How Hillary Clinton is running against part of President Clinton’s legacy

30 Apr 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Bush & Clinton Send Divergent Fund Signals.

Clinton, the front-runner for the Democrats’ presidential nomination, is increasingly distancing herself from or even opposing key policies pushed by her husband Bill when he was in the White House, writes the Washington Post. With her debut on the 2016 fundraising circuit this week, Hillary Rodham Clinton is seeking to send a clear message: The biggest donors don’t come first.Washington — News of a record early fundraising total for Jeb Bush is remarkable not just for the sums of money involved, but also for how those sums have been raised – in ways that could either revolutionize campaign strategy or run afoul of federal election law. A ticket to one of Clinton’s events in Washington, San Francisco or Beverly Hills is $2,700 — a striking contrast with the $100,000-a-head affairs that former Florida governor Jeb Bush has been headlining. The Post writes the starkest example came Wednesday, when the former New York senator condemned the “era of incarceration” ushered in during the 1990s in the wake of her husband’s crime bill.

While many Republicans expect Bush to have raised $100 million by the time he declares his candidacy, Clinton advisers say that’s their modest goal for the entire primary season. The approach is in keeping with the Clinton campaign’s low-to-the-ground approach, allowing Clinton to separate her fundraising from the wooing of mega-donors preoccupying much of the GOP presidential field.

But some watchdog groups allege that he has already violated not just the spirit, but also the letter of a 2002 law that aims to limit what donors can give and candidates can spend in formal campaigns. The legal and ethical ambiguity is heightened because the Federal Election Commission (FEC), tasked with enforcing election laws, is deeply divided along party lines on the issues at stake. Top officials with Priorities USA Action have hit the road during the past three weeks, pressing donors for seven-figure contributions and laying the groundwork for an effort they hope will bring in tens of millions. “We’ve started on the Priorities side,” said Andy Spahn, a political adviser to top Hollywood players including DreamWorks Animation chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of the driving forces behind the super PAC. “Calls are being made, and we will have a more aggressive program moving forward.” It remains to be seen how much Clinton will engage with the independent operation.

But the disparate early signals Bush and Clinton are sending about campaign cash underscore the contrasting ways the heirs to two political families are positioning themselves in the 2016 presidential contest. While she and former president Bill Clinton are expected to headline fundraisers for Priorities USA, she is not doing any events for the group on her initial tour. For Bush, building a fundraising juggernaut is seen as a way to surge ahead of rivals while ensuring he has the money to stay competitive if the race drags on into next spring or summer. Speaking to 350 top donors at a Miami Beach event Sunday, he said he has raked in more money in the first 100 days of a possible run than any Republican ever. (The exact amount, not yet made public, could by some accounts reach $100 million.) All this appears to be a prelude to what might be called an “autopilot campaign.” And Bush looks set to delegate a stunning level of responsibility – key roles in advertising and more – to his political-action committee (PAC).

How the former secretary of state handles the big-money group will test Clinton’s ability to balance her calls for reining in “unaccountable money” with the demands of a campaign finance system that has undergone a revolution since she last ran in 2008. The boldness of this: These kinds of super PACs, by law, are supposed to remain wholly separate from the candidate and his or her campaign organization. “We are in a new era,” says Viveca Novak, spokeswoman for the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group in Washington that tracks the flow of money in US politics. “There were super PACs in 2012, but this is the first presidential election where people have openly talked about farming out elements of their campaigns to outside groups.” And it isn’t just the Bush organization that’s pushing down this new track. But that won’t be enough for an endorsement. “I think groups are going to want to endorse the candidate who represents their issues in a way they think is best and who has the best chance of winning,” a political operative who works on environmental issues told the publication.

For Clinton, who so far faces no serious primary competition, lowering fundraising expectations is a bid to dispel the notion that she is her party’s inevitable nominee. Clinton had originally planned to wait until May to start fundraising, but told advisers she was concerned about the prowess of Bush’s money operation and wanted to start sooner, according to a person familiar with the campaign plans. But, in a glimpse of how things are shifting, a recent report by The Associated Press hinted at Bush’s goals for his super PAC, which is called Right to Rise.

The emphasis on a broad donor base comes as Clinton’s family foundation has come under scrutiny for its acceptance of millions from a network of powerful individuals and global conglomerates, many with business interests before the U.S. government. A delegation of top foundation donors, including major supporters of Clinton’s past campaigns, are accompanying Bill Clinton on a nine-day trip to Africa.

Clinton’s approach to 2016 fundraising diverges from those of many of her GOP rivals, who are already working hand-in-glove with their allied super PACs. Rick Santorum (R) of Pennsylvania have actually crossed the threshold of candidacy by steps such as referring to themselves publicly as candidates or amassing campaign funds that will be spent after they formally declare. There’s a greater emphasis on attracting smaller donors, something President Barack Obama did effectively during his two campaigns. “It’s good politics,” said Ira Leesfield, a Miami attorney and longtime Clinton financial backer. “If a person sends 100 bucks, 50 bucks, they’re probably going to go out and vote.” Bush invited more than 300 donors to Miami’s glamorous South Beach this week for a private two-day retreat at an eco-friendly seaside hotel.

Fred Wertheimer of the group Democracy 21, which joined in filing the complaints, argues also that the 2002 campaign law prohibits an outside group from receiving unlimited contributions if a candidate or his proxies are involved in “establishing, financing, maintaining or controlling” the group. As the Hill writes, defense hawks in the House won the extra Pentagon funding last month, beating back objections from fiscal hawks who said it would increase the deficit. During her failed 2008 race against Obama, Clinton raised $229 million before bowing out of the primary, though some of that money was allocated for the general election. The fact that outside money faces no caps gives candidates, donors, and political activists an incentive to emphasize that kind of fundraising and spending.

But it attracted attention for aggressive advertisements criticizing Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s business record, sometimes relying on cheaper online ad buys or free media, rather than purchasing extensive — and expensive — TV time. Still, Clinton’s top campaign staff, including Chairman John Podesta and campaign manager Robby Mook, are taking nothing for granted, holding small briefings on fundraising and outreach strategy for supporters likely to become major donors. Congress passed new limits on money in politics in 2002, but the US Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that portions of the law were an unconstitutional infringement on First Amendment free-speech rights. Specifically, the Citizens United and SpeechNow rulings validated the idea that political speech by independent people or groups can’t be constrained. Invitees, which include former donors to the Clinton and Obama campaigns, have been assured that she can reassemble the key constituencies that made up Obama’s winning coalition in 2008: Hispanics, African Americans, young people and women.

At one such session last week at the Washington home of longtime Clinton friends Vernon and Ann Jordan, Mook and Podesta told backers that the initial slow pace of fundraising is by design, reflecting Clinton’s plan for a measured entry into the full-time campaign. The presentations include several slides that compare Clinton’s fundraising potential to the record-setting haul of Obama’s 2012 race, emphasizing that Clinton is initially working with a smaller universe of potential cash, a campaign official said.

In early 2011, Obama was able solicit donations of $38,500 for his reelection because he was raising money in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee. The Clinton campaign had been expected to quickly make use of the extensive e-mail list of small-dollar supporters compiled by the pre-campaign booster group Ready For Hillary.

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