It remains to be seen whether Clinton will match the record $46 million that she raised during the last quarter. But on a conference call Friday with her campaign's top fundraisers, finance director Dennis Cheng said the finance operation is hitting all its goals, including for both low-dollar online contributions and $2,700 max-out donations, according to a person on the call. He also urged bundlers to each bring in additional $2,700 donors before Sept. 30, when the campaign fundraising period ends.
Slipping badly in polls conducted in the crucial early-voting states where she has spent the most time and money, Clinton seeks a big, attention-getting number that underscores her overall front-runner status and reassures nervous supporters. She also needs the money: She has committed to spend $4.1 million on television advertising this fall, on top of $2 million already spent in Iowa and New Hampshire. Her poll numbers have dropped in both states since the ads began airing in August.
A big fundraising number this quarter would be a signal to Sanders, as well as to potential candidate Vice President Biden, that Clinton is containing the damage from her use of a personal e-mail system for government work, supporters said. Several supporters who discussed Sanders spoke on the condition of anonymity because the campaign has discouraged talk that could divide the Democratic liberal primary base.
Clinton backers have watched the bottom fall out of their candidate's public support in New Hampshire while Sanders has surged. Some blame Clinton herself for mishandling the fallout from news that she exclusively used a private e-mail system for her government work as secretary of state; others say her campaign has become bureaucratic to a fault and sluggish to respond to both the unexpectedly strong challenge from Sanders and the damage wrought by the e-mail issue.
Her campaign sent supporters an e-mail plea in her name Friday, asking for online donations of as little as $1 ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline. The e-mail message was titled “We’re Under the Microscope.”
“September 30th is a critical FEC fundraising deadline that will be reported on and scrutinized, so I need to know you’ve got my back,” the message says. It’s signed, “Thanks, Hillary.”
Campaign chairman John Podesta forwarded the message to supporters again early Saturday, reminding recipients to donate by Wednesday.
“We only have five days to hit our goal. I want to reiterate that this is a critical moment for the campaign,” Podesta wrote. “Failure is not an option.”
Clinton herself was on the conference call with fundraisers Friday to thank them for their efforts.
Campaign officials sought to play down expectations that they would match the more than $46 million haul Clinton brought in during the spring quarter.
“Meeting our goals is not the same thing as raising more in the third quarter, historically a slower fundraising quarter, than we did in the second quarter,” a Clinton campaign official said. The official requested anonymity because the totals are not yet complete for the three-month period ending this month. Clinton entered the race in April, so the second quarter of the year was the first time she submitted an FEC report.
The Clinton campaign official repeated that the overall goal is $100 million for 2015.
A Friday evening event at the Greenwich, Conn., home of hedge-fund millionaire Cliff Robbins opens Clinton to further questions from liberal voters, the heart of Sanders’ support, about whether she has too close an affinity with Wall Street. His backing could also undercut Clinton’s campaign rhetoric about encouraging corporate responsibility and long-term investing over short-term profits.
Robbins made a fortune through hostile takeovers and the use of so-called junk bonds. He was an architect of the $30 billion leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco in 1988 that was the basis for a best-selling book and HBO movie, “Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco.”
Robbins runs the hedge fund Blue Harbor Group.
Clinton has defended her ties to the financial industry despite strong anti-Wall Street sentiment and calls for greater regulation. She has also decried the influence of unregulated money in politics, much of which comes from super-wealthy donors, but has also said she cannot “unilaterally disarm” while millions flow to Republicans and will cooperate with super PACs supporting her.
The roughly 80 donors who attended the fundraiser at Robbins’s home Friday evening could give only up to the $2,700 maximum per person that can be donated directly to a candidate’s campaign committee.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the campaign official who spoke on a conference call with top fundraisers. It was finance director Dennis Cheng, not campaign manager Robby Mook. The story has been corrected.