Democratic U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama clashed on Saturday over his ties to an indicted Chicago businessman and her tax records, despite their agreement two days earlier on the need to focus on issues.
Clinton's campaign questioned Obama's judgment in his dealings with campaign supporter and businessman Antoin "Tony" Rezko.
Obama's campaign fired back, calling it "the height of hypocrisy for Sen. Clinton to demand the release of documents already on our campaign Web site" while she has refused to release her full tax returns during her time in the Senate.
The stepped-up attacks came ahead of the crucial April 22 Pennsylvania primary.
Obama, who would be the first black president, and Clinton, who would be the first woman president, are in a close race for the Democratic nomination to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain, in the November election.
Clinton's aides cited Obama's disclosure that Rezko had raised up to $250,000 for his earlier political campaigns, a higher figure than he previously reported, and called on him to disclose all documents and e-mails about his Rezko dealings.
"It raises questions about Sen. Obama's judgment," Clinton's deputy communications director, Phil Singer, said. "The revelations make clear that Sen. Obama has not always been straight forward about his relationship with Tony Rezko."
Obama's spokesman fired back by calling on Clinton to disclose her tax returns and other information.
SENATE FLOOR CHAT
"Democrats across the country should be very concerned about Sen. Clinton's refusal to offer a full and complete accounting of what could be lurking in this financial information," Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Singer said her returns would be released around April 15.
Rezko, a property developer and restaurant entrepreneur is on trial, accused by federal prosecutors of extorting bribes and campaign donations as well as money laundering.
Obama has long denied there was anything in his relationship with Rezko that relates to the corruption trial and there is no evidence he did anything wrong.
Clinton's campaign called on Obama to release all details about his contacts with Rezko over his home deal. Obama coordinated the purchase of his Chicago home with Rezko and bought part of an adjoining property from Rezko and his wife.
The exchanges between the two campaigns occurred after Clinton and Obama talked briefly Thursday on the Senate floor.
"We talked about the importance of keeping our campaigns on the issues," Clinton told reporters on her plane in Pittsburgh.
"We both have had instances during the course of the year with staff members, supporters saying things that we've had to reject and repudiate, and we want to make sure that we try to keep this campaign focused on what voters are interested in," she said.
Obama's campaign gave a similar account of the meeting.
Clinton, with a bright green scarf wrapped around her neck, campaigned and marched in St. Patrick's Day parades in Pittsburgh and Scranton, Pennsylvania, where she sought to reach out to the state's sizable constituency of Catholic and Irish Americans.
In response to criticism that she exaggerated her role in the Northern Ireland peace process, she said, "I helped with the peace process in Northern Ireland. ... That's been validated in many different settings by many different people who were part of the process."
Meanwhile, Obama, in a speech in Plainfield, Indiana, again repudiated the remarks made by his Chicago pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Wright was removed as the "spiritual adviser," to the campaign.
In Wright's sermons over the years, which have been circulated in the media and on the YouTube Web site, he has called the September 2001 attacks retribution for U.S. foreign policy, cited the U.S. government as the source of the AIDS virus, and railed against a racist America.
"Most recently you heard some statements from my former pastor that are incendiary and that I completely reject, although I knew him and know him as somebody in my church who talked to me about Jesus and family and friendships," Obama said.
"But if all I knew was those statements that I saw on television, I would be shocked. And it reminds me we've got a tragic history when it comes to race in this country. We've got a lot of pent-up anger and bitterness and misunderstanding," he said.
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