By Amie Parnes and Jonathan Swan - 12/25/15 01:00 PM EST
Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonAFL-CIO head: Trump’s ‘a fraud’ Sanders skirts Biden's claim that he'll endorse Clinton Overnight Cybersecurity: DNC hacker Guccifer 2.0 speaks out MORE’s presidential campaign is building the most expansive fundraising network in recent memory, taking its prospecting far beyond the usual Democratic strongholds on the East and West coasts.
Those familiar with Clinton's fundraising operation say she's tapping smaller cities to avoid running dry in California and New York, which have only so many Hollywood producers and trial lawyers.
"Killing two birds," summarized one Clinton fundraiser. "It's a smart strategy on a couple of levels. It helps fundraising and the organizational structure."
The strategy avoids "wear and tear" in the bigger cities, the fundraiser added.
A second fundraiser said that second-tier cities "become first tier cities very quickly."
"To her credit, she's got the stamina to do this," the second fundraiser added.
Clinton — who is known to do time-consuming photo lines with donors at most of the events — has received at least $80 million into her campaign account so far, more than any other candidate running for the White House.
But she is also spending massive amounts on her nationwide organization, which has forced her finance team to think creatively.
Clinton’s team has already held fundraisers in cities and towns across at least 38 states, collecting contributions in Tulsa, Okla., Albuquerque, N.M., St. Louis, Mo., Omaha, Neb., and Birmingham, Ala. — all places not commonly thought of as political gold mines for Democrats.
The Clinton campaign's fundraising reach is significantly wider than that of any Republican candidate, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (31 states, including for his super-PAC), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (21 states) and Florida Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioPoll: Rubio holds massive lead in primary Rubio: Turkey attack 'directed' by ISIS Trump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office MORE (16).
Clinton’s top Democratic rival Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders skirts Biden's claim that he'll endorse Clinton The Trail 2016: Meet and greet and grief Biden spills beans: Sanders will endorse Clinton MORE (I-Vt.) has had campaign fundraisers in 10 states, but his fundraising strategy relies less on intimate gatherings in the living rooms of multimillionaires and more on drumming up small donations online.
Sanders raised a similar total amount to Clinton last quarter though his donors are contributing less on average. He is also the only candidate in the race, besides Republican billionaire Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGOP megadonor compares Trump to Biblical figures Trump calls for deploying NATO troops against ISIS AFL-CIO head: Trump’s ‘a fraud’ MORE, who refuses the support of super-PACs.
Clinton’s campaign has already held fundraisers in more states than the entire 2012 general election campaigns of President Obama and Mitt Romney, who fundraised in 36 and 37 states, respectively.
To compare the state figures, The Hill used data collated on the “Political Party Time” website by the non-partisan group the Sunlight Foundation, which crowd-sources invitations to political fundraising events. These data are incomplete but are the most comprehensive available.
Until recently, some Democratic fundraisers were worried that Clinton was relying too heavily on traditional markets such as New York and California. A recent investigation by The Hill showed that the former secretary of state was milking donors on the West Coast especially aggressively.
A fundraising strategy that depends too heavily on a small number of states can cause problems later in campaigns.
Given that donors who attend Clinton events often contribute the maximum $2,700 allowed under election law, the more time Clinton’s team spends in a single state, the more first-time donors they need to unearth.
"It's really easy to be lazy," said a third Democratic fundraiser who has raised money for both Obama and Clinton. "You need to do the development work in the second and third tiers.”
Clinton's finance team has "more work to do in the second tier and they need to do development work in the third tier."
"By development work I mean, you have to get to know these donors because you want them to be fundraisers and kill themselves for you."
"And they suck at development," added the fundraiser of the Clintons.
"They have to spend more time in markets like Boston, Miami, and third tier markets like Minneapolis, Cleveland and Atlanta."
The donor used Denver as an example of how Obama maximized his fundraising in 2008. He said Obama had half a dozen donors in the area that were "killing themselves" and constantly finding new people to write checks.
Clinton will need to extract everything she can from the smaller markets to keep up her campaign’s aggressive spending. Her team has a bigger salary bill than any other candidate and spent 86 percent of the $29 million it raised last quarter.
"It can be a death spiral if you're not careful,” the third fundraiser said.