Clinton targeting former Jeb Bush donors on Wall Street

By Eric DuVall   |   May 6, 2016 at 2:58 PM
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NEW YORK, May 6 (UPI) -- Top fundraisers for Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton have begun targeting one-time donors to former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, in a bid to woo those who are opposed to GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

Politico reported Thursday the race to win over some of Wall Street's top big money donors has taken an unsocial turn since Trump all but locked up the nomination this week. Many of Bush's former donors have not lined up behind Trump and Clinton's team is courting several high-profile individuals, including Bush's former finance chairman, Woody Johnson, who owns the NFL's New York Jets.

How well the effort is faring is not clear.

"I got a call from a friend, a Hillary supporter, and he said he'd love to chat about what a disaster Trump is," an anonymous former Bush donor told Politico. "Then I got a call from another guy, also a big Democrat, who said exactly the same thing. I responded to one in an email and said I didn't really think Trump was a disaster and I'd be supporting him because Hillary would be a bigger disaster. It's smart that they are doing it but I don't know how much it will work."

Others quoted in the story said they thought a small number of former Bush supporters may be open to supporting Clinton. Frequently, Wall Street's political donor class donates money to both parties but the effort to woo dyed-in-the-wool Republicans represents a shift in strategy for Clinton's team.

The move comes as Trump begins to ramp up his general election fundraising effort. The billionaire has largely financed his own campaign thus far, but acknowledged he will seek big-money donors to help support his general election campaign and other Republicans running in competitive races across the country.

In a sign of just how insular the world of top-flight Wall Street donors can be, Trump named hedge fund manager Steven Mnuchin his campaign's new finance chairman. Mnuchin, like Trump, has made previous donations to Clinton.

Of course, the pivot toward wooing Wall Street donors does not come without risk for Clinton. She has faced withering attacks from her Democratic primary opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, for her close ties to the financial sector, which many liberals blame for the 2008 economic collapse.

On Monday, Sanders' campaign manager accused Clinton of "laundering" campaign contributions from wealthy donors through a joint fundraising account with the Democratic National Committee.

Sanders has assailed the Clinton fundraising account, the Hillary Victory Fund, because it allows her to collect far more in individual donations than the regular $2,700 cap.

That's because the Hillary Victory Fund technically benefits not just the candidate, but the DNC and thirty-some state party committees. Because there are so many unique entities signed up to be a part of the fund, donors can make the maximum donation to each committee, allowing them to write checks upwards of $350,000.

But in an election law loophole, the money does not need to be allocated the same as it is collected, and according to documents filed with the Federal Elections Commission, only a small percentage of the money collected in name of state parties has actually gone to those parties.

The bulk of the donations -- nearly 90 percent -- have gone to either Clinton's campaign directly or to the DNC, which has also spent money on Clinton's behalf.

"Secretary Clinton is looting funds meant for the state parties to skirt fundraising limits on her presidential campaign," Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manger, said Monday. "We think the Clinton campaign should let the state parties keep their fair share of the cash."

The Clinton camp refuted reporting done by Politico on the FEC filings, arguing more money was handed out to states than the article stated.

Politico charged the Hillary Victory Fund actually handed out $3.8 million to state parties, but most of that money was subsequently handed back over by the states to the DNC.

A Clinton campaign aide disputed the numbers to CNN, saying $4.5 million had been handed out to the state parties by the Hillary Victory Fund and another $9 million was ready to go out as states' get-out-the-vote operations begin in the coming months.

"Funds raised through the Hillary Victory Fund are now being used to fund and staff organizing programs in Ohio, Virginia, Florida and states across the country that will register voters, recruit volunteers and organize Democrats to turn out and support candidates up and down the ballot," said Josh Schwerin, a Clinton spokesman.

The DNC has declined to comment on the dispute over the Hillary Victory Fund, except to point out the Sanders campaign signed an identical agreement to create a joint DNC and state party account.

Sanders has largely declined to use his joint account during the campaign, instead steering donors to give directly to him instead.

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