Clinton donors who complained about Pelosi are slow to give, but say all is well

Supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) who threatened to stop contributing to House Democrats because of the contentious presidential race say the episode is behind them, even though some of them have been slow in breaking out their checkbooks to prove it.

The donors objected to comments made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during the Democratic primary process that they interpreted as favoring Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaSpencer Cox defeats Jon Huntsman in Utah GOP governor primary Will Twitter make @RealDonaldTrump a one-term president? Gallup: Trump's job approval rating erodes among key groups MORE (D-Ill.).

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None of the 20 donors, most of whom have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to House candidates and committees in recent years, have given to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) since Pelosi’s comment in March, and their giving to individual candidates has been spotty.

But the donors reached by The Hill maintained there was little ill will left over, and some of them have been very active in raising money for House candidates in the intervening months.

Philadelphia attorney Mark Aronchick, one of the top DCCC fundraisers in the country, said he never ceased raising money for House Democrats.

He pointed out that he has been organizing a DCCC fundraiser in Philadelphia in September and is intimately involved with many of the Pennsylvania House candidates, including serving on the finance committees of Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) and candidate Sam Bennett (D).

“We are huge supporters of the DCCC, and it was a respectful plea to listen to our views,” said Aronchick, whose only second-quarter giving listed on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) website was a $1,000 contribution to Murphy’s campaign.

Aronchick and most of the donors maintained that a letter sent to Pelosi in late March wasn’t intended to be a threat, but others acknowledged that it was widely perceived that way and that some donors might have meant it that way. Many of the donors did not comment for this story.

At a time when Obama looked to have the pledged-delegates race well in hand, Pelosi said that superdelegates should not “overturn what happened in the elections.” That did not sit well with Clinton supporters, who saw superdelegates as their best chance for a comeback.

The letter to Pelosi stated that the 20 donors “have been strong supporters of the DCCC. We therefore urge you to clarify your position on superdelegates and reflect in your comments a more open view to the optional independent actions of each of the delegates at the National Convention in August.”

Investment executive Bernard Schwartz still disagrees with Pelosi’s remarks. He suggested that certain signers might have intended for it to be a threat, but that he wasn’t one of them.

“I still feel that that [Pelosi] was wrong, I felt it was wrong then, and most of the people who signed the letter — many of them, I shouldn’t say most of them — felt, as I did, that we just wanted to get their attention,” Schwartz said. “It was never intended on my part as a threat to Nancy Pelosi, the DCCC or the [Democratic National Committee].”

Schwartz has maxed out on his giving this cycle, but he has in recent months held events for Democratic New York Reps. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE, Gary Ackerman and Steve Israel, as well as Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.), a spokeswoman said.

The DCCC also noted that donor Susie Tompkins Buell has helped out with events in California for Frontline and Red to Blue candidates and that Marc and Cathy Lasry are helping with fundraisers in New York.

Clinton finance committee member Sim Farar didn’t contribute anything to House candidates or the DCCC in the second quarter, but he said he’s not deliberately holding back and has simply been focused on helping Clinton clear her debt.

He said that he will give to the committee before the cycle is over and that the signers he’s spoken to share his willingness to move on.

“A lot of people were majorly disappointed and upset,” Farar said. “But things happen, and you go on. That’s what people are doing. The most important thing is getting Democrats elected to the House and the Senate and helping Obama.”

Likewise, investor Alan Patricof said “there was a period of time where I was concerned, and that’s why I participated in the letter. But in general, I think [Pelosi] kept the process open, and that’s all I was focused on.”

Patricof said his giving habits haven’t changed. He gave to Reps. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y) in the second quarter, and his wife, Susan, has contributed to Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).

In total, the donors gave about $20,000 to House candidates in the second quarter, which spanned from April 1 to June 30. The majority didn’t contribute to House candidates.

In total, they and their spouses have given $23.6 million to Democrats and $3 million to the DCCC since 1999, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Not all of them have consistently given to House candidates in recent years, and some had already given large amounts directly to the DCCC this cycle before the letter was written.

More than half had contributed to the DCCC between the beginning of 2006 and the drafting of the letter.
DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said Democrats “are unified in our efforts this election and thank our supporters for all their hard work on the behalf of the DCCC, Frontline members and Red to Blue candidates.”