Sunday, July 27, 2008

On the Money Trail, Twice the Challenge

By Anne E. Kornblut and Matthew Mosk - Washington Post Staff Writers - Sunday, July 27, 2008

Most of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's former campaign advisers have returned to their old lives, taken extended vacations or moved on to something new. But not Jonathan Mantz.

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Mantz is still Clinton's national finance director, a once-illustrious job that now carries the responsibility for a grab bag of thankless chores. He must help retire $25 million in campaign debt, and is piecing together a schedule of fundraising events -- no picnic in the best of times -- for a candidate who has lost but who needs new donors because so many of her earlier contributors gave the legal limit.

And he is in charge of persuading cranky Clinton donors, many of them still bitter about the way she lost, to open their checkbooks for Sen. Barack Obama, while he endures the doubts of Obama supporters suspicious of how much Clinton is doing for herself rather than for the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Mantz's agenda is in some ways a reflection of the challenges Clinton faces as she eases back into the public eye and prepares for her next chapter. Moving on is not possible with a debt to pay off and a sensitive merger between her fundraising operation and Obama's incomplete.

Clinton raised $500,000 for Obama over the course of two days in mid-July, and she has held about a dozen conference calls, with as many as 4,000 people listening in at a given time as she urged them to write checks to Obama. And aides said Clinton is putting together an aggressive fundraising schedule, to be ramped up this fall, as she travels for her own coffer and on behalf of congressional candidates and Obama.

Top Clinton supporters have formed new alliances to help the Obama campaign: The group Lawyers for Hillary, which raised $2 million for Clinton during the primaries and advised her campaign on legal issues, has recast itself as the Obama Lawyers Unity Fund, with nearly 75 members helping Obama raise money. (The group is working with, but distinct from, the Lawyers for Obama committee, which has been part of the Obama organization from the start).

On Wednesday night, two prominent Clinton supporters in Florida held a fundraiser for Obama featuring his wife, Michelle, that raised between $500,000 and $600,0000, aides said.

All together, Mantz said, Clinton has raised an unspecified but large amount -- "I would think it's several million already, and millions to go," he said -- and his counterpart, Obama finance director Julianna Smoot, agreed.

"She's been great," Smoot said in an interview, listing the joint events in which Clinton has participated.

An analysis by The Washington Post found that more than 2,200 Clinton donors became first-time Obama donors in June, giving him $1.8 million of the $52 million he raised last month. Of those, 355 contributed at least $2,000, for a total of $1 million. That leaves a long way to go for Clinton and her contributors to be considered a prime source of cash, but it represents what Obama advisers believe is the beginning of a real rapprochement.

Though a few election cycles have passed since former rivals had to help each other in this way, there are historical examples of the kind of partnership Clinton and Obama are trying to develop: Former president Jimmy Carter and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy helped each other retire debt after the 1980 presidential race, as did Sens. Gary Hart and Walter F. Mondale after the 1984 contest.

This year, the level of cooperation between the two campaigns' donors has varied, in part based on geography. In such places as New England, Georgia and Florida, top fundraisers for Clinton and Obama had relationships that predated the campaign, and they reported finding it relatively easy to unite after the primary race.

The Florida event with Michelle Obama on Wednesday night was an example of comity: held at the South Beach home of Abigail and F.J. Pollack -- who were once top-dollar bundlers for Clinton, with Abigail Pollack estimated to have raised more than $1 million for Clinton during the primaries -- the party pulled in more than Clinton herself did during her stops in New York earlier in the month.

Beforehand, Chris Korge, a national finance chairman for Clinton, and others held a $100-per-person event for Obama that was aimed at women and was modeled on the women's events Clinton's campaign held. About 900 people attended, raising another $100,000 for Obama.

"We have a track record together," Korge said of working with Obama's people, whom he has known for years. Still, he said: "A lot of our donors, we have a long way to go with them. They really need Hillary to come in here." Clinton, he said, "has been pushing for more" fundraising for Obama and is expected to return to Florida in August.

In New York and California, though, tensions have simmered longer. One top California finance consultant described hearing from a number of major Clinton donors who were upset that they had not received phone calls from the Obama campaign.

An Obama fundraiser on the East Coast said he had faced strong resistance from top contributors when it came to giving money to Clinton, in part because of an erroneous belief that the money would go into Clinton's own pockets (Clinton has said she is working to retire the $13 million or so that she owes vendors, rather than the remaining $12 million or so she lent herself).

Robert Zimmerman, a longtime Clinton supporter in New York, said the mutual suspiciousness has diminished in recent weeks, in part because Obama has shown interest in helping Clinton.

"He's stepped up his calls and his outreach," Zimmerman said. Referring to Obama's finance chairwoman, he added: "Barack Obama, Penny Pritzker and his campaign have made a very personal effort to bring in the Clinton campaign. And frankly, it has come quicker than in past Democratic campaigns."

Read more in the Washington Post

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