By BETH FOUHY
The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 7, 2007; 6:13 PM
NEW YORK -- Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has embarked on one of the more ambitious fundraising efforts, with a goal of raising $15 million by the end of March and amassing more than $75 million before 2008.
Clinton and members of her senior campaign team hosted a meeting of about 250 national fundraisers in Washington on Wednesday and most promised to raise at least $25,000 each for the New York senator's White House run.
Senior members of Clinton's campaign team, including campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and pollster Mark Penn, sketched out campaign strategy and shared polling information with the group, while Clinton delivered the closing pitch for support.
"It was very positive, very high energy," said Susie Tompkins Buell, the founder of the Esprit clothing line and a longtime Clinton financial backer.
Buell is hosting a high-donor fundraising lunch for Clinton in San Francisco on Feb. 23, one of at least two dozen major events around the country before the end of the first fundraising quarter on March 31.
Clinton planned another finance committee meeting in New York on Friday, the same day she headlines a swank Manhattan gala.
"I don't think anyone can stop her. She's unstoppable _ she's got such a machine," said John Catsimatidis, a New York businessman and longtime member of Clinton's finance team.
To set its first quarter money goal, the campaign looked to the early fundraising leader of the 2004 campaign, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. Edwards raised $7.4 million in the first quarter of 2003; Clinton strategists believe they can more than double that haul.
Edwards lost the 2004 Democratic nomination to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry but is running again this time.
Privately, political analysts and rival campaigns said the campaign was deliberately setting low expectations, and that Clinton was likely to far exceed the $15 million figure.
Clinton, the Democratic front-runner in 2008, began her campaign with $11 million in the bank and a vast network of large and small donors developed over her two Senate bids and her husband's tenure in the White House. She has decided to bypass the public financing system that would have restricted how much money she could spend in individual states.
Even so, no single donor can give more than $4,600 total for Clinton's primary and general election efforts, putting pressure on her top fundraisers to establish an enormous web of potential givers.
A core group of about 20 people _ many of whom have been raising money for the Clintons since President Bill Clinton first ran in 1992 _ have been asked to try and raise $1 million apiece for Hillary Clinton's 2008 effort. A larger group will be asked to meet lesser but still-ambitious goals of $750,000 and $500,000 on down.
Clinton hosted a dinner for about 75 top donors at her Washington home Tuesday night before the larger national finance committee meeting Wednesday. Guests dined on rack of lamb and empanadas and chatted with Clinton and several of her top advisers including Penn and finance director Jonathan Mantz.
Fred Hochberg, a longtime fundraiser for both Clintons, said the dinner was casual and Sen. Clinton appeared "very upbeat, very presidential."
Clinton's campaign chairman, Terry McAuliffe, is on a national book tour to promote his memoir. He is using the tour to meet with major donors and has asked supporters to commit to Clinton and limit donations to her campaign alone.
The campaign's first major gala, in New York on Friday, targets supporters under the age of 45 _ a crowd referred to as "HillBlazers." Tickets start at $250 per person, with committee members asked to raise $25,000 apiece.
Associated Press Writer Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington contributed to this report.