Yesterday, I suggested that the $5 million personal loan Hillary Clinton made to her campaign backfired because Barack Obama’s supporters matched it in donations within 24 hours. But Clinton’s own supporters saw her substantial personal loan with all the sympathy intended and nearly kept pace, giving about $5 million of their own since February 1st. She’ll never be able to do small donor online fundraising at the level he does, but she doesn’t need to. She has the name recognition and the machine, and as long as she has enough money to stay on television and build good organizations in upcoming states, she’ll be fine. Strategy succeeded, disaster averted.
But last night, Obama began baiting the media by saying that if Clinton put $5 million of her own money into the campaign, then she should release her tax returns because people have a right to know where that money came from. Uh-oh. It’s not that the Clintons don’t have that kind of legit money. They do. CNN Money estimates their net worth at $35 million, saying:
When Bill Clinton first ran for President in 1992, Hillary provided most of the couple’s income working for the Rose law firm in Little Rock; he earned only $35,000 a year as governor of Arkansas.
Although she takes in $165,200 a year as a senator, these days Bill is breadwinner-in-chief. His presidential pension is $201,000 a year, and he grabbed a $12 million advance for his 2001 memoir, “My Life.” (Her “Living History” won an advance of $8 million and $7 million in royalties.)
But it’s been Bill’s great gift for gab that has really feathered the Clintons’ nest. He earned an astounding $41 million speaking to groups and corporations in the first six years since he left office. Standard fee: $150,000. The fact that he may be married to the next President can only burnish his star power.
So they definitely have the money to drop $5 million into her campaign. But then there’s things like the Clinton library, which reportedly was bankrolled by Saudi investors. And there’s other things, like the $31 million Kazahk mining deal to fund Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation reported last week in the New York Times. And there’s other things like:
As Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign has intensified, Mr. Clinton has begun severing financial ties with Ronald W. Burkle, the supermarket magnate, and Vinod Gupta, the chairman of InfoUSA, to avoid any conflicts of interest. Those two men have harnessed the former president’s clout to expand their businesses while making the Clintons rich through partnership and consulting arrangements.
Mr. Clinton has vowed to continue raising money for his foundation if Mrs. Clinton is elected president, maintaining his connections with a wide network of philanthropic partners.
None of this suggests that the Clintons have profited personally from their questionable public dealings, but it does show a willingness to bend the rules of post-presidential ethics. And if they bend the rules with the Clinton Library and the Clinton charitable foundation, chances are there’s a few skeletons in their tax returns as well. By putting their own money into Hillary’s campaign, and doing so publicly, the Clintons took a calculated risk that the sympathy garnered from that act of desperation would energize their small donors in a way that Hillary’s awkward plugging of her website over the past few weeks could not. And on the surface the risk paid off, as they saw their contribution doubled within a matter of days. But the other side of the coin is that by transferring such a substantial amount of their money into the public campaign finance sector, they are inviting scrutiny not just on that $5 million, but on the entirety of their personal income. And that, along with other aspects of their personal lives, is the last thing the Clintons want to be talking about down the home stretch of this presidential campaign.