Clinton campaign to focus on money for primaries

AP News
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Posted: Mar 25, 2015 6:04 PM
Clinton campaign to focus on money for primaries

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton's fundraising team only plans to raise money for the presidential primaries when she launches her 2016 campaign and initially will avoid general election fundraising.

Democrats familiar with the plans say the campaign finance strategy will avoid taking anything for granted despite her dominant position within the potential Democratic field. The Democrats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about Clinton's campaign plans. The planned focus on primary money was first reported by The New York Times.

Clinton's campaign-in-waiting is developing a stable of fundraisers and finance aides for a race likely to exceed the more than $1 billion President Barack Obama raised for his 2012 re-election. If Clinton announces in April, as expected, her campaign would be required to release its first fundraising report in July.

The Democratic National Committee plans to set up joint fundraising committees with any primary campaign that wishes to do so, as it did in 2008 with Clinton and Obama. The joint events will allow donors to give money to both the campaign and the DNC, one of the Democratic officials said.

The ex-secretary of state's finance team will be led by Dennis Cheng, a former top fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. Under Cheng, the planned finance operation is making changes from its previous incarnation.

The Democrats familiar with the planning said Clinton's campaign is expected to focus on raising checks of $2,700-per-person for the primary and is not expected to create a single finance chair or national co-chairs.

Instead, the campaign is likely to have a merit-based national finance committee of top donors that will be similar to the arrangement under Obama. The campaign also plans an early focus on online fundraising, the officials said.

Cheng is putting together a team of regional fundraisers who will oversee finance efforts around the country. The staff will include former Clinton campaign aides Yael Ouzillou, who will oversee the South Central region of the country, and Jon Adrabi, who will manage the Southeast, BuzzFeed, the Internet news site, reported.

"It seems like they're putting this operation together the right way," said Andrew J. Weinstein, a Florida attorney and top Democratic fundraiser who plans to raise money for Clinton.

In 2008, fundraisers for Clinton's last presidential campaign raised money simultaneously for both the primary and general elections, limiting the campaign's use of some money in the primary against Obama and the rest of the Democratic field.

For example, when Clinton posted her first fundraising report in April 2007, it showed that her team had raised $26 million during the period. But only about $19 million of that could be spent toward winning the nomination. Obama, meanwhile, raised nearly $26 million during that stretch, but virtually all of it was in primary dollars, giving him an early fundraising edge.

Clinton's fundraising will be closely scrutinized by Republicans, who have questioned the foundation's decision to accept money from foreign governments. Cheng joined the foundation in 2013 after serving under Clinton in the State Department and was the organization's chief development officer.

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, on Wednesday sent a letter to White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett asking whether the acceptance of foreign donations violated a memorandum of understanding signed by the foundation when Hillary Clinton was under consideration to become the nation's top diplomat.

Priebus wrote the memorandum between the foundation and Obama's transition team was billed as a "pledge toward transparency and the avoidance of conflicts of interest. The American people deserve to know whether it was nothing more than a memorandum between parties that had no real interest in either of these goals."