Elections

Obama had his rich friends, Clinton has hers

President Barack Obama, right, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, wave to the crowd following Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 27, 2016.
President Barack Obama, right, and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, wave to the crowd following Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 27, 2016. AP

Sure, there are lots of similarities between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But there’s one place they differ: who helps finance their campaigns.

Hundreds of people who each raised thousands of dollars for Obama from friends, acquaintances and associates haven’t collected a dime for Clinton, according to an analysis through the first half of the year provided to McClatchy by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The list has plenty of bold-faced names, including Hollywood A-listers, financial industry executives and academics. Among them: singer Gwen Stefani, celebrity author Deepak Chopra, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, HBO CEO Richard Plepler and officials from the now-failed Lehman Brothers.

“It’s a little surprising, given that the two campaigns are so closely affiliated,” said Richard Skinner, policy analyst with the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group. “But the Clintons have had decades to compile their own donor network.”

The Clintons have been part of American politics since the 1970s, collecting myriad connections to wealthy donors, major businesses and organizations across the nation.

Clinton had received at least $87 million from 872 “bundlers” through July, including several new bundlers who had collected money for Obama, according to more recent information provided by her campaign. That puts her in line with what Obama raised in his first presidential run but far behind what he collected in his re-election bid.

The money, though, is coming from different places.

Clinton and Obama chose to disclose different information about their bundlers, which makes it difficult to directly compare them. But what the names of hundreds of bundlers do show is how the president and his former secretary of state differ in their appeal to the money people.

Many Obama bundlers contacted were quick to say they support Clinton and donated to her, even if they are not raising money for her. Some have collected money for her but have not reached the minimum $100,000 required to be considered a so-called Hillblazer. Others were just personally close to Obama or his running mate, Joe Biden, in a way they aren’t with the Clintons.

By the end of June, Clinton had collected at least $49.6 million from 496 bundlers. At the same point in 2012, Obama had collected at least $142.9 million from 638 bundlers.

Alan Solomont, dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, who raised more than $500,000 for Obama and later served as his ambassador to Spain and Andorra, said he supports Clinton but that his job precludes him from raising money for her.

“This year, I am an enthusiastic supporter of both Secretary Clinton and Sen. Kaine, and my wife and I have personally contributed to their campaign,” Solomont said. “However . . . my political activity is now solely as an individual.”

Dick Harpootlian, a longtime South Carolina Democratic activist who collected more than $500,000 for Obama, said he’s not surprised Clinton is not receiving backing from some Obama bundlers because she isn’t the inspirational candidate he was and she is limping to Election Day. He said he hasn’t raised money for Clinton because her campaign never asked after he and Bill Clinton had a much publicized falling-out in 2008 despite having supported him for years.

“They don’t need my support. They don’t want my support,” he said, though he added that he prays she defeats Donald Trump. “She has more money than she can spend.”

Clinton has raised $315 million since she launched her campaign in April 2015. Trump has received $125 million since June 2015. The candidates’ fundraising reports for August are due Tuesday. After securing the Democratic nomination in late July following a prolonged primary race, Clinton’s August numbers are likely to show that more Obama bundlers raised money for her.

There’s no way, however, to compare Clinton’s numbers with those of her rival. Trump has not released the names of any bundlers.

Since 2000, candidates from both major parties have released the names of their volunteer fundraisers, though federal law does not mandate that unless the money comes from a registered lobbyist. Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 was the first candidate to keep them private.

Neither campaign commented for McClatchy.

Hillary Clinton has released the names of more than 800 people who have collected at least $100,000 for her and the location of all the fundraisers she attends. Donald Trump has not done either.

Clinton is releasing information, but not as much as Obama did in 2008 and 2012. She lists on her website those who collect more than $100,000, while Obama grouped his bundlers into four tiers of money raised, ranging from $50,000 to $500,000.

“Hillary Clinton at least has taken the step of disclosing her bundlers,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the nonpartisan public advocacy group Public Citizen. “Compare that to the absence of bundling disclosures by her opponent. One can only speculate which sectors are providing the bulk of bundled financial support for Trump.”

Clinton and Obama receive their top bundlers’ money from the same industries: lawyers, securities, investment and business services, according to the Center for Responsive Politics analysis.

Madeleine Albright, a Clinton surrogate who served as Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, is listed as a bundler for Obama but not for Clinton. Her office, however, said she’d headlined fundraisers for both, though the two campaigns reported her support differently.

Obama banned donations from political action committees, lobbyists and agents who represent other countries but are U.S. citizens. Clinton has received bundled money from lobbyists but an aide said this week that she does not accept donations from federally registered lobbyists or PACs for private prison companies. The campaign did not explain the discrepancy.

Some supporters bundle money because they back the candidate or the party or have a knack for fundraising, but others are looking for credit or access down the road.

If their candidate wins, some end up with ambassadorships, board appointments or invitations to state dinners. Several Obama bundlers wound up with plum jobs in his administration, including National Security Adviser Susan Rice and former Attorney General Eric Holder, each of whom raised $50,000 to $100,000.

Soliciting for a candidate that one supports is not the same as bundling, where it's all about getting political credit towards buying access and influence. The practice of bundling is part of a system that tilts the system away from average Americans and toward wealthy Americans and their friends

Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization

If she’s lost some of Obama’s bundlers, Clinton also has received support from some who never helped him. Nearly half of her bundlers – more than 400 – did not collect money for Obama, according to the analysis through June.

They include those who worked for Bill Clinton, members of Congress, State Department officials and, of course, more Hollywood stars. Lawyer Vernon Jordan, an adviser to Bill Clinton, former Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides, former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who now serves as the head of Clinton’s transition team, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, twin brother of Obama’s housing secretary, who was a vice presidential contender.

Susan Swecker, who owns a public affairs firm in Richmond, Virginia, and serves as chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, supported Clinton in 2008. She volunteered for Obama after he beat Clinton, but she never raised money for him, in part because he had already established inroads with donors by that point.

This cycle, Swecker began compiling a list of dozens of people to ask for money when it became clear Clinton might be readying for a second presidential run.

“I was at a different point in my life,” she said. “I was able to devote the energy.”

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