In San Jose

Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses her supporters at a campaign event in San Jose, California. (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images / February 1, 2008)

Supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton have launched an independent group to raise money and air television ads to boost her flagging campaign.

Backers of the American Leadership Project would not say who would be funding the effort; its ads are expected to begin airing this week in delegate-rich Ohio and Texas, which hold their primaries on March 4.

"At this moment, we're focused on positive issue-oriented messages," said Jason Kinney, a Sacramento consultant and Clinton supporter who is the group's chairman.

Kinney added that the spots were focusing on healthcare, jobs, mortgages and other economic issues. "She is a recognized leader on these issues," he said.

Federal law bars donors from giving more than $2,300 directly to a candidate. But they can give as much as they want to groups such as American Leadership Project. The groups, called 527s for the Internal Revenue Service code that governs them, must operate independently of the candidates.

Word of the pro-Clinton campaign came as the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters mobilized to help Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) win the nomination. Obama has been aided by an independent group, Vote Hope, which has spent more than $1 million.

Roger Salazar, who created the group in a filing with the Internal Revenue Service dated Feb. 15, is a partner in a Sacramento public affairs firm, with clients including the California Democratic Party and Indian tribes with major casinos. Salazar previously was a spokesman in the Clinton White House and for Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.

dan.morain@latimes.com