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Clinton donors offer to fund do-over

March 20, 2008|Michael Finnegan and Dan Morain | Times Staff Writers

Ten donors to Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign offered Wednesday to give Michigan $12 million to hold a rerun of its Democratic primary as she and rival Barack Obama traded sharp words over the proposed June 3 contest.

With state lawmakers facing a deadline today for approval of the plan, Clinton made a quick stop Wednesday in Detroit, where she called on Obama to endorse the do-over election.

"Sen. Obama speaks passionately on the campaign trail about empowering the American people," she said. "Today I'm urging him to match those words with action."

For his part, Obama called Clinton "completely disingenuous" in pushing for reruns of Michigan and Florida primaries that occurred in January.

The Democratic National Committee stripped both states of their delegates to the party's summer convention because they held their primaries earlier than allowed by the DNC. Democrats have scrapped plans for a new primary in Florida, but Clinton hopes that a new Michigan contest would enable her to overcome Obama's lead in delegates. Clinton was the only major Democrat who put her name on Michigan's January ballot.

In a CNN interview, the Illinois senator recalled Clinton's statement last fall that Michigan's primary was "not going to count for anything."

"Then, as soon as she got into trouble politically, and it looked like she would have no prospects of winning the nomination without having [Michigan and Florida] count, suddenly she's extraordinarily concerned with the voters there," Obama told CNN. "I understand the politics of it, but let's be clear that it's politics."

Clinton supporters in Michigan concede that state lawmakers are unlikely to authorize the proposed June 3 primary by today's deadline.

Nonetheless, Democratic Govs. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania and Jon Corzine of New Jersey on Wednesday gave Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm a list of 10 people who would guarantee the state up to $12 million in donations to hold the election. All three governors support Clinton, and the 10 offering to pay for the election are all donors to the New York senator's campaign.

The group includes Los Angeles investor Haim Saban; Fred Eychaner, a Chicago contributor who made his fortune in TV and radio; and three attorneys: Peter G. Angelos, who owns the Baltimore Orioles baseball team; John Eddie Williams Jr. of Houston; and Calvin C. Fayard Jr. of Louisiana.

Others signatories include New Yorkers Bernard L. Schwartz, former chairman of the satellite communications firm Loral Space and Communications; former Clinton administration Treasury official Roger Altman of the private equity firm Evercore; and John Catsimatidis, whose business interests include real estate and oil.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the group's offer showed that Clinton was "willing to do absolutely anything to get elected."

"This letter from some of Clinton's biggest campaign contributors eliminates any pretense that Clinton's efforts in Michigan are about anything other than an attempt to bankroll an election in which they appear more than happy to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters," he said.

Michigan primaries are usually open to all voters. Obama's campaign has objected to a provision of the June 3 plan that would bar voters who cast ballots in January's Republican primary from participating in the new Democratic contest.

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michael.finnegan@latimes.com

dan.morain@latimes.com

Times staff writer Johanna Neuman contributed to this report.

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