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Virginia, NYC races pose distractions for Clinton

Updated at: 08/11/2013 6:35 PM
By KEN THOMAS

(AP) WASHINGTON - Hillary Rodham Clinton’s effort to carefully craft her post-Cabinet image has hit a few bumps.

A sexting scandal in the New York City mayoral race and a federal investigation that’s roiling the Virginia governor’s race are recalling politically problematic chapters of her past.

Republicans are amplifying the parallels while also making a separate stink about television programs that CNN and NBC are developing about the former first lady and secretary of state. The GOP contends that the media are promoting Clinton’s image ahead of a potential White House campaign.

It all adds up to a dose of unwanted attention, if not a distraction, for someone trying to maintain a golden image among Democrats during a respite that could precede a second presidential bid.

While Clinton has tried to maintain a relatively low profile this summer, her aides have found themselves having to answer for her family’s connections to the two campaigns.

An electric car company started by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton friend and former Democratic National Committee chairman, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission along with a firm led by Anthony Rodham, Clinton’s brother. The investigation centers on how they sought visas for foreign investors to McAuliffe’s company.

In New York, former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s campaign for mayor has faltered since revelations that he continued to exchange sexually explicit online messages with women after he resigned from Congress in 2011 because of a sexting scandal. Weiner is married to Huma Abedin, who is a longtime aide to Clinton and has stood by her husband’s side.

For all the Republican-fueled promotion of the links to Clinton, the two campaigns probably will not have a lasting impact on her political profile after two decades in the spotlight. Still, opponents are using them to recall Clinton’s own past personal and professional troubles _ and the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the Whitewater real estate investment saga.

Her supporters dismiss the connections and play down their impact.

"Not everything is about the Clintons," said former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif.

That hasn’t stopped Republicans from trying.

Senate Republicans and Virginia’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, McAuliffe’s Republican opponent in the governor’s race, are closely watching the investigation of GreenTech Automotive, McAuliffe’s former company.

The SEC subpoenaed records of GreenTech and Gulf Coast Funds Management, Rodham’s firm, which sought investors to the company’s auto plant. The investigation involves how the companies used a federal program that provides permanent residency to foreign investors who invest $500,000 or more in businesses based in economically struggling areas.

The agency overseeing the visa program has denied that politics were involved in helping the company. But the case could complicate matters for Clinton and dredge up old memories.

Anthony Rodham was a paid consultant to a Tennessee couple that received pardons from President Bill Clinton in 2000. Rodham has said he discussed the pardon with his brother-in-law but said the president made his decision on the merits.

McAuliffe served as chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and was a leading fundraiser for her husband’s presidential bids. His opponents have sought to portray him as a political moneyman to a Clinton White House that allowed big donors stay overnight in the Lincoln Bedroom and attend special coffees with the president.

"If it turns out that (McAuliffe) got preferential treatment while she was secretary of state, hmmm. That could be a lot more messy than anyone is thinking right now," said Curt Anderson, a Republican strategist. "If this turns out to be some sort of visa for sale scheme while she was secretary of state, are we to believe it is just a coincidence that they had her brother involved?"

Hillary Clinton is planning a fundraising reception for McAuliffe at her Washington home on Sept. 30, headlining what would be her first political event since leaving the State Department, according to two Democratic officials familiar with the plans. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the event.

In New York, Abedin’s decision to stick by her husband after the latest sexting allegations drew comparisons by Republicans to Hillary Clinton’s decision to support her husband during reports of infidelities, and the president’s later impeachment by the House _ and acquittal by the Senate _ over his relationship with Lewinsky.

Clinton’s allies have privately expressed their displeasure with Weiner for his behavior. Traveling in Africa, Bill Clinton told CNN that they had not been involved in the mayor’s race "and they understood that from the beginning. There are too many people running for mayor who have been my supporters, who supported her for senator, her for president."

Republicans have charged Democrats with hypocrisy for not condemning Weiner’s behavior, along with San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, a former Democratic congressman accused of making inappropriate advances toward several women. Hillary Clinton, who was in San Diego on Wednesday for a private speech, has not discussed either case publicly.

Republicans this past week charged that television networks were propping up a potential Clinton campaign as they criticized plans by CNN to develop a documentary film on the former first lady and NBC to air a four-hour miniseries. The Republican National Committee said it would bar the networks from participating in future GOP debates if they proceed with the projects.

Even some liberal voices have sided with the RNC. David Brock, the founder of Media Matters, urged the networks to cancel the programs, saying the timing "raises too many questions about fairness and conflicts of interest ahead of the 2016 election."

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Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)