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Clinton Steps Up Attack On Obama

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, criticized for taking corporate special interest contributions, proposed restrictions on a wide array of industries Thursday and stepped up her assault on rival Barack Obama, casting him as the candidate more beholden to corporations.

In a speech to General Motors workers and executives, Clinton trumped Obama's own economic plan from a day before and appeared to be channeling former rival John Edwards' populist anti-corporate message.

"For seven long years, we've had a government of, by, and for the special interests, and we've had enough," the New York senator told an audience at a General Motors plant that she toured here. "It's time to level the playing field against the special interests and deliver 21st century solutions to rebuild the middle class."

She said she would rein in oil, insurance, credit card, student loan and Wall Street investment companies and generate $55 billion a year that would be used for middle class tax cuts, create jobs and pay for an array of domestic programs.

Obama on Wednesday visited a GM plant in Janesville, Wis., to unveil a 10-year, $210 billion economic plan to create jobs in construction and environmental industries.

The former first lady was in Ohio to press her strategy of jumping ahead to the biggest March 4 primary states - Texas and Ohio - where she still holds the lead in polls. She is counting on those states to stop a tide that has given Obama eight straight victories since Super Tuesday. According to CBS News estimates, of the 2,025 delegates needed for nomination, Obama now has 1,281; Clinton, 1,197.

Waving a pair of blue boxing gloves, Clinton was in a combative mood Thursday.

"We need a champion and a fighter in the White House," she declared. The gloves were in honor of middleweight boxing champion Kelly Pavlik of Youngstown, Ohio.

Clinton went after Obama, tying him to nuclear interests and blaming him for doing little to stave off job losses in Illinois.

"My opponent says that he'll take on the special interests," she said. "Well, he told people he stood up to the nuclear industry and passed a bill against them. But he actually let the nuclear industry water down his bill and the bill never actually passed." (Read more about Clinton's speech in the From The Road blog.)

Clinton was referring to Exelon Corp., a Chicago-based energy giant and nuclear plant operator, whose executives and employees have contributed more than $200,000 to Obama's campaigns since 2004. This month, The New York Times examined whether Obama, at the behest of Exelon lobbyists, had weakened legislation aimed at tightening regulations on the nuclear industry.

"Barack Obama doesn't need any lectures on special interests from the candidate who's taken more money from Washington lobbyists than any Republican running for President," Obama spokesman Bill Burton responded. He said Clinton had co-sponsored the nuclear regulatory legislation she now criticizes.

On Thursday, Obama won the backing of the United Food and Commercial Workers, a politically active union with significant membership in the upcoming Democratic battlegrounds.

The 1.3-million member UFCW gives Obama an organizational boost in vital upcoming contests, with 69,000 members in the Buckeye state and another 26,000 in Texas. The food workers also have 19,000 members in Wisconsin, which holds a primary Tuesday.

Separately, the Service Employees International Union executive board planned a conference call Thursday night to consider an Obama endorsement, according to a person familiar with the plans. This person was not authorized to speak publicly and so requested anonymity.

The international union had stayed out of the primary race until now, because its leaders were divided over who to endorse after an especially strong courting by Edwards. The 1.8-million member union allowed its state affiliates to make endorsements, and most of them backed Edwards.

Clinton's new plan appeared designed to respond to some of the sharpest criticism she has received on the campaign trail from fellow Democrats Obama and Edwards, who dropped out just before Super Tuesday. Both Obama and Clinton have been courting Edwards in hopes of obtaining his endorsement.

Before the South Carolina primary in which Clinton finished second, Edwards aired pointed TV ads contrasting her political donors with his refusal to take contributions from lobbyists and political action committees. Without naming Clinton, one Edwards' ad noted that one of his opponents "takes more money than anyone from Washington lobbyists."

The independent and nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reported that during the first nine months of 2007 Clinton received $567,950 from donors identified as lobbyists, the most of any of the presidential candidates.

Her visit Thursday was Clinton's second to a GM plant this week. She toured a company facility in Maryland on Monday. In Lordstown, she was accompanied by Ohio's Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, both of whom have endorsed her.

One of Clinton fundraisers is Steve Ricchetti, whose firm has lobbied for General Motors, which has plants in New York state. As a senator from New York, Clinton helped direct $8 million in federal money to General Motors through earmarks in legislation between 2005 and 2007.

Clinton told the GM workers, "I'm announcing an agenda to rein in the special interests and save the American people at least $55 billion a year. Money that can go back into your pockets. Money we can use to create new jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, make college affordable and so much more."

She said she would force oil companies to invest some of their record profits in high-wage, clean-energy jobs. "I'll end their special tax breaks and given them a choice: Invest some of your profits in alternative energy or we'll do it for you," she said. "People have been paying through the roof at the pump and it's time the companies paid their fair share."

In addition to earlier proposals to cap interest rates at 30 percent, Clinton said she would prohibit credit card companies from imposing hidden fees and sudden rate hikes.

She promised to stop insurance companies from refusing to cover the pre-existing conditions of their clients.

"They spend more than $50 billion a year trying to figure out how not to cover people," Clinton said. "I'm going to save them a fortune and a whole lot of time, because here's the new policy: No more discrimination period. So even if you have a pre-existing condition, you can get the health insurance you need no questions asked."

And she backed tax revisions to force Wall Street "to finally pay your fair share in taxes. Because it's outrageous that a teacher making $50,000 pays a higher tax rate than some Wall Street investment managers making $50 million."

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