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Clinton Fundraiser Knows What's Good for GM

Hillary Clinton's campaign is interested in shifting gears. (Getty Images.)

By Ann Marimow and Matthew Mosk
Democrat Hillary Clinton got a first-hand look at the assembly of a transmission for hybrid vehicles, slipping into the front seat of a hybrid version of a Chevy Tahoe while touring GM's transmission plant in suburban Baltimore this morning.

The plant was a smart choice for a campaign stop in advance of tomorrow's Maryland primary. As The Post reported in October, Clinton has secured $8 million in earmarks for General Motors for hybrid, hydrogen and fuel-cell research over the past four years. The latest installment came in May, when she announced that she had secured $3 million for GM in the fiscal 2008 Pentagon spending bill.

One of GM's main lobbyists on the issue is Steve Ricchetti, a deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House and one of Hillary Clinton's "Hillraisers," individuals committed to raising at least $100,000 for her presidential campaign. As a donor, he has given $4,600, the maximum allowed, to Clinton's campaign.

Ricchetti's firm reported earning $120,000 in the first half of this year from lobbying for GM on issues that included the "development and promotion of hydrogen fuel cells and hybrid vehicles."

Ricchetti said in an interview last fall that he and his firm did not lobby Clinton on that specific earmark and he did not know how the funding was secured. Though his partners at times lobby Clinton's Senate office, Ricchetti said, he has decided not to do so because he still does political work for both Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said at the time that the senator does not consider contributions or fundraising when making official decisions. "One thing has nothing to do with the other," Singer said.

But GM's hybrid plant made for friendly terrain as Clinton toured Maryland this morning. She was escorted on the factory floor by plant manager Thomas Gallagher and GM powertrain vice president of global manufacturing John Buttermore. In the question-and-answer session, one worker told the New York senator that the so-called Big Three -- General Motors, Ford and Daimler Chrysler -- "really need your help because they can't afford to be competitive with foreign carmakers," in part because of the high cost of health care for workers.

Clinton assured the audience that as president, she would be a partner with both the companies and the unions.

"We've got to give some help to our Big Three when it comes to health-care costs, when it comes to financing the transition to these clean-energy vehicles," she said. "You've got to have a president who is actually going to work with GM, work with the union, make sure we do this right."

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 11, 2008; 4:20 PM ET
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