Politics & Government

Group pushing Clinton as VP choice tied to her campaign

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. left, and her daughter, Chelsea, foreground, greet the crowd in Grafton, W.Va.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. left, and her daughter, Chelsea, foreground, greet the crowd in Grafton, W.Va. Dales Sparks / AP

WASHINGTON — A group called VoteBoth has been leading the charge for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to team up on the Democratic ticket.

But the people behind it come from just one of those camps — Clinton's — and one of their goals may be keeping Clinton's White House prospects alive.

The group's founder, Adam Parkhomenko, until recently worked as an assistant to Patti Solis Doyle, who was Clinton's campaign manager until February. Parkhomenko in 2003 founded the Draft Hillary for President Committee.

VoteBoth's spokesman is Sam Arora. He's a law school student who in recent years worked for Clinton and for former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, Clinton's presidential campaign chairman.

VoteBoth's Facebook page lists three others as administrators, all with Clinton connections.

One is a Richmond-based Democratic technology consultant, who was quoted in a New York Times story about the Iowa Democratic Party's 2006 Jefferson-Jackson dinner, where he was passing out "Hillary for President" stickers. Another appears online in a photo with Hillary Clinton and others at a summer leadership program from 2006.

A third is a history professor and campaign contributor whom Clinton named earlier this year in a press release of prominent Virginians who'd endorsed her.

VoteBoth first filed with the Federal Election Commission on April 8, two weeks before the Pennsylvania primary that Clinton won and that was considered a crucial window for her comeback. The group's original mission promoted the idea of Clinton as the nominee, with Obama as her running mate.

On May 1, days after the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's latest divisive remarks and Obama's renouncement of his former pastor, VoteBoth amended its mission. It now would support a joint ticket in either order, so long as Clinton's name was on the ballot.

Last week, as Obama's strong showing made him all but certain to clinch the nomination, VoteBoth leaders began putting themselves in the spotlight, sending regular press releases, posting blogs and appearing in interviews.

Parkhomenko wrote a widely circulated piece on The Huffington Post on Tuesday as voters went to the polls in North Carolina and Indiana primaries. "VoteBoth does not aim to pick who leads the ticket," he said. He wrote of friends who "believe in Barack as strongly as I believe in Hillary" and wanting to be inclusive "as a matter of fairness, practicality, experience and hope."

On Friday, when word went out that Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., didn't see Clinton as Obama's pick for a running mate, VoteBoth released a statement offering respect for Kennedy. But it added, "We think that the millions of Democrats who have voted for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have something to say, too. Why stop at having a nominee who has the support of 51 percent of Democrats when we could have a 'Dream Team' ticket that has won 100 percent?"

On Friday, Parkhomenko said through a spokesman that his decision to change the mission came after talking to an Obama supporter. He also said he gave neither the Clinton nor Obama campaigns a heads-up about his group.

In an interview Friday, Arora said VoteBoth is not coordinated with Clinton's campaign, and is "just a bunch of us volunteering our time because we think this is a good idea." Despite the lopsided Clinton connections, he said it isn't just about supporting Clinton but about bringing together the rivals' historic turnout and fund-raising machines and constituencies.

"There's been a lot of talk about a unity ticket and we think that's where the conversation should be," said Arora, choosing a word — conversation — that Clinton used to frame her campaign appearances. "If we've been able to help the discussion forward, that's what we're focused on."

"If Barack Obama is the nominee and he takes Senator Clinton as his vice president, you've got a ticket that's already won 100 percent of the Democratic vote, that's turned out a record number of Democratic voters and that has shattered fundraising records. A unity ticket is the way Democrats win in November."

Obama's campaign declined comment on VoteBoth. The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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