Clinton fundraisers fill Obama coffers
WASHINGTON -- Almost one in every 10 Barack Obama fundraisers for the 2012 presidential campaign worked four years ago generating cash for former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Of the 244 individuals identified by the Obama campaign as bringing in at least $50,000 for his re-election, 23 were "Hillraisers," collecting at least $100,000 for Clinton, now secretary of state, during her unsuccessful 2008 Democratic primary campaign. Just four of the 23 raised at least $50,000 for Obama after he defeated Clinton and won the nomination, according to a Bloomberg News analysis.
The former Clinton fundraisers, some of whom were courted by the president, are both strengthening the Obama team that raised a record $745 million for his first White House run and replacing those who are sitting this race out after supporting the president four years ago.
"Having the Hillary fundraisers on his team isn't going to hurt," Democratic consultant Glenn Totten said. "There is no question President Obama has alienated some members of the Democratic Party. Those people are clearly filling in some of the holes in the fundraising operation."
Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman, said Republican calls for cuts to programs for the middle class and elderly, and the party's refusal to ask wealthy Americans to help reduce the deficit, are helping to unify the Democratic Party.
"The more the Republican candidates pledge allegiance to the Tea Party instead of pledging to create opportunities for the middle class, the more supporters will join our campaign," LaBolt said.
A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, Kirsten Kukowski, said it's the Democrats who are rebelling against Obama's economic policies.
"As Democrats pile on against the president's failed economic leadership, from unions to liberal pundits to members of Congress, it's interesting that the White House is trying to argue that their party is unified on the economy," Kukowski said.
The consolidation of the Democratic fundraiser ranks is important because campaign-finance experts are predicting the 2012 campaign may require each party nominee to raise as much as $1 billion. It also signals an easing of tension between the Clinton and Obama camps that lingered after his inauguration in 2009.
Obama personally wooed some Clinton fundraisers at a March dinner at the St. Regis Hotel across Lafayette Square from the White House. About 60 prospective bundlers, many of whom were veterans of the team that helped Clinton raise almost $200 million, joined Obama for dinner as he sought their help.
In addition, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina traveled across the country to recruit prospective fundraisers.
"They are making a very concentrated effort to reach out to the donor community," said Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee member from Long Island who raised money for Clinton in 2008 and brought in between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama's campaign this year. "This is no longer a Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama story. It's now a story of Barack Obama's campaign rebuilding its connections with the donor network."
The list of Clinton fundraisers bringing in donations for Obama's re-election includes Marc Lasry, chairman and chief executive officer of the New York-based investment management firm Avenue Capital Group, and David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp.
Another is Chad Griffin, a Los Angeles political consultant.
"At the end of the day, we are Democrats," said Griffin, who co-chaired a Los Angeles fundraiser in June featuring first lady Michelle Obama that brought in more than $1 million. "He is our president and I and others strongly believe and consider it a top priority that the Democrats keep control of the White House."
Obama raised $46 million for his re-election through June 30 and had $37.1 million in the bank. He also helped the Democratic National Committee raise $58 million in the first six months of the year. Much of that money will be spent on Obama's re-election.
In addition to the need to raise money for the re-election campaign, Obama's senior political strategist David Axelrod has told supporters that he expects independent Republican groups to spend as much as $500 million to oust the president.
Two key Republicans groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, are being guided by Karl Rove, a political adviser to former President George W. Bush.
To blunt those attacks, former White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney this year created two Democratic outside groups, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action.
The Crossroads and Priorities groups each have announced fundraising goals of about $100 million for the 2012 campaign.
On the Republican side, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is the top money raiser, taking in $18.3 million through June 30 with a bank balance of $12.7 million. The Republican National Committee raised $37 million through June 30.
Zimmerman said there is no reason to talk about Clinton supporters and Obama supporters as if they were still at odds.
"There are no longer separate camps in the Democratic Party," he said. "There's one very clear specific mission, and that is re-electing Barack Obama."