complaints from Obama campaign officials is that Mrs. Clinton’s expectation for help has been a moving target; in other words, it is unclear how much money from Obama supporters will be enough to satisfy the Clintons. Even Clinton officials and donors were at a loss to specify a number, saying only that Mrs. Clinton was helping Mr. Obama with the understanding that he would do more for her.

“There is no lack of emotion among some supporters of both candidates, but what I think the sensible elements of good will are trying to achieve is debt relief for Hillary consistent with getting Barack elected president,” said Steven Rattner, a New York investment banker and leading fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton, who is working with both camps to help Mrs. Clinton retire her debt. ( go to page 2)

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