Clinton Broadens Money Network as Trump Gets Started
Hillary Clinton is expanding the ranks of her money operation to people new to major Democratic Party fundraising, even as Donald Trump struggles to get the established Republican donor class on board.
Since the beginning of 2016, Clinton's campaign added 125 major fundraisers to its list of “Hillblazers,” supporters who have helped pull in at least $100,000 for her presidential campaign. As of April 30, they had already raised a combined $41.2 million, roughly one-fifth of her war chest.
Nearly all of the recruits are new to presidential fundraising on such a large scale: 114 of them were not among the bundlers disclosed by Clinton in 2008 or by President Barack Obama in either of his campaigns. They include executives from Fortune 500 companies, private equity firms, tech companies, and the entertainment industry. Also among them is an array of people from the Democratic Party establishment: lawyers, lobbyists, members of Congress and state legislatures, one sitting governor, and a handful of professional fundraisers, including one who also raised money for the Clinton Foundation.
“I think she's well ahead of where most have ever been,” said Joe Trippi, who managed Howard Dean's campaign in 2004. “She obviously had significant money coming in from this huge organization she built.”
Clinton's bundlers, who typically solicit donations from wealthy professional and social networks, are spread across 25 states, though 50 of them are in California and New York, the two states that have been the biggest sources of cash for her campaign. There are individuals active in Asian, Latino, Native American, Jewish, and other communities.
“We are grateful to the more than 1.2 million people who have contributed to this campaign and are proud of how diverse Hillary Clinton's supporters are,” Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for the campaign, said.
Clinton has raised about 20 percent of the $204.3 million her campaign has raised to date from the kind of small donors that have fueled Sanders' campaign. It also lags behind Obama's two successful campaigns, which had an average of about 33 percent of funds coming through small donations.
“The good news about Hillary is that she's got people who have the ability to raise money,” said Dick Harpootlian, a Bernie Sanders supporter who raised money for Obama's campaigns. “The bad news is that those people can't galvanize voters. She needs the enthusiasm of the people who will give $25, because they're the kind of people who will volunteer for you.”
Trippi, who has followed Clinton's digital fundraising strategy, said Clinton so far has focused less on raising small donations than building a contact list for raising money for the general election. “Everything I saw told me the Clinton people's goal is to build as big a list as possible,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Republican money machine is just starting to coalesce behind Trump. His campaign and the Republican National Committee on Tuesday released a list of 20 top GOP donors and fundraisers who will be raising money for the November election. He held his first two fundraisers this week in New Mexico and California, and has also gotten the backing of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has said he'll spend $100 million to help elect Trump.
Money will be key in the campaign, which many expect to be more negative than recent elections. Polls show both Clinton and Trump face historically high unfavorable ratings, a sign that barrages of negative ads could resonate with voters.
Unless a bundler is a registered lobbyist, there's no requirement for campaigns to disclose their names. The Clinton campaign is the only one in the 2016 race so far to provide a list of its fundraisers.
While individual donations to the campaign are limited to $2,700, Clinton is also working with the Democratic National Committee and 32 state party committees, which have higher limits, to bring in bigger amounts. Through the joint fundraising committees, contributions of $350,000 and more can be pulled in from individual donors.
“You see establishment figures working for her that didn't work for Barack in 2008 and that aren't working for Bernie,” Harpootlian said. “Establishment people were for Hillary Clinton in 2007 and 2008, and they still are.”
So far, all of the money being raised for Clinton's campaign is going toward the primary contest with Sanders, a person with knowledge of the fundraising operations said. Clinton's bundlers will be able to hit up their networks for a fresh round of donations for the general election. Priorities USA Action, the main super-PAC supporting Clinton, has already started putting money into the general election. The group has booked at least $101.2 million worth of advertising time through Nov. 8, according to data from Kantar Media.
While Obama famously shunned Washington lobbyists in both of his campaigns, refusing to accept contributions from them, Clinton has been more open to help from K Street. Among her new bundlers are four registered lobbyists, including Mac Bernstein of DLA Piper, who represents defense giant Raytheon. DLA Piper's employees and their family members are among her top donors, having given $231,000 as a group. Jim Blanchard, the former Michigan governor who is the chair emeritus of DLA Piper's government affairs practice, is also raising money for Clinton.
“The value of lobbyists extends beyond donations and bundling from their firms to their network of deep-pocketed corporate and other clients that they can deliver to a campaign,” said Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog.
Clinton has also landed some key supporters in the tech industry. Microsoft's top lobbyist, Fred Humphries, is one of her new bundlers, and employees of the company are among her top donors, having contributed $194,000 combined. Other first-time bundlers from tech include Ruth Porat, the chief financial officer of Google, whose employees have contributed $255,000, Salesforce.com Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff, who brought in at least $500,000 for Obama’s re-election, and former Facebook executives Chris Kelly and Jennifer Carrico.
Clinton also has deep ties to elected officials in California, where she faces a critical contest against Sanders, who hopes a win there could persuade some superdelegates to switch their allegiance to him. Clinton's backers include Kevin De Leon, president pro tempore of the state Senate, and Los Angeles officials including Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Other elected officials have raised money for Clinton’s campaign. Among her new recruits are Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Representatives Henry Cuellar of Texas, and Lois Frankel of Florida. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is another new Hillblazer.
“Having been someone who's bundled and knows the process, I think her fundraising is on target or maybe even ahead of target,” said Harpootlian. “She's going to have plenty of money, and with Sheldon Adelson saying he's going to spend $100 million, she's going to need the money.”