Clinton, Obama could use each other's help

To date, Obama has raised more than McCain
WASHINGTON The two former Democratic presidential rivals filed their May fundraising reports Friday - hers awash in red ink and his lacking the high-dollar sizzle of his previous monthly reports.

But if the two have an itch to soothe, they're not yet scratching each other's backs.

How the campaigns can help each other will be a likely topic when Obama, the Democrats' nominee in waiting, meets with Clinton and some of her top fundraisers on Thursday in Washington. The two then plan to campaign together on Friday. But so far, the Obama camp has not devised a Clinton assistance plan.

Asked on Friday whether Obama's finance team had discussed ways to ease Clinton's debt when it met Thursday night in Chicago, Obama communications director Robert Gibbs said "those meetings have focused more on what these two can do together to bring the party together and move it forward than it has on these logistical details."

Clinton and her backers, meanwhile, are eager for some help.

The former first lady, who bowed out of the Democratic contest on June 7, reported a $22.5 million debt at the end of May, more than half of which was a personal loan to her presidential campaign. She lent her campaign nearly $2.2 million in May, bringing her total personal investment in the campaign to $12.175 million. She had $3.4 million cash on hand left for primary spending. She also had more than $23 million for the general election, money her campaign cannot use.

"It's far more productive for Obama to have Hillary 100 percent focused and engaged on campaigning and raising money for him in the fall rather than having to do fundraisers at the same time to retire her debt," said Hassan Nemazee, a Clinton national finance chairman.

"It would clearly make life easier for those of us in the Clinton world who would like to help Senator Obama raise the types of monies that are necessary from the Clinton world to be in a position to point out, 'Look what Senator Obama has done for Senator Clinton."'

Obama had his weakest fundraising month of the year, collecting $22 million and ending the month with $43 million cash on hand and $304,000 in debts. But $10 million of his available cash can only be spent in the fall after the party national conventions, leaving $33 million for the summer months. Obama's decision to bypass the general election's public finance system allows him to use left over primary money in the fall campaign.

Republican John McCain, who secured his party's nomination in March, raised $21 million in May and had $31.6 million in the bank. The figures place him virtually on same financial footing as Obama - a level of parity that would have been unimaginable just a few months ago.

Still, Obama managed to raise slightly more than McCain while still fighting his way out of the Democratic primary. McCain, on the other hand, has been free to consolidate Republican support since he clinched the nomination more than three months ago and has been on an active fundraising schedule.

Overall, since the presidential campaigns began last year, Obama has raised $287 million, Clinton has raised $209 million and McCain has raised $115 million.

Clinton campaigned actively through the last Democratic primaries on June 3 before succumbing to Obama and is expected to have even greater debt at the end of this month. In a call to donors on Thursday, she said she would concentrate on paying off money owed to vendors, not her personal loans.

Of her $10 million in debts to vendors, nearly half - $4.6 million - is money the campaign owes Clinton adviser Mark Penn and his polling firm. Clinton reported spending nearly $19 million - more than $3 million on media advertising and $3 million on phone banks. She spent more than $5 million on travel.

Obama reported spending $26.6 million in May. His heaviest spending was on advertising - more than $4 million buying time for television commercials. Obama had the most expensive payroll, spending $3.5 million on his staff, more than twice what Clinton spent and more than six times what McCain spent on his payroll.

Obama on Friday defended his decision to be the first major party candidate to turn down public funds in the general election. He said he is expecting McCain to have significant help from the Republican Party and from outside groups, though few outside groups have stepped into the presidential election and those that have have spent little money.

The Republican National Committee, however, ended June with 13 times more money in the bank than the Democratic National Committee. The RNC had $53 million cash on hand to the DNC's $4 million. Both parties are allowed to assist their presidential candidates with coordinated campaigns.

Obama pointed out that both he and his wife have been targeted by independent groups and state party organizations.

"So you know, this isn't speculative on my part," he said. "I think it's something that we've seen in the past and it's something that we continue to be concerned about."


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