Hillary Clamps Down

Hassan Nemazee is a very powerful Democratic fund-raiser. As one of the premiere money people in a pivotal check-writing town, Mr. Nemazee’s apartment has been the site of visit after visit by prospective 2008 candidates hoping for a taste of his homemade Chinese food and considerable financial influence. Practically since the day the 2004 race ended, he has obliged, arranging small audiences of key donors on a regular basis. That’s all over now. Just three days after Hillary Clinton officially entered the race by announcing the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, Mr. Nemazee winnowed his dinner list down to her alone. “You basically don’t want to deal with this stuff anymore, because you are taking too much time out of your day,” Mr. Nemazee told The Observer. “I mean, you’ve seen all these people. Just sit down in the last 24 hours and make your decision—and just go with it.” After months of speculation, Mrs. Clinton’s formal step into the 2008 Presidential race has drastically and immediately changed the political lives of all the candidates seeking to extract cash from New York and other donor-heavy locales. Her folksy and pillow-propped “Let the conversation begin” announcement in a Saturday-morning Web video finally set in motion a massive donor network-in-waiting, simultaneously ending the conversation that Barack Obama, John Edwards, Bill Richardson and the other members of an increasingly crowded field of candidates hoped to have with key fund-raisers. “It is absolutely time for people to make a choice,” said Fred P. Hochberg, dean of the Milano School for Management and Urban Policy at the New School and a major fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton. “The check-raisers will need to decide,” he added, “because they are not going to be credible with a donor if they are raising for different Presidential candidates.” The sheer scale of what Mrs. Clinton is trying to do, if she can do it, will leave little room for her rivals to profit from the traditional Democratic money network. As soon as she announced, Mrs. Clinton began collecting contributions outside the public financing program, allowing her to avoid the spending limits that go along with it. She was the first candidate to do so for both primary and general campaigns since the program began in 1976. Mrs. Clinton clearly thinks that her fund-raising network can do better than the $150 million made available through public funding, and an aide to Mrs. Clinton said that the campaign plans to raise $65 million this year alone. Her major backers have already hit the phones, trying to give her the insurmountable financial advantage that political analysts say has already chased away once-promising candidates Mark Warner and Evan Bayh. Alan J. Patricof, a prominent venture capitalist and Mrs. Clinton’s Senate campaign chair, has been one of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s most reliable and prodigious fund-raisers. By Monday afternoon, he said he had already reached out to 25 donors in New York. “Every person said they would support her financially to the maximum extent. I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said Mr. Patricof. “There have got to be at least 20, 30, 40 people like me who are making calls. There are a lot of people making the calls.” The fund-raising operation—overseen by campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, who came on as Mrs. Clinton’s scheduler 15 years ago, and finance director Jonathan Mantz, who worked for New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine—moved quickly after this weekend’s announcement. Maureen White, the former national finance chair of the Democratic National Committee, told The Observer that she started reaching out to donors “bright and early” on Saturday morning, and as of Tuesday had made nearly 90 phone calls soliciting contributions, with an “overwhelmingly positive response.” Francis Greenburger, a prominent literary agent and Democratic donor who sits on Mrs. Clinton’s finance committee, said that he immediately got on the phone to pitch a half-dozen deep-pocketed friends. Lady Lynn de Rothschild, a diehard Clinton supporter with an extensive social network, said that a senior member of Mrs. Clinton’s staff sent her an e-mail about the announcement while she was in Delhi. Back at home in London on Monday, Lady de Rothschild said that before getting the official word, she felt “like a horse chomping at the bit” and had begun drafting an e-mail soliciting maximum financial support for Mrs. Clinton, which she expected to send out to about 50 friends on Wednesday. “Now is a time that we should really step up and support her. Those of us who have really waited a long time, we’re the ones who should be doing our all as early as we can,” said Lady de Rothschild. “We have to feel really energized. We can’t be complacent about this one. There are going to be enough people on the other side working against her.” “It is hard for other candidates,” added Mr. Nemazee, who was mentioned around the time of Mrs. Clinton’s announcement as one of a number of unattached bundlers being courted by Mr. Obama’s campaign. “There is just so much oxygen available. There are only so many people out there who know how to do this and are willing to do this.” Mrs. Clinton’s rivals seem to be braced for the onslaught, and some are sounding defiant tones about their ability to make headway in the shadow of the Clinton machine. “I raised $2 million last year in New York in the midst of Hillary’s run,” said Senator Joe Biden, who is hoping to raise $20 million by the end of the year. “Will I raise the most money? I don’t know. But I will raise enough money.” Mr. Obama has already lined up some major donors like billionaire George Soros, and has demonstrated a willingness—if not an actual ability—to compete with Mrs. Clinton for donors on her home turf. Mr. Edwards is counting on the ability to tap into his base of trial lawyers and old hedge-fund associates for money, although he has consciously decided to spend most of his time over the last few months looking for support among voters in the early primary states. “He won’t raise as much as Hillary, but he certainly will raise money in New York,” said Richard Thaler, vice chairman of Deutsche Bank Securities and a major donor to Mr. Edwards. “I think Edwards is going to be able to raise the money nationally—No. 1, because a lot of people like him and see that he can win in places like Iowa and Nevada and South Carolina, and that he is highly competitive in New Hampshire. And people want to win this election.” And some of the other contenders, such as Senator Chris Dodd and Mr. Biden, now lead powerful committees that will inevitably make them attractive to certain strategic-minded contributors. “They all have instant bases,” said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore’s 2000 Presidential campaign. “They can draw their own internal sources from their respective home sources and states. And there are new donors that have come into the fold since the Clinton Presidency that they can perhaps tap into. Some need $100 million to be credible, others probably need 10 to 15 million. As long as they get their message out, they can succeed.” How effectively they can get the message out, though, is an open question. On Sunday, when Mrs. Clinton made her first flesh-and-blood public appearance after declaring the formation of her exploratory committee over the weekend, there were a dozen rows of seats filled with reporters pecking at laptops, surrounded by babies bouncing on their mothers’ knees and supporters hoisting their camera phones in the air. Behind the plastic seats, reporters crouched on the cold floor between the tripod legs of television cameras. With the microphone dead onstage, the room resounded mostly with the machine-gun blasts of camera shutters each time one of the children interacted with the candidate. When Mrs. Clinton spoke, she projected her voice to the back of the room, especially when asked about the battle ahead. “I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “It’ll be a great contest with a lot of talented people, and I’m very confident. I’m in, I’m in to win, and that’s what I intend to do.’’ The same can be said of her donors. “We’re all staffers for Hillary,” said Lady de Rothschild, who added: “My apartment is good for 30, 40 people. Things are going to scale up a lot.”