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Gillibrand book: In politics, money talks

Cover shot of Off The Sidelines by Kirsten

Cover shot of Off The Sidelines by Kirsten Gillibrand. Credit: Random House

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's new book, "Off the Sidelines," offers women some real-world advice about how to make it in politics: Work hard, make connections and write lots of checks.

That's one of the key narratives of the self-revealing book published Tuesday, mixed in with personal anecdotes and exhortations to women to stand up for the issues they care about, as she tells her life story -- including her rise from campaign volunteer in 1996 to U.S. senator in 2009.

Gillibrand writes she met and made a connection with Hillary Clinton in 2000 by writing $1,000 checks to attend her New York Senate campaign events and, at Clinton's request, even holding a fundraiser for her.

As Gillibrand advises in the book, "When you want to be taken seriously in politics, you have to prove you can deliver, often financially."

Written with Elizabeth Weil, a New York Times Magazine contributor, the 224-page book is a personal, political and policy autobiography, with advice on life, empowerment and politics.

Clinton, who is Gillibrand's predecessor in the Senate and a mentor, wrote the book's foreword, calling it "a story that is far from finished."

In an interview Tuesday Gillibrand insisted it's not a political or a policy book: "The book is really a call to action."

She said she wants to inspire women from every walk of life by telling her own stories.

"It's meant to be an intimate conversation among women," Gillibrand said.

It includes news tidbits too:

Before becoming a senator, she spent less than 90 minutes in five years talking to Clinton.

In 2000, frustrated she couldn't get a job on Clinton's campaign, Gillibrand accepted then-HUD Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo's offer to be a special counsel at "the highest salary" he could offer.

She almost passed over the issue of preventing military sexual assault -- a cause she has championed in the past year -- until she was prodded by a producer of "The Invisible War," a documentary on it.

She offers personal details:

As a child, Gillibrand was always seeking approval.

She belies her well-mannered image by swearing in private.

She is a religious Catholic, and writes about her own astrological signs and handed out a New Age positive-thinking book to her staff.

Gillibrand is a single mom in Washington on weekdays with her 6- and 10-year-old boys, when her husband Jonathan, a venture capitalist, works in New York City.

The book prompted headlines two weeks ago over excerpts that skewered unnamed male lawmakers for remarks on her increased weight after she gave birth. Gillibrand also reveals her father "zeroed in" on her insecurities about weight when she was in college and told her not to eat bread when they dined together.

Notable, too, is who and what's left out of the book.

There's no mention of former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), a friend of her father's for whom she interned and who helped promote her career; the role of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) as a guide in the Senate; or her clash with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who helped block her bill on military sexual assault. Nor does she address what some Democrats call the corrupting role of money in politics.

Instead, she named the book for her "Off the Sidelines initiative" and leadership PAC. In the past 18 months, the PAC raised $3.7 million for her political operation and Democratic women candidates.

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