As Hillary Clinton Tests the Waters, Who Pays?

NYT FDMaggie Haberman March 17, 2015

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Good Tuesday morning from Washington and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those celebrating. President Obama will be spending part of his day with the prime minister of Ireland, while congressional Republicans get their chance to produce a budget. Facing a re-election fight, Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to play it cool in Chicago, but for potential presidential candidates, hiring is heating up. We look at how a certain Democratic front-runner is managing to pay the bills.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has a growing team of campaign staff members-to-be, but how some of them are getting paid has been something of a mystery.

The answer is not so simple.

Some salaries are being paid personally by Mrs. Clinton, as has been the case for a small handful of aides for the last two years. Newer additions are volunteering their time. And some are attached to their current jobs, such as the expected campaign communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, who has that title at the White House.

It’s unclear exactly who is volunteering versus who is getting paid. The person who has been doing intensive but informal work for Mrs. Clinton for months now is Robby Mook, her campaign manager-to-be who is described by several people close to her as being at the helm of the effort.

Mrs. Clinton is currently in a phase defined by the Federal Election Commission as “testing the waters,” meaning she doesn’t have to report her spending. When she becomes a candidate – or “if,” as she and her aides have continued to say – Mrs. Clinton will have to report any pre-campaign spending on polling, travel and staff payments.

Jason Torchinsky, a Republican election lawyer who is currently not aligned with a 2016 candidate, said it might not be clear until “her first filing what she’s actually doing.”

Mrs. Clinton’s allies often cite her personal payments to staff members as a reason she has continued giving paid speeches. She’ll make another on Thursday in Atlantic City before the American Camp Association.

But Mrs. Clinton’s paying staff members personally is not unlike what Mitt Romney did in his national campaign before becoming a candidate, Mr. Torchinsky noted. And many of the Republican candidates this year are pushing the limits of what the campaign finance laws dictate, relying on “super PACs” or outside groups to help fund their activities.

Nick Merrill, a Clinton spokesman, said that the former secretary of state “hasn’t made a decision about running” and that she was “testing the waters.”

“Like anyone considering running for office, she has the support of many individuals who have agreed to volunteer their time to help her make this decision,” he said.