Politicians Seeking Green Respect the New York Scene
By Ceci Connolly and Ianthe Jeanne Dugan
New Hampshire and Iowa, with their quaint coffee shops and homey state fairs, remain de rigueur photo stops on the presidential campaign circuit. But when it comes to the money needed to underwrite those races, New York is the campaign cash capital.
"The New York area is the end of the rainbow for politicians," said Larry Makinson of the Center for Responsive Politics.
"All politicians show up here sooner or later," said Thomas D. Bell Jr., chief executive of the Young & Rubicam advertising agency and co-host of the Quayle fund-raiser. Tonight's take showed why. Quayle's cocktail party brought in about $200,000, while Gore took in $1.5 million at three fund-raising events. Across the river, former Democratic senator Bill Bradley raised $1.5 million at his first gala in East Brunswick, N.J. He plans a New York dinner next month.
"This is just the kickoff in New Jersey -- New Jersey is home. . . . I suspect we'll have some fund-raisers in Iowa and New Hampshire as well," said Bradley, introduced at the Brunswick Hilton by former New York Knicks teammate Phil Jackson.
On Wednesday, the Clintons were in the neighborhood raising close to $3 million for Democratic causes. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will host a presidential fund-raiser here March 25, while Texas Gov. George W. Bush has already dispatched two emissaries to woo New York's wealthy Republicans. Elizabeth Hanford Dole, who has yet to form an official campaign, has been at work aggressively telephoning old friends and supporters here, said several New York donors who have received solicitations.
With the field so crowded, said Quayle fund-raiser Bell, some prospects say, " 'Gee, I don't know if I can give to Dan because George is a friend.' And, 'I'm close to [Malcolm S. "Steve"] Forbes' -- you get a lot of that in New York."
Others with ample wallets see no need to choose. "I already sent checks to Quayle, Dole and Bush," said Larry Bathgate, a prominent New Jersey fund-raiser who has not yet decided which candidate he will back.
In the coming weeks, the fund-raising road show will whisk through the nation's other money centers -- Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas.
For decades, politicians of every stripe have trekked to New York to reap the benefits of this wealthy, politically active region. In the 1996 presidential campaign, New York was by far the most generous state in the nation to GOP nominee Robert J. Dole, who raised $2.9 million in the Empire State -- compared with $1.9 million in California and $1 million in his home state of Kansas.
New York was similarly good to President Clinton, providing $2.5 million to his reelection campaign, just a fraction less than his adopted second home of California.
And the experts say the greater New York area actually accounts for far more political giving.
James Ortenzio, the finance chairman of the New York GOP, said the Dole tally for this region was closer to $4.5 million when northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut are included. "You probably have to walk pretty far in Houston to raise as much money as I can collect just walking up Madison Avenue," he said.
This year, with a booming stock market and so many nail-biter elections looming in 2000, New York's financial role in American politics has never seemed greater.
"This area has a significant concentration of wealth and it's an hour away from Washington by shuttle, meaning it's easy access for the politicians," said Gore fund-raiser Orin Kramer, who heads his own investment fund.
At the same time, the soaring stock market has added a whole new class of younger, brasher fund-raisers.
"You take somebody who's 35 today, making seven or eight figures, and all of a sudden he's a big hotshot on Wall Street," Bathgate said. "He bundles five or 10 $1,000 checks and now he's a player, getting his picture taken with the former vice president or the current vice president or some governor."
The high-stakes money game is played by an elite corps known for their personal wealth, extensive Rolodexes or both.
Gore, after receptions with African American donors and financial backers from the entertainment industry, finished his daylong visit to New York at the Upper East Side home of Steven Rattner, head of the Lazard Freres & Co. investment firm. Each of the 40 guests has promised to raise at least $35,000 in the vice president's quest for $55 million.
Among the hosts of Quayle's reception at the Women's National Republican Club were Bell, George Zahringer III, a managing director at Bear Stearns & Co., Thomas D. O'Malley of Tosco Corp. and American Standard Inc. chief executive Emmanuel Kampouris.
Bradley is already laying the groundwork for his gala here next month. In January, he had breakfast with more than 50 potential donors at the Park Avenue apartment of Leonard Riggio, chief executive of Barnes & Noble Inc., the biggest bookseller in America.
"He thinks it's good to meet people first before asking them for money," Riggio said. "So he's been doing an awful lot of that."
Yet even here, among the well-heeled and well-connected, raising political money is never simple.
"Early money is very hard to raise, because people have not made a decision yet," said Bell. "I hear them saying, geez, Tom, I hadn't given it a second's thought. Didn't we just finish the last election?"
Staff writer Michael Grunwald and staff researcher Ben White contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company