Hillary Rodham Clinton is tapping some of the biggest donors to her family’s philanthropy for her presidential campaign, even as the charity is under scrutiny over its own fundraising practices.
Starting what could be a $1 billion-plus fundraising effort, Clinton began raising money for her presidential bid Tuesday in New York, the state she represented in the Senate. The hosts’ connections with the Clinton Foundation show how intertwined the charity is with Clinton’s political career. Even her campaign finance director, Dennis Cheng, had a leading fundraiser role at the foundation before departing for the campaign.
The former secretary of state has faced persistent questions about the foundation’s acceptance of donations from foreign countries and its corporate ties in recent weeks.
And as she starts holding fundraisers this week, plenty of overlap can be seen between long-term political donors and foundation funders.
In New York, Clinton’s first event was at the home of fashion designer Lisa Perry, a longtime Democratic donor to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, and husband Richard C. Perry. A hedge fund executive, Richard Perry has donated between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to the foundation’s voluntary disclosures, and supported Hillary Clinton’s Senate and presidential bids.
A second event is co-hosted by Alan Patricof, the finance chairman for Clinton’s Senate campaigns. He and his wife donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to the foundation.
Speaking to 150 donors gathered in a midtown Manhattan apartment at the third event of the day, Clinton stressed her commitment to reforming the campaign finance system — and her goal of raising $100 million for her primary campaign.
“I feel that’s certainly within reach,” she said. “We have put together a terrific campaign team. It’s kind of like the old Girl Scout song: Make new friends, but keep the old.”
One of Clinton’s fundraisers in Washington on Thursday will be at the Georgetown home of Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, a longtime Clinton friend who served as ambassador to Portugal. Bagley and her husband, Smith, have donated between $1 million to $5 million to the foundation.
Next week, Clinton will raise money in San Francisco alongside Susie Tompkins Buell, co-founder of the Esprit clothing line and a top donor to Ready for Hillary, the super PAC that helped lay the groundwork for a Clinton campaign. Buell’s family charity has donated between $5 million and $10 million to Clinton’s foundation, records show.
In Los Angeles, a Clinton fundraising dinner will be held by Cheryl and Haim Saban, an entertainment mogul who created the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The billionaire couple, through their family foundation, donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, making the couple among the philanthropy’s biggest benefactors. Haim Saban frequently invites the former first lady to his annual foreign policy meetings in Washington.
Casey Wasserman, a sports and entertainment executive, is a co-host of the Los Angeles dinner. Wasserman is the president and CEO of the Wasserman Foundation, which has donated between $5 million and $10 million to Clinton’s foundation. He is the grandson of the late Hollywood studio chief Lew Wasserman, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1995.
Republicans were quick to link Clinton’s donors to controversy at her foundation.
“Following revelations that Hillary Clinton’s influence was potentially up for sale at the State Department, it’s no coincidence the same liberal financiers are lining up to bankroll her campaign for president,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Allison Moore.
For now, the Clinton campaign has set a modest goal of $100 million for the primary and is only accepting donations of $2,700, the maximum an individual donor can contribute during the primary season. The initial fundraisers are part of the campaign’s “Hilstarters” program, which seeks donors who can raise 10 maximum-donation checks each. Those who meet the goal will be invited to a “finance leadership summit” with Clinton on May 14 in New York.
Other than during her four years at the State Department, Clinton has taken little break from fundraising over the past three decades, raising hundreds of millions of dollars for her husband’s two presidential campaigns, her Senate races and her first White House bid. After leaving her post as secretary of state in 2013, Clinton quickly moved into raising money for the foundation’s endowment, in many cases scheduling small events with donors to the charity in the same cities as her paid speaking engagements.
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