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Obama paid late parking tickets

Racked up penalties while at Harvard

Barack Obama received 17 parking tickets in Cambridge. Barack Obama received 17 parking tickets in Cambridge.

Barack Obama is no longer a scofflaw, at least in Cambridge and Somerville.

Two weeks before the US senator from Illinois launched his presidential campaign, he paid parking tickets he received while attending Harvard Law School, officials said yesterday.

Obama received 17 parking tickets in Cambridge between 1988 and 1991, according to the city's Traffic, Parking & Transportation Department.

Of those tickets, he paid only two while he was a student and paid them late, said Susan Clippinger, the office's director.

In January, about when the Globe began asking local officials about Obama's time at Harvard, including any violations of local laws, someone representing the senator called the parking office to inquire about the decades-old tickets.

On Jan. 26, the remaining $375 in fines and fees were paid by credit card using the city's website, Clippinger said. She said she didn't know who paid them.

"I think it's fabulous he finally paid them," Clippinger said by phone yesterday. "I think others who owe us money should pay us, too."

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, said last night that the senator paid for the tickets out of a personal account.

She would not comment on why it had taken him so long to pay the tickets and fees. "All I can do is confirm that he paid all the tickets and late fees in full," she said.

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

He received most of the tickets in fall 1988, in his first year at Harvard Law School, a grueling trial for many of the students. A meter violation then cost only $5; the penalty for not paying promptly tacked on another $15. At times, he received multiple tickets in the same day for exceeding the time limit at a meter.

In total, he incurred $140 in fines and $260 in late fees. In February 1990, he paid two of the tickets, one for $10 and the other for $15.

"He's certainly not our worst ticket scofflaw," Clippinger said. "Unfortunately, it's not that abnormal. It's actually pretty run of the mill."

Obama's payment of the Cambridge tickets was reported yesterday by The Somerville News.

The Globe reported in January that in Somerville, where Obama lived while attending Harvard, the senator still owed the city $73 in excise taxes and $45 in late penalties for parking in a bus stop in 1990 and in a street-sweeping zone in 1991. Both of the tickets had been paid.

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

By the next Monday, Jan. 29, he said, the penalties were paid.

"He had no idea he had outstanding charges," Champion said. "The Globe, by raising the issue, called it to his attention, and then he paid them immediately."

Globe correspondent Khristopher Flack contributed to this story. David Abel can be reached at