National Journal's Hotline falsely claimed Clinton "had to borrow funds from her husband"

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

In reporting on Sen. Hillary Clinton's $5 million loan to her presidential campaign, National Journal's Hotline On Call claimed that "Clinton had to borrow funds from her husband, former President Bill Clinton." In fact, Sen. Clinton has said that the loan was "my money," and, indeed, it would be illegal for her to use assets belonging solely to her husband to fund her presidential campaign. Hotline On Call also claimed that Sen. Barack Obama was asked about "what it meant that Clinton had to borrow funds from her husband," but there is no evidence that Obama was asked that question or that he remarked on her purportedly having "borrow[ed] funds from her husband."

Following Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) statement that she loaned her campaign $5 million, the February 7 edition of National Journal's Hotline On Call reported: Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "said that unlike Clinton he didn't have enough personal funds to loan his campaign that much money. On what it meant that Clinton had to borrow funds from her husband, former President Bill Clinton, he said little, saying it's a legal issue but he didn't want to get into the 'intricacies' of it." There is no evidence, however, that Clinton "borrow[ed] fund from her husband" to make the loan to her campaign. Sen. Clinton has said that the loan was "my money," and, indeed, it would be illegal for her to use assets belonging solely to her husband to fund her presidential campaign. Moreover, contrary to the assertion in Hotline, there is no evidence that Obama was asked about "what it meant that Clinton had to borrow funds from her husband," or that Obama suggested she did so.

From the February 7 edition of Hotline On Call:

And the day after rival Hillary Clinton loaned her campaign $5 million, Obama also stressed that he had disclosed his income tax returns.

"I'll just say that I've released my tax returns," he said. "That's been a policy I've maintained consistently. I think the American people deserve to know, you know, where you get your income from," he said, adding that his campaign had "set the bar on transparency and disclosure."

Obama said that unlike Clinton he didn't have enough personal funds to loan his campaign that much money. On what it meant that Clinton had to borrow funds from her husband, former President Bill Clinton, he said little, saying it's a legal issue but he didn't want to get into the "intricacies" of it.

He added that Clinton's money woes reflected her inability to generate the same kind of "grassroots enthusiasm" that the Obama campaign.

The Clinton campaign did not receive a loan from Bill Clinton, nor could it. A February 6 press conference, Sen. Clinton said of the loan: "I loaned the campaign $5 million from my money. That's where I got the money." While candidates for federal elective office have a First Amendment right to spend their personal funds without limit, federal law does limit a candidate's access to spousal wealth and to marital property. When assets are owned jointly, a candidate's "personal funds" include "the value of 1/2 of the property," unless the candidate and spouse have specified a different share in an "instrument of conveyance or ownership" of the property. Property solely owned by a candidate's spouse is not defined as the candidate's personal funds and cannot be used by the candidate.

According to video of Obama's comments to reporters regarding Clinton's loan, Obama was asked: "Does it matter in any way if it was her money or her husband's money?" Obama responded: "I think under law it does matter. So my understanding is that she can only draw from half of a joint account. But I'm not -- I'm not going to get into, sort of, the intricacies of their finances. That's something you'll have to ask them."

From the 4 p.m. ET hour of the February 7 edition of MSNBC Live:

QUESTION: You mentioned the tax returns. But just the -- what's your reaction to the basic notion that she had to lend her campaign $5 million? What do you make of it?

OBAMA: She's got more money than me?

QUESTION: Really? [unintelligible]

QUESTION: You're raising money hand over fist.

QUESTION: You mean personally.

OBAMA: I mean personally.

QUESTION: I see. But there is another way of looking at that. Some people might see that as a sign of weakness not to be able to pay her staff. How do you view that?

OBAMA: Well -- look, I think there's no doubt that she has not generated the kind of grassroots enthusiasm that we have. You know, it's not for lack of trying, and she's got a former president actively fundraising for her, as well as people like Terry McAuliffe. But what we've done is we created this base where people send $25 checks and $50 checks on an ongoing basis, and that is an enormous advantage to our campaign, something I'm very proud of because, as I said, it comes up from the grassroots. I think of the $32 million that we raised, $27 million of it came in over the Internet, which is remarkable.

QUESTION: Does it matter in any way if it was her money or her husband's money?

OBAMA: I think under law it does matter. So my understanding is that she can only draw from half of a joint account. But I'm not -- I'm not going to get into, sort of, the intricacies of their finances. That's something you'll have to ask them.

Network/Outlet
The Hotline, National Journal Group
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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