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Clinton rakes in cash overseas

Clinton rakes in cash overseas
© Greg Nash

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Bolton tells Russians 2016 meddling had little effect | Facebook eyes major cyber firm | Saudi site gets hacked | Softbank in spotlight over Saudi money | YouTube fights EU 'meme ban' proposal Dems lower expectations for 'blue wave' Election Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout MORE's campaign has held more fundraisers on foreign soil than any other candidate running for president in 2016.

The Clinton campaign has held at least 13 fundraisers overseas so far, involving celebrities such as jazz singer Tony Bennett and fashion editor Anna Wintour, according to tracking of political fundraising invitations by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation. 

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Clinton’s offshore fundraisers, which tap wealthy U.S. citizens and permanent resident living abroad, have spanned from London, where the campaign has held at least eight fundraisers, to Munich, Mexico City, and Durban, South Africa. 

None of the Clinton campaign's foreign events, so far as the invitations suggest, have featured the candidate herself, though surrogates including her daughter Chelsea, have hosted the high-priced gatherings.

No other candidate running for president this cycle has done anything remotely approaching the amount of overseas fundraising as Clinton's campaign has done to date.

The former secretary of State has dwarfed her rivals in expatriate cash, raised at least $495,000 so far from Americans living abroad, according to The Hill's analysis of federal election records.

Clinton's rival in the Democratic primary race, Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHarris presses young people to vote early in Iowa trip Dems lower expectations for 'blue wave' Election Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout MORE, has raised less than a quarter of that, and the three Republicans still in the race have raised relatively miniscule amounts from Americans abroad.

Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump recounts 2016 feud with Cruz at Houston campaign rally Trump says he’s made up with ‘Beautiful Ted’ Cruz The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says he is cutting foreign aid over caravan | Lawmakers point fingers at Saudi crown prince | DNC chair downplays 'blue wave' talk MORE has raised just $23,000 overseas; Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report Trump to nominate former Monsanto exec to top Interior position White House aides hadn’t heard of Trump's new tax cut: report MORE — who has a “donate” button on his website but doesn’t hold fundraisers — took in $1100; and John Kasich has raised only $50 from overseas donors, according to figures disclosed in the most recent reporting period.

Even Jeb Bush, who has a wide political network overseas through his family’s connections, only raised slightly more than $200,000 from Americans living abroad.

No foreign fundraising invitations could be found by the Sunlight Foundation for any other candidate besides Clinton. One of the rare examples of a foreign fundraiser for a 2016 presidential candidate found on the public record is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who went to Israel last year in part to raise money for his campaign.

While overseas fundraisers are hardly a new practice for well-known establishment candidates; the Clinton campaign is on pace to exceed even what the sitting President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden jokes about Obama memes: 'Barack did the first friendship bracelet, not me' Slain Saudi columnist upends 'Davos in the Desert' Sanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa MORE managed in 2012, assuming she becomes the Democratic nominee.  

Throughout the two years of the 2012 presidential cycle, President Obama's campaign held at least 13 fundraising events on foreign soil in countries as far-reaching as China and Egypt, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Republican nominee Mitt Romney's campaign held at least four fundraisers in London and Jerusalem.

Long-time Democratic fundraiser Kenneth Christensen, whose D.C.-based consulting firm Christensen & Associates helps candidates set up their finance operations, says he's not surprised that the Clinton campaign has established a more powerful offshore finance machine than any other candidate.

"Obviously with the Clintons they have a lot of experience in doing that. They give lots of speeches overseas, and they run into a lot of people," Christensen told The Hill in a telephone interview Friday. "A lot of that fundraising overseas are relationships they already have." 

Christensen, who is focusing on Democratic congressional races this cycle, indicated it would be professionally negligent not to take full advantage of Clinton's relationships to finance what is becoming an expensive primary race against a well-funded Bernie Sanders campaign. The Clinton advantages include her global connections as a former secretary of State, her family's foundation, and above all, the unparalleled donor network established by both Bill and Hillary Clinton over several decades.

Clinton's offshore fundraisers so far this cycle have included a post-concert reception at London's Royal Albert Hall with Tony Bennett, a "discussion" between Chelsea Clinton and Anna Wintour, and a Munich Fashion Week event with former ambassador Melanne Verveer.

Clinton has also held several fundraisers in Mexico. One of the co-hosts of a February fundraising dinner was Wal-Mart lobbyist Ivan Zapien, who relocated to Mexico with the company in 2015. Clinton served on the board of Wal-Mart from 1986-1992. 

The Federal Election Commission, which regulates campaign fundraising, stipulates that "foreign nationals are prohibited from making any contributions or expenditures in connection with any election in the U.S." But the FEC allows that both U.S. citizens and "green card" holders living abroad (individuals lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the U.S.) "are not considered foreign nationals and, as a result, may contribute."

"I would expect a professional campaign to take advantage of all their fundraising opportunities," Christensen said. "She's capitalizing on it now to make sure she's running an aggressive and professional fundraising operation."