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Obama accuses Hillary of close ties with NRIs

He fired the first salvo after the Clinton campaign released her financial data showing financial gains from their relationship with the Indian community.

india Updated: Jun 19, 2007 13:06 IST

Indians have been caught in the campaign crossfire of two leading Democratic presidential hopefuls - former first lady Hillary Clinton and rising black star Barak Obama.

Obama fired the first salvo shortly after the Clinton campaign released her financial information under government ethics rules for presidential candidates with his team circulating what was purported to be an analysis of "Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)'s Personal Financial And Political Ties To India".

This apparent reference to a joke that Hillary Clinton once made during a fund-raiser in a Sikh supporter's home that she can run for a Senate seat from Punjab and win easily clearly did not amuse the Obama campaign.

The document circulated to news organisations - on what it demanded be a not-for-attribution - referred to the Clintons' investment in India and Hillary Clinton's fund-raising efforts among Indian Americans. The Clintons have reaped significant financial rewards from their relationship with the Indian community, both in their personal finances and Hillary's campaign fundraising, it alleged.

Hillary Clinton, who is the co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, has drawn criticism from anti-offshoring groups for her vocal support of Indian business and unwillingness to protect American jobs, it said.

"Bill Clinton has invested tens of thousands of dollars in an Indian bill payment company, while Hillary Clinton has taken tens of thousands from companies that outsource jobs to India.

"Workers who have been laid off in upstate New York might not think that her recent joke that she could be elected to the Senate seat in Punjab is that funny," the three-page memo said.

It also highlighted the acceptance by husband bill Clinton of $300,000 in speech fees from Cisco, a company the which the Obama campaign said 'Laid Off American Workers to Hire Indian Techies'.

Also under attack was the Clintons' connection to the Indian-American hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal who has promised to raise millions for Hillary's campaign but who is "alleged to owe the city of New York millions in back taxes".

The note also cited instances of Hillary rationalising outsourcing and explaining that it brought jobs to both India and US.

As a copy of the document fell into the hands of Hillary Clinton's campaign, it promptly provided it to The New York Times as an illustration of dirty tricks by a rival who has sought to present his campaign as a "new kind of politics" above personal attacks.

Observers were surprised at Obama playing the outsourcing card as he himself is trying to court the Indian-American constituency with moves afoot to promote 'South Asians for Obama' chapters across the country.

The United States India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) shot off a letter to Obama asking him to respond to allegations that his campaign has been "promoting hurtful stereotypes against the Indian American community."

"As representatives of the Indian American community, we have been encouraged by your message of inclusion and your promise to bring a new kind of politics to our country," wrote Sanjay Puri, chairman of the Washington based organisation.

"This is why we are so concerned about media reports indicating your staff may be engaging in the worst kind of anti Indian American stereotyping."

"We request that you respond directly to these media reports and let us know if indeed your staff is promoting these hurtful stereotypes. We trust that you will take all appropriate action on this matter and look forward to your response on this issue of great concern to the Indian American community," Puri added.

First Published: Jun 16, 2007 12:41 IST

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