Presidential races

Clinton’s big money comes from California, not New York

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Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton is raising more money from California than New York, a reversal from the last time she ran for president.

Clinton, who funded two Senate campaigns on lavish Wall Street donations, is now following a fundraising trail that looks more like the road taken by Barack Obama during his White House victories in 2008 and 2012. 

{mosads}In both of those elections, Obama raised significantly more money in California than he did in New York.

Obama tapped West Coast friends like DreamWorks Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and actor George Clooney, as well as multimillionaire venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. The president has repeatedly returned to the Golden State, most recently last month, to fill the coffers of the Democratic National Committee.

California has always been a magnet for Democrat money, but in 2008 Clinton relied more on her Manhattan connections, taking $29.3 million from New York and $26.4 million from California over the course of her failed primary campaign. 

So far in the 2016 cycle, she’s flipped the ratio, with her super-PAC and campaign raising $32.7 million from California donors compared to $14.1 million from New York. 

“Her fundraising events [in California] are all totally sold out,” said one of Clinton’s most prolific super-PAC donors and fundraisers, the California-based investor Marc Nathanson. 

The switch — and the establishment of a fundraising powerhouse out West — is significant, since Wall Street donors are less likely to give to Democrats than in 2008.

In the years since Obama’s first election, the Occupy Wall Street movement was born, and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) rose to prominence with fiery bank-bashing speeches. Obama himself moved financial reform legislation disliked by many on Wall Street.

One top Obama fundraiser said California, particularly the Bay Area, has been a great place for candidates to fill their campaign accounts and is only becoming more lucrative. 

“In the Bay Area, every four years, you get this new wealth class and then the market is bigger and bigger and bigger,” the fundraiser said.

Clinton’s West Coast gold rush is mined from deep connections with Hollywood and Silicon Valley, but she has also won over a number of long-term Obama supporters.

One example is Jeffrey Bleich, a San Francisco-based lawyer who served as the U.S. ambassador to Australia under Obama from 2009 to 2013.

“She’s always been popular in California … and now the Obama supporters are supporting her as well so it doesn’t surprise me that her numbers have gone up,” Bleich said in a telephone interview.

Other donors say Clinton’s fundraising operation, led by former Clinton Foundation staffer Dennis Cheng, has been strengthened since her last run for office.

Nathanson said his personal view is that her staff is better organized and more unified.

“In 2008 there was an infighting that even people way out here on the West Coast felt, among different factions around the candidate,” added Nathanson, who has already given $250,000 to Clinton’s super-PAC and tapped his personal network for her campaign account.

Clinton has spent at least 10 days fundraising in California since mid-June. 

She attended three California fundraisers on Wednesday including an especially lucrative evening event at the Beverly Hills home of pop star Christina Aguilera. About 400 donors attended, each contributing $2,700, the maximum campaign donation allowed.

Clinton’s powerful California operation is important, given Wall Street’s turn from Democrats. Many in the financial industry haven’t forgiven the party for the Dodd-Frank bill, and for Obama’s own comments about “fat cat bankers.”

“As soon as he said it, I was like, ‘Ouch, this is going to hurt us,’” an Obama fundraiser said.

In 2008, both Clinton and Obama outraised their Republican opponents in Wall Street donations. But in 2012, Wall Street donors swung sharply behind Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Still, many believe Clinton will do better in 2016 with New York and Wall Street than Obama did in 2012.

“I assure you she will have plenty of money from New York,” Tom Nides, a Morgan Stanley executive and Clinton donor who served as Clinton’s deputy secretary of State, said in a telephone interview. “She will be very competitive. … She has good relationships in New York with the financial sector.”

Another longtime Clinton fundraiser, the Illinois-based insolvency consultant Bill Brandt, said Clinton’s early California drive is a smart attempt to front-load with West Coast money before spending more time out East before the early state primaries. 

“The schedule will mandate that as time goes on, making that trip out to California and getting back in time to be on the ground in Iowa or New Hampshire is difficult,” said Brandt, who has been raising money for presidential campaigns since 1972.  

One of Clinton’s most influential East Coast fundraisers, the D.C.-based Lobbyist Tony Podesta, said the former secretary of State maintains a strong base in New York.

He believes her California success is mostly because she is a fundamentally different candidate than she was in 2008.

“She was a New York senator as opposed to a national figure when she ran the last time,” he notes.

Clinton also doesn’t face the same level of competition for left-leaning donors.

While Sanders has run a surprisingly competitive campaign against her, his fundraising machine is backed mostly by small-dollar donors. Sanders has no super-PAC and has shown no interest in schmoozing rich donors.

That’s a big difference from 2008, when Obama and several U.S. senators running for the White House were looking to make waves in California.

There has always been a huge pile of Democrat wealth buried in California, note donors in the states. But in this election, Clinton has the mining rights largely to herself.





Tags Barack Obama Bernie Sanders California Hillary Clinton Hollywood New York Silicon Valley
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