Obama pays tickets from '80s
Barack Obama (D) Senator, Illinois
Born: 08/04/1961
Birthplace: Honolulu, HI
Home: Chicago, IL
Religion: United Church of Christ
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BOSTON -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama got more than an education when he attended Harvard Law School in the late 1980s. He also got a healthy stack of parking tickets, most of which he never paid.

The Illinois senator shelled out $375 in January -- two weeks before he officially launched his presidential campaign -- to finally pay for 15 outstanding parking tickets and their associated late fees, according to Cambridge city officials.

He also paid $116 to the neighboring city of Somerville at about the same time for an outstanding auto excise tax bill and unpaid parking fines dating to 1990 and 1991.

The story was first reported Wednesday by The Somerville News, owned by Herald Media Inc., the owner of the Boston Herald.

Obama received 17 parking tickets in Cambridge between 1988 and 1991, according to Susan Clippinger, director of the city's Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department. He paid just two while he was a student, she said.

The $375 in fines were paid by credit card using the city's Web site on Jan. 26, she said.

"I think it's fabulous he finally paid them," Clippinger told The Boston Globe.

The senator paid for the tickets out of a personal account, Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign said on Wednesday.

Records show that Obama received the tickets between Oct. 5, 1988, and Jan. 12, 1990, for violations including parking in a resident-only zone, blocking a bus stop and failing to put money in meters.

He incurred $140 in fines and $260 in late fees in Cambridge in all, but he paid $25 for two of the tickets in February 1990.

"He's certainly not our worst ticket scofflaw," Clippinger said.

Tom Champion, a spokesman for the city of Somerville, said he called Obama's office after receiving a query about the unpaid tickets from the Globe in late January.

The penalties were paid Jan. 29, he said.

"He had no idea he had outstanding charges," Champion said.

The unpaid tickets and fees were unlikely to negatively impact Obama's campaign, political experts said.

"It seems monumentally inconsequential," John Ashford, chairman of The Hawthorn Group, a Virginia political public affairs consulting group, told the Herald. "I'm sure he has long since forgotten them, as have all of us who didn't pay a parking ticket anywhere."