In any given summer, the Hamptons are transformed into an A.T.M. for national politicians, particularly Democrats who are running for president.
This year, the moneyed parts of Long Island have become a 24-hour bank machine for one campaign in particular.
“There’s no question about it,” said corporate P.R. man Morris Reid. “Hillary Clinton owns the Hamptons.”
Or as local bookstore owner Charline Spektor put it, “She’s part of the landscape of what goes on here.”
That much is true—thanks to a certain surrogate named Bill Clinton—even when the candidate isn’t actually present.
At around 9:30 on the night of Friday, Aug. 3, for example, four SUVs rumbled up the driveway of Mr. Reid’s East Hampton home. By then, news that Mrs. Clinton was a no-show had long since sunk in for the roughly 200 people who had paid between $250 and $1,000 to gather in Mr. Morris’ backyard.
Once Mr. Clinton took up his position in front of the crowd, it hardly mattered.
Mr. Reid, co-founder of the P.R. firm Westin Rinehart, gave the introduction. “You guys are all here and we appreciate that, but we want you to dig deep—we need you to dig deep,” he said to a rapt, heavily female audience. “We are in a time where money counts in politics. It’s a shame, but it’s a reality. We’re in the Hamptons, we can all afford to write checks.”
Mr. Reid continued: “Bill Clinton created more millionaires in his terms than any president in history. You guys need to be more enthusiastic about fixing the economy.”
The crowd broke into applause.
Moments later, the former president took the microphone.
“You probably know by now that she’s not here,” said Mr. Clinton, who looked unusually thin and Hamptons-spiffy in a linen blue blazer, khakis and tan loafers, and who had already played surrogate earlier that evening at a fund-raiser at the Southampton home of Irene and Bernard Schwartz. “I want to explain what happened. I got a call tonight a couple of hours ago. She was in the plane. She said, ‘I’m in the plane.’ She said, ‘I’m all dressed up and I look really nice.’”
He went on to explain that his wife had been held up in Washington by a Senate vote. And judging by the crowd’s rapturous reaction, that was enough.
As the recently concluded whirlwind tour of Long Island’s toniest towns—seven events in three days—once again made clear, no other campaign has the moneyed Hamptons at its disposal quite like the Clintons do.
“I don’t think anyone was disappointed,” said Tina Waksman, who attended the event at Mr. Reid’s home. Mr. Clinton, she said, had “cast a spell” on everyone.
Over the course of the weekend, Mr. Clinton would go on to do his bit at a Saturday afternoon cocktail rally at the home of Dottie Herman, president and CEO of Douglas Elliman; at the mega-dinner that night hosted by Revlon poobah Ronald Perelman; and again at a celebrity pancake breakfast at the home of financier Alan Patricof.
Mr. Reid began working for Mr. Clinton on the 1992 election campaign as a field operative in Ohio, and went on to serve as a senior advisor to Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown.