Apr 13, 2015 6:55 PM

Starting small: Clinton goes for low-key events, fundraising

The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Hillary Rodham Clinton will begin raising money to pay for her second bid for the White House the same way she plans to start campaigning: small.

Forgoing the celebrity-studded fundraisers that marked her husband's presidency, as well as the high-dollar private events put on this year by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Clinton's initial appeals for money will be for small-dollar donations collected over the Internet.

It's the same start-small strategy that she's taking with her first campaign events, deliberately passing on the supporter-packed rallies of her early GOP rivals for "retail" events in two Iowa towns of a few thousand people. Not on her agenda is an immediate trip to raise money in the Democratic hotspots for campaign cash of New York, Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

Advisers have set a modest goal of raising $100 million for the primary campaign and will not initially accept donations for the general election.

"Everyone knows that over time Hillary Clinton will raise enough to be competitive," said Tom Nides, a top Wall Street supporter and former State Department adviser to Clinton. "Her objective is not to raise money to prove that she can. It's to build the grassroots organization."

Clinton retains deep ties to the party's top fundraisers, including those cultivated by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, during the 1990s. During its first call with donors on Monday, Hillary Clinton's team noted some listening helped President Barack Obama's campaigns, while others had raised money for Clinton's own White House bid in 2008. Others, they said, were new to the fundraising circuit.

With those relationships well established, her aides on Monday outlined steps to cast their net as widely as possible to broaden their list of potential contributors, according to several donors who took part. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private conference call.

"I want you with me on this. Chip in what you can today to help build our campaign," Clinton wrote in her first fundraising email, sent Monday, asking for donations ranging from $5 and $25 to the maximum of $2,700 per individual during the primary.

Her approach stands in contrast to her potential Republican challengers, who have used early fundraising as a measuring stick in a wide-open primary and used their entry into the race to tout so-called "money bombs" that aim to raise a large amount of money in a short time.

Still, Clinton's campaign is expected to exceed the $1 billion-plus raised and spent by Obama in 2012. Republican outside groups have already signaled plans to raise more than $1 billion alone, a sum that doesn't include money that will eventually be collected by the eventual GOP nominee.

Clinton's campaign intends to slowly ramp up its fundraising efforts, focusing first on online fundraising and building a network of donors who the campaign will be able to return to in the weeks and months ahead.

The tactics are decidedly low-key compared with some of her husband's fundraising exploits. Seeking re-election in 1996, Bill Clinton raised a then-massive haul of $12 million in a celebrity-filled 50th birthday party held at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

In an email on Sunday, Clinton's incoming finance director, Dennis Cheng, asked top donors to make personal contributions of up to $2,700 per person and then start raising money from their networks of business associates and friends.

One early approach is the "Hilstarter" program for "early adopters" of the campaign: Donors were asked to raise $27,000 during the first 30 days of the campaign, or the equivalent of finding 10 donors to provide the maximum amount for the primary.

The sums are small in the world of campaign finance Obama's re-election campaign featured dozens of donors who bundled $500,000 or more. But it aims to be inclusive at the start, with a goal of having hundreds of such bundlers.

"It's not going to be the big event rollout right now. The idea is to get people involved," said Miami attorney Ira Leesfield, a longtime Clinton friend and fundraiser.


Lerer reported from Philadelphia.


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