Clinton Fundraising Goes Full Force

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is playing hostess to billionaire Hollywood moguls, millionaire lawyers and venture capitalists here this week as she pushes to raise a record sum for her presidential campaign.

Last night, the New York Democrat invited about 70 top fundraisers from around the country to a reception at her Washington home. The guest list included such major Democratic donors as Haim Saban, a Hollywood studio investor, Alan J. Patricof, a New York financier, and Kevin O'Keefe, a Chicago lawyer.

The high-dollar rainmakers committed to collect at least $250,000 each during the presidential campaign for Clinton, and many have pledged $1 million, participants said. In addition, each agreed to raise $50,000 by the end of this month to bolster the campaign's first-quarter report due at the end of March.

Today, the Clinton campaign plans to host a couple of hundred people at briefings by the senator and her staff at the District's Hyatt Regency hotel. The attendees -- called Hillraisers -- are expected to collect at least $25,000 each for the Clinton drive this year.

This year's money race, which is often referred to as the first presidential primary, has started earlier and with greater intensity than ever. Clinton insiders said the senator hopes to demonstrate her preeminence in the growing field of Democratic contenders by raising $10 million or more in the first quarter and at least $60 million this year.

Both of those numbers, if attained, would represent a record-breaking take for a presidential contest. The gathering last night was the first major step in collecting those totals.

Others competing for the Democratic nomination, including Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and former senator John Edwards (N.C.), are also hoping to raise several million dollars in time for their first-quarter reports. They expect the money to help them demonstrate strong candidacies.

Fancy cars lined up last night in front of Clinton's Embassy Row house, and guests were greeted at the door by a man wearing a tuxedo.

The senator's aides began executing a plan to enlist the nation's most effective fundraisers within 24 hours of the announcement of Clinton's presidential bid last month. Her chief recruiters included Patricof, former Democratic Party finance chair Maureen White and literary agent Francis Greenberger.

Clinton adviser Terry McAuliffe was in Los Angeles in late January wooing donors at a dinner at Saban's Beverly Hills estate. His salesmanship appears to have worked: Several of those who attended the Beverly Hills dinner made the trip to Washington yesterday, including Clarence Avant, a former Motown Records executive who heads a music publishing company.

At the same time, many of the biggest Hollywood donors have so far hedged their bets. For instance, film director Steven Spielberg plans to help Clinton but is also preparing to host an event for Obama next week and was not in Washington last night. Barbra Streisand said in a statement yesterday that she would be sending the maximum allowable to Clinton, Obama and Edwards.

Among those invited to the event last night at Clinton's home were Chris Korge, a Miami lawyer who has been building a Florida network of donors for her, New York investment banker Steven Rattner, Stanley Chesley, a Cincinnati lawyer and major Democratic Party donor, Susie Tompkins Buell, co-founder of Esprit clothing company, and O'Keefe, who befriended the Clintons in college and later worked in the Clinton administration.

Among more than a dozen Washingtonians were Democratic activists Smith and Elizabeth Bagley, former Maryland congressman Tom McMillan, former Federal Communications Commissioner Susan Ness, and DLA Piper partners John Merrigan and Mac Bernstein.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company