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McAuliffe's Fundraising: High-Dollar, High-Mileage

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 31, 2009; Page A01

RICHMOND -- While his Democratic rivals confined their travels to Virginia, gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe quietly slipped out of the commonwealth a dozen times in recent weeks to attend fundraisers in his honor hosted by some of the nation's top Democratic donors.

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One day this month, he dashed from a morning roundtable in Roanoke, caught a United Airlines flight to Phoenix and landed in time for an evening event hosted by an Arizona Democratic activist. On another, he left on a pre-dawn U.S. Airways flight that required a plane change in Charlotte to get from a Chicago fundraiser to a midday event in Lebanon, Va., near the North Carolina border.

McAuliffe, who spent decades building a reputation as one of the world's most successful political fundraisers, has traveled to New York, Hollywood, San Francisco, Houston, Miami and Syracuse, N.Y., for events often organized by those who count Bill and Hillary Clinton as close friends.

Although McAuliffe's national contacts will help him raise millions, his energetic fundraising outside the state risks giving ammunition to rivals who say he is an outsider in Virginia, out of touch with state politics and residents' concerns. But McAuliffe says he sees no problems with the out-of-state money.

"The nice thing is people are helping me from all over," McAuliffe said. "I've had a lot of long relationships. These folks don't want anything from Virginia. They think I'd make a great governor."

Still, he has already been criticized by one of his Democratic opponents. "Will our party be dominated by big money and those who raise it, or will we be the party of the people?" former delegate Brian Moran asked a roomful of Democrats.

Democratic Sen. R. Creigh Deeds and the Republican nominee, Robert F. McDonnell, have said only that they are focusing their efforts inside the commonwealth.

McAuliffe does not include his out-of-state stops on his official schedule or on news releases. His campaign aides say this is because the events are not open to the public or the media. The Washington Post pieced together his travel schedule through a combination of interviews and newspaper reports, all later confirmed by McAuliffe's campaign.

McAuliffe initially focused his fundraising locally. His first public campaign finance report, which covered the six-month period ending Dec. 31, showed he had raised about $948,000 during the last two months of 2008, almost all of it in state. He said the fili ng was intended "to show Virginia support because they were all saying 'Well, is he really from Virginia?' "

Deeds and Moran have attended fundraisers in the District but never in other states, according to their staffs. Only a small portion of their campaign money has come from outside Virginia. McDonnell raised $1.6 million during the second half of last year. Moran raised $755,000; Deeds, $658,000.

The amount each has raised for the three-month period that ends today will be made public April 15.

McAuliffe said in a recent interview that he did not plan to attend any more fundraisers outside of Virginia before the June 9 primary. But an aide quickly corrected him, saying he would still attend an occasional out-of-state fundraiser.

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