You know the one about Caesar’s wife?
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama has decried the dirty influence in Washington of lobbyists and their campaign contributions, suggesting that he–not Hillary Clinton–has the desire and ability to clean up Washington. After all, in the Senate, he did manage to pass an ethics and lobbying reform bill, and he has eschewed campaign contributions gathered (“bundled,” in political parlance) by lobbyists. At the recent Jefferson Jackson dinner in Iowa, Obama proclaimed:
I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists — and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not get a job in my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am President.
That was a not-too-subtle dig at Hillary Clinton, whose campaign is fueled and guided by lobbyists.
So now the HRCers are fighting back, using whatever they can to tarnish the reformer challenging the Establishment favorite. The Washington Post reported today that Obama has used his leadership political action fund, Hopefund, to make $180,000 in donations to Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the critical early states. Which means he has been exploiting the leadership PAC scam long embraced by pols on both sides of the aisle to bolster their presidential ambitions–and to duck various rules about political fundraising and spending. Politicians routinely use these PACs to dole out contributions to present and future supporters, to underwrite their own political activity, and to keep aides on the payroll between elections. In fact, Hillary Clinton’s leadership PAC, HillPAC, has been one of the biggest of these operations.
Still, that didn’t stop Clinton–trailing Obama by 4 points in the most recent Iowa poll–from accusing Obama of misusing his leadership PAC. Responding to The Washington Post article, the Clinton campaign zapped out a statement this afternoon:
The Obama campaign’s failure to deny that it committed campaign finance violations speaks volumes. Instead of launching irrelevant attacks, Senator Obama should answer a simple question: Did Obama campaign officials direct the Hopefund to make contributions to officials and entities in states holding nominating contests? If the answer is no, they should just be direct and say so.
The Post article did not state that Obama had broken any campaign laws, but critics of leadership PAC have argued (quite justifiably) that leadership PACs are designed to permit candidates to skirt campaign contribution and donation limits and that the Federal Elections Committee ought to rein them in.
Then does the Clinton campaign have a point about Obama? If so, it should direct the same questions toward itself. As the Post reported last year, HRC’s HillPAC has operated in the exactly the same manner as Obama’s Hopefund:
Clinton has used HILLPAC to spread money around the country — $90,000 to Senate candidates, $30,000 to House candidates, $24,000 to gubernatorial candidates, $45,000 to national party committees and $30,000 to state party committee. As you would expect, HILLPAC made donations to candidates and parties in the key early presidential states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
So instead of Caesar’s wife, perhaps the Clintonites ought to be thinking about glass houses. Then again, in politics, when you’re down in the polls, you throw stones, no matter where you reside.