At the end of February, “a Clinton advisor confirmed” for Politico’s Ben Smith that the campaign raised $35 million during the month of February.
The Wall Street Journal reported the same: “Rebounding dramatically from dismal fund-raising in January, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign raised more than $35 million in February—a record haul for the campaign.”
ABC News reported that Senator Clinton herself made the claim:
Sen. Hillary Clinton said Thursday she was incredibly gratified to learn her campaign hauled in a record 35 million dollars in the month of February, despite losing 11 contests during that time.
“I was sure excited by the generosity of thousands of new donors,” Clinton told reporters in Hanging Rock, Ohio. “It was really heartwarming because a lot of them sent e-mails talking about why they were contributing and it was often five, ten, fifteen dollars and they would write about how they wanted to do for their children.”
I’m not singling out those news sources. In the days before the March 4 Ohio and Texas primaries, virtually every political reporter repeated the claim as fact.
But Houston, we have a problem: it was untrue.
Clinton’s true fundraising take in February was far less, almost by half.
The Los Angeles Times reports, after scouring Federal Elections Commission (FEC) reports that Clinton’s, uh, creative math, included “$10 million from her Senate campaign account and a $5-million personal loan.”
The Associated Press digs deeper into the numbers (the February filing reports came in yesterday) and notes that most of the $19 million that Clinton did raise in February was either offset by unpaid bills or was “general election” money (what big donors, lobbyists and PACs that have already given the maximum $2,300 to the primary campaign then give to a fund that can only be used if the candidate becomes the nominee):
reports filed with the Federal Election commission late Thursday showed that Obama set a single-month fundraising record, with more than $55 million in contributions.
Both Democrats ended up with more than $30 million in the bank, but Clinton can’t use two-thirds of her cash on hand because it’s only for the general election. That and her debt left her with less than $3 million in the black. The debt doesn’t include the $5 million she lent her campaign in January.
The fact that so much of Clinton’s money is in that “general election” category that can’t be spent also betrays the candidate’s claim, above, that her fundraising was boosted significantly by donors of “five, ten, fifteen dollars.” Small donors never give (and are never asked) for the general election campaign: that category is for the fat cats (who can now give to Clinton with increasing assurance that their money will have to be refunded, by law, when she doesn’t win the nomination).
So, what’s really been going on is a big game of mirrors-and-smoke in which unquestioning journalists have played along or been used.