Item updated and slightly revised: The Clinton campaign confirms a $5 million self-loan in January.
Ambinder's pre-confirmation spin:
If Clinton decides to loan herself money, I envision that it would produce at least two countervailing forces. There would be a spate of stories on the End of the Clinton Machine -- that her donor base is tapped out and hasn't been able to expand like Obama's. This force is likely to be very strong, and it is not unfair or inaccurate....
But perceptually, it could turn her into an underdog, and it could prove Obama's statement today that Clinton is "the frontrunner" to be vacuous. How can the frontrunner be tied for delegates and be nearly broke? The move could help with her grassroots fundraising. She'd be able to show potential donors than she will sacrifice as she's asking them to sacrifice. One can imagine a fundraising appeal along the lines of: "Help Us Match HIllary!"
The first theory sounds far more plausible to me. I also wonder if the Clintons really want to open up their personal finances to added scrutiny. People will want to know more about where this cash came from. Bill's speeches in foreign countries? His Burkle connection? And those stories rarely play well for the Clintons.
Ben Smith has more good details, including estimates of Clinton wealth, a big Burkle payoff, and an old quote about personal loans that Bill probably now regrets.
P.S. Potential Clinton talking point: People forget, but it was a self-loan that saved John Kerry's bacon in Iowa in 2004.