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Published: Friday, 12/5/2008

Hillary Clinton rushing to reduce her campaign debt


NEW YORK - With just weeks before President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in, his choice for secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is scrambling to reduce her campaign debt before federal ethics rules prohibit her from doing so.

Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will headline a major debt retirement event in New York Dec. 15 with Ugly Betty star America Ferrera as master of ceremonies. Tickets range from $50 to $1,000, with top donors earning a premium seat and a backstage photo with the former first lady.

Mrs. Clinton also plans to sell a children's book, titled Dreams Taking Flight by author Kathleen Krull, about her pioneering candidacy.

Mrs. Clinton's mother, Dorothy Rodham, planned to send an e-mail to supporters later this week asking them to purchase the book to help raise funds to pay down Mrs. Clinton's debt.

The urgency is rooted in the size of the New York senator's unpaid bills and the fund-raising restrictions she will face once she joins Mr. Obama's cabinet.

At the beginning of November, Mrs. Clinton owed $7.5 million to vendors from her failed presidential bid, according to campaign finance records.

The largest share of the debt - about $5.3 million - is owed to the polling firm of Mark Penn, the Clintons' longtime political strategist. She owes hundreds of thousands of dollars for printing, equipment rental, phone banks, and other services.

Mrs. Clinton has been trimming the debt since suspending her campaign last June, partly with Mr. Obama's help.

But her fund-raising efforts will be curtailed if she is confirmed as secretary of state and becomes covered by the Hatch Act, which regulates political involvement by federal employees.

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