In a March 16, 2008, interview with a group of college journalists, the mtvU editorial board, former President Bill Clinton was asked why Sen. Hillary Clinton had not made a pledge not to accept campaign contributions from lobbyists, as Sen. Barack Obama has.
"He (Obama) did accept donations from lobbyists and PACs and he spent money in this campaign from that, through his political action committee," Bill Clinton said. "He said one thing and did another."
Clinton is talking here about Obama's leadership PAC, Hopefund. Leadership PACs are political action committees established by members of Congress to support other candidates.
All the other presidential candidates shut down their leadership PACs when they announced their candidacy, but Obama's PAC continued to distribute more than $400,000 to political candidates and parties after Obama entered the ring on Feb. 10, 2007.
"And this money did come from lobbyists and special interest groups," Clinton said.
Clinton is right, but some scale is in order.
According to an analysis for PolitiFact by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, of the $4.5-million raised by Obama's Hopefund, $16,500 came from lobbyists, and $125,000 from political action committees such as Lockheed Martin Employees' PAC, AT&T; Corp. PAC and Walt Disney Productions Employees. The biggest donors were lawyers and law firms, accounting for nearly a half-million dollars.
So Obama's leadership PAC did raise money from lobbyists and PACs, though it amounted to just a fraction of the total fundraising. Also notable is that the money was collected before Obama announced his presidential candidacy, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
PolitiFact has already weighed in on Obama's campaign pledge not to take money from lobbyists or PACs, finding that while he has eschewed money from federally registered lobbyists, he has accepted thousands from people who work for lobbying firms. We have also noted that Hillary Clinton has raised more campaign donations from registered lobbyists than any other candidate.
Common sense suggests the distributions to candidates were meant to advance Obama's campaign, particularly when almost 43 percent of the money was spent on candidates in states with early primaries. (See our related ruling on this point here).
One question is whether Obama's Hopefund distributions violate Obama's pledge not to accept lobbyist or PAC money in his run for president. Because the contributions were made prior to the start of his campaign, we find they do not. Therefore it's a stretch for Clinton to say, "He said one thing and did another."
But we're checking Clinton's claim that "(Obama) did accept donations from lobbyists and PACs and he spent money in this campaign from that, through his political action committee." And Obama's leadership PAC did accept $16,000 from lobbyists, and another $125,000 from PACs, even though it was collected before Obama was an announced candidate. And nearly half of Hopefund's money was spent on key primary states during the campaign. So we rate Clinton's claim True.
OpenSecrets.org, Hope Fund: Expenditures
U.S. Census Bureau, Annual Estimates of the Population for the United States and States, and for Puerto Rico, April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2005
Washington Post, "Obama Campaign Worker Discussed PAC Donations," by John Solomon, Nov. 30, 2007
Campaign Legal Center Blog, "They Walk Like Ducks, Quack Like Ducks, But Claim They're Not Ducks," by Paul S. Ryan, Feb. 16, 2007
Associated Press, "Clinton campaign calls on Obama to shut down his political action committee," Dec. 2, 2007
Interview with Massie Ritsch of the Center for Responsive Politics, March 17, 2008
Interview with Paul Ryan, an attorney for the Campaign Legal Center, March 17, 2008
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