WASHINGTON -- Penny Pritzker, national finance chairwoman for the Obama campaign, knew that if she was going to ask other people to help retire Sen. Hillary Clinton's primary debt, she would have to fork over some cash herself. So as I stood next to her Thursday night, Pritzker pulled out check 15179 from the joint JP Morgan Chase account she has with her husband and wrote a $4,600 check -- the maximum allowed from a couple -- to Clinton's campaign.
"You know, unity is important," Pritzker said before disappearing into a ballroom at the Mayflower Hotel here, where Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama made their first joint appearance since he clinched the Democratic nomination. The crowd of about 300 were Clinton's elite fund-raisers, and they came together in what for some was a bittersweet reception to hear from Obama.
Clinton needs Obama fund-raisers to help pay off her $10 million debt left from her primary campaign (she is not asking for the $12 million she lent to it). Despite an army of small donors, Obama needs these wealthy and well-connected people to help him raise the millions of dollars he needs to finance his run against Sen. John McCain. Federal law limits an individual contribution to $2,300 per person per primary or general election. And just as Pritzker and husband Bryan Traubert "maxed out," so did the Obamas: The senator and wife Michelle contributed $4,600 to Clinton's campaign.
Today, Clinton and Obama travel to the small town of Unity, N.H. -- where each got 107 votes in the January primary -- in a display of unity. But it will take more than a joint appearance. As Betsy Myers, the Obama campaign chief operating officer and head of women's outreach, told me, while many Clinton's supporters have moved on, "20 percent are still angry."
"We've tried to be really respectful of people's feelings," said Pritzker, from Chicago. She told me she is putting together a special task force to help raise money to pay off Clinton's debt, headed by her deputy finance chairman, David Jacobson.
Inside the ballroom, Clinton said to long applause, "We have to make it a priority in our lives to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States." Obama told the Clinton backers that "I'm going to need Hillary by my side campaigning during his election.
When it comes to fund-raising, unity is something that can be counted, not just counted on. Some Clinton supporters want to see what Obama backers will deliver. J.B. Pritzker, a national fund-raiser for Clinton -- and Penny Pritzker's brother -- said, "We'll see. I hope the Obama folks will step up."
Clinton fund-raiser Bill Brandt said afterward that "the takeaway for senior players is, money talks and you know what walks. We want to see a near-term effort. It they don't get to the debt shortly, we are not going to be happy campers."
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