Sunday, March 30, 2008

Trail of unpaid bills casts doubt on Hillary Clinton's finances

The Times

Hillary Clinton’s determination to remain in the presidential race may spell bad news for small businesses in the states that have yet to vote.

Staff have left a trail of unpaid bills and trashed offices across America in the past three months, raising fresh doubts about the viability of her run for the Democratic nomination. A property manager who let rooms to the campaign last summer in Clinton, Iowa, said that he found rubbish, rotting food, holes drilled in the walls and permanent stains on the carpet. He did not receive unpaid rent until last month — but kept the $500 (£250) deposit to cover clean-up expenses.

In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, landlord Terry Bennett went to the media to complain about late payment from Clinton campaign tenants who, he said, “left enough trash for a small army” — but no rent. When he eventually got his cheque, he donated it to Barack Obama.

Ohio event management companies owed money by Mrs Clinton were quoted yesterday warning others to ask for money up front. Jim Phillips, the owner of Show Tyme Exhibits, said that he needed a $607 invoice settled. “I’m a small guy,” he said. “I could use that.”

The delayed payments may reflect her straitened circumstances after the most expensive battle for the Democratic nomination in history, in which she has recently been heavily outspent on advertising by Mr Obama.

Bill Clinton, in a weekend e-mail to supporters, underlined the urgent need for money before the end of March. “Our opponents and the media will scrutinise our fundraising reports and look for any sign of weakness,” he said.

Although February was her best month yet in fundraising, documents filed last week with the Federal Elections Commission show that at the end of that month Mrs Clinton’s total of $38 million in the bank was mostly money that can be spent only if she wins the nomination.

The website reported that if she had paid off the $8.7 million in unpaid bills and not loaned her campaign $5 million, she would have had less than $2 million available for this month. Mr Obama would still have had $31 million cash-in-hand even if he had paid off the $625,000 owed to creditors.

Mrs Clinton’s biggest debts are to her pollsters, strategists and advertising consultants. She also has hundreds of outstanding bills for catering, security, printing and hiring venues. By the end of February, her campaign had not, for instance, reimbursed the Hy-Vee chain for making thousands of sandwiches on the night of the Iowa caucuses.

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