WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton's latest campaign finance report to the Federal Election Commission shows a fat bank balance of $31.7 million as of March 31, but less than $9 million is available for the final string of primary elections that begin Tuesday in Pennsylvania.
Her Democratic rival Barack Obama raked in nearly five times more cash, according to the monthly reports filed late Sunday. The tally explains why he's been able to outspend Clinton in Pennsylvania by a wide margin.
Obama raised $41 million in March and finished the month with a cash balance of $51 million. While Clinton's campaign brought in $20 million, more than $23 million in her bank account has come in donations designated for the fall's general election campaign — money she can't use during the primaries to keep her presidential hopes alive.
Obama's donations through March included $8.2 million designated for the general election, leaving him with $43 million for the primaries. To date, he's raised $240 million.
The donations that are directed solely for the November election almost always come from backers who've already given the maximum allowable for the primaries — $2,300 for individuals and $5,000 for political action committees.
To help finance the last crucial primaries, the Clinton campaign, which has raised nearly $190 million overall, needs to find new contributors to replace those who've contributed the maximum.
Sunday's reports showed that this year's presidential race is the most expensive in history, with $848 million spent so far. The total exceeds the $744 million in private donations for both the 2004 primary and general election campaigns.
Even the $9 million Clinton had available doesn't tell the whole picture. Her campaign listed $10.3 million in debts entering April, including $4.6 million to the political consulting firm of Mark Penn, who resigned as her top strategist on April 6 after it was discovered that he'd lobbied on behalf of the Columbian government for a free-trade pact that she opposes. Clinton also has lent her campaign $5 million.
Jay Carson, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said Monday that "while we are being significantly outspent by Senator Obama, the money continues to come in strongly'' and the campaign has ``been able to get our message out.''
While the Democrats are burning cash, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain is starting to narrow the gap between his campaign and the Democrats. He raised $15.6 million in March, ending the period with $12.4 million.
In all, McCain has collected $63 million.
On Friday, McCain for the first time released a list of 106 of his top fundraisers. Seventy-six of the so-called ``Trailblazers'' brought in at least $100,000, and 33 ``Innovators'' raised $250,000 or more.
Among them are nearly two dozen lobbyists, including several who represented clients with interests before the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over telecommunications policy and which McCain chaired until 2007.
Tucker Bounds, McCain's spokesman, said all the donations were permissible, adding that McCain, an advocate of tighter campaign finance regulations, would ``strictly adhere to campaign finance regulations.''
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McClatchy Newspapers 2008