Thursday, October 09, 2003

Beyond the manufactured news, Clark making headway behind the scenes

Although a disgruntled blogger with a big ego managed to get his name in a number of reports lately, this story is real news.

Clark May Give Dean a Run for His Money
Late-Starting Democrat Forages for Funds in Hollywood and on the Web

Friday, October 10, 2003

Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark has conducted successful forays into two important sources of financial support for Howard Dean -- Hollywood and the Internet -- and is trying hard to enlist Dean's donors in his newly launched presidential campaign.

Early in his campaign, Clark has demonstrated considerable fundraising prowess. From Sept. 17, the day of his announcement, to Sept. 30, Clark raised $3.5 million, substantially more than Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) raised during the three months of the third quarter. But Dean is expected to report he raised $14.8 million during the quarter that ended Sept. 30, the most of any Democratic candidate.

The former Vermont governor has been more successful than his rivals in using the Internet, raising about half of his third-quarter total that way. But Clark may prove equally adept. Before he even announced his candidacy, the Draft Wesley Clark operation on the Web had gathered $1.9 million in pledges. Although campaign officials do not know how many of those pledges became actual donations, two-thirds of the money that Clark raised this quarter came via the Internet.

The Clark campaign has signed up about 100,000 supporters, half of whom enlisted through the Draft Clark Web site, according to John Hlinko, who ran the site and now runs Internet operations for the campaign. Hlinko said the campaign is trying to overtake Dean, who as of yesterday had enlisted 461,206 people through the Internet.

Most major fundraisers and donors in California are remaining uncommitted, waiting to see how well the candidates do in the early jockeying, debates, polls and fundraising. But Clark's initial success has eaten away at some of Dean's potential support, especially in the Los Angeles area. According to many political activists there, Clark has supplanted Dean as the star attraction and the main focus of political attention, and Clark has won the likely backing of at least one prominent fundraiser, television director Norman Lear, who had been leaning to Dean.

On a recent swing through Los Angeles, Clark was the beneficiary of a $2,000-a-head fundraiser hosted by Lear and his wife, Lyn, Larry and Lauri David and Mary Steenburgen. Lear, who gave Dean $2,000 last April, said, "Both Dean and the general are the ones closest to what needs to be said." After spending time with both candidates, Lear said, "I'm inclined to the general," adding, however, "I want them both out there."

Jeremy Bernard, one of the founders of ANGLE (Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality), a political action committee based in Los Angeles, said, "I'm surprised about the amount of interest there is in Clark. It's like he's a rock star; people want pictures with him, they want him to sign things."

In what many California activists described as a significant development, Eli Broad, a businessman and major philanthropist of the arts and education in the state and nationally, is supporting Clark and indicated he is likely to raise money for him. Broad, the activists said, gives Clark access to the California business community, which is substantially more moderate than the liberal entertainment community.

Broad, in an interview, said he does not want an official fundraising role in the campaign, but "I'll be helpful to Wes Clark," whom he described as "clearly the most capable in the areas of foreign policy and domestic security."...

In this environment, and with the pressures of the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance law to raise money not from large donors but from thousands of smaller ones, the crucial test is whether candidates can convert well-known donors into active fundraisers, willing to tap into larger constituencies of givers....

In Clark's case, in addition to Broad, and possibly Lear, the candidate has lined up a solid commitment from Peter Morton, founder and chairman of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Inc. Morton said he plans to host a dinner for Clark in Las Vegas later this month and a November fundraiser in Los Angeles. Co-chairing the Los Angeles dinner with Morton are producers Jordan Kerner and Steven E. Tisch....

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