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Hillary, pay your small vendors.

(UPDATE: The latest flap is that Hillary hasn’t paid her staff’s health care premium to the tune of $292K. FEC filings show unpaid bills to provider Aetna for at least two months. Good lord, this PR problem is beyond the pale. Here is Clinton’s FEC filing, and Obama‘s.)

The Clinton campaign is trying to keep its financial operation afloat as it hits the next slew of primaries, but this is bad PR any way you look at it. You can’t sell yourself as a president ready to give hope and help to working families when you stiff small vendors who have made you look good on the road. Even worse, when vendors have contacted the campaign to see when they might be paid, no one responds. (The Politico):

Event production is important to big-time presidential campaigns. It shapes how candidates look and sound, not just to the thousands of people who turn out to campaign speeches and rallies but also to the millions who catch snippets of them on television.

And word is getting around that Clinton’s campaign does not promptly pay those who labor to make her events look good, said an employee of the event production company Forty Two of Youngstown, Ohio.

…The Clinton campaign paid the company $16,500 to set up a stage, press riser, sound system and backdrops at a Youngstown high school last month for a raucous union rally, where an aggressive Clinton stump speech drew thunderous applause. But the Clinton campaign has yet to pay Forty Two for two other February events, and the employee said the campaign has stopped returning phone calls, e-mails and didn’t respond to a certified letter.

More below the fold.

Forty Two also has done events for Obama’s campaign, which has paid its bills promptly, according to the employee. FEC records show Obama’s campaign paid the company $18,500. Show Tyme Exhibits, another Youngstown event production company, has produced political events for years and had never had problems getting paid before Clinton, according to owner Jim Phillips.

He said he’s still waiting for a payment for setting up the sound system and stage for Clinton’s February tour of a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

And these aren’t Obama supporters with an axe to grind; both the 42 employee and Phillips voted for Clinton – something they now both regret. What’s unclear is how the campaign decides who gets paid and who doesn’t (and how it’s tied to campaign cash flow), as the Politico article cites vendors who received their payments in a timely manner.

That said, the bottom line in this story is that it shows the tap is running dry for Clinton. Remember that $5 million that she loaned her campaign? If she hadn’t done that, given the burn rate, in February she would have been $3 million in the tank because of all the outstanding debt.

I have no patience for deadbeats; I was stiffed by a client when I was doing freelance magazine production several years ago. In two cases he simply wrote bad checks as payment after a long period of non-payment and my polite requests to receive payment. Perhaps a $200 or $500 billable doesn’t mean much to the Clintonistas, but to do that to small vendors is unconscionable. It’s fine if Mark Penn wants to defer payment to his shop, but the caterers, office cleaners and landlords left stiffed in the wake of a campaign that was publicly living the high life on the road to coronation is a terrible thing to do.

Vendors offering services to the Clinton campaign in any states with primaries coming up better ask for cash up front is unless they want to take a bath on the project.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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