Washington – Connecticut is proving to be fertile ground for Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and other presidential candidates seeking campaign cash in what’s expected to be the most expensive race for the White House in history.
“Many people consider Connecticut such a blue state that it makes little sense for presidential candidates to campaign here,” said Scott McLean, political science professor at Quinnipiac University. “But, in reality we are a green state, with plenty of wealthy donors supporting both major parties.”
McLean also said because of its location near the crucial swing state of New Hampshire, Connecticut “is the political ATM of choice — stop here, do a fundraiser, and jet out to the next campaign stop.”
Even before most of the candidates announced this year, nearly $1.7 million had been raised in Connecticut for the 2016 contest for the White House.
Former Secretary of State and First Lady Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, raised $820,000 in Connecticut in the first six months of the year. The money she raises in Connecticut is expected to grow exponentially as she taps people like Yale professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis — a married couple who have never been involved in political fundraising before, but who agreed to host an event in New Haven.
Resnik said they hosted the event “because we admire and respect her commitments, past tireless work as a senator for New York and for the country as secretary of state.”
“We both knew her, as she was a student doing public interest work when Denny was beginning Yale Law School’s clinical program along with others,” Resnik said.
She said she worked with Clinton on a conference on women in the legal academy. “Her agenda then and now aims to support and enhance equality for all.”
Clinton has attended dozens of fundraising parties like the one hosted by Resnik and Curtis and is expected to consider Democratic-leaning Connecticut almost as fertile as Manhattan as far as collecting political cash.
Hillary has another early “bundler,” the super fundraisers in presidential campaigns who organize and collect campaign contributions from other donors — Rep Jim Himes, D-4th District.
According to Clinton’s campaign, which released a list of its bundlers, Himes is one of dozens of “Hillblazers” who have each helped raise at least $100,000 for Clinton. Bundlers are often given jobs by winning candidates they have supported — often ambassadorships.
Campaigns are not required under federal election law to disclose their bundlers, unless they are lobbyists
But like Clinton, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, said he would release a list of bundlers in October.
Other candidates, including Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, said they will not disclose their bundlers.
Although Clinton has bashed wealthy hedge fund managers who “pay a lower tax rate than truck drivers or nurses,” Milburn Corp. founder Malcolm Wiener and his wife Carolyn held a fundraiser for the candidate in their Greenwich home in June.
Meanwhile, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s Democratic rival, is raising most of his money online and shunning the fundraising party circuit.
It’s not surprising Bush has had help from family in Connecticut.
His aunt and uncle, Jody and Jon Bush, who have a residence in New Haven, held a June fundraising reception at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich.
Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, grew up in Greenwich, where his father Prescott, a former U.S. senator from Connecticut, settled with his family.
That family fundraiser helped Jeb Bush raise more than $530,000 in Connecticut in little more than a month after he announced his candidacy on June 15.
The 2016 race for the White House is expected to burst all fund-raising records. Elizabeth Wilner of Kantar Media has predicted spending on television advertising alone will cost more than $4.4 billion, up from $3.8 billion spent in 2012.
That could make for tight competition in the crowded GOP field, said Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“On the one hand, having so many ‘mouths to feed’ on the Republican side makes it more difficult for GOP candidates to raise money, as there are many candidates for donors to choose from,” Skelley said. “On the other hand, wealthy donors can put their eggs in more than one basket by giving money to more than one candidate, which means that fundraising isn’t really a zero-sum game.”
Quinnipiac’s McLean said billionaire developer Donald Trump may largely finance his own campaign, while other GOP candidates will scramble “to raise the $200 million threshold needed to be considered a viable candidate during the early primaries,”
There will be plenty of fundraising activity outside candidate campaigns, too.
Donors to Super PACS will take on “a preeminent campaign role, raising unlimited amounts of money on behalf of a candidate,” especially for Republican candidates, Skelley said.
“The top-tier GOP candidates have all raised more money via their Super PACs than through their actual candidate committee,” he said.
Yet Skelley also said that, especially for Democrats, bundlers and others who raise funds for individual campaigns will continue to be important.
“Clinton, Sanders, and other Democratic candidates have predominantly or only raised money through their candidate committees, so traditional fundraising methods are more applicable to them,” he said.
Candidates have full control of how the money is spent out of their campaign funds, but campaigns and Super PACs are not supposed to coordinate.
There are limits to what a donor at a traditional fundraiser can give: $2,700 for a primary and another $2,700 for the general election. Donations to a Super PAC are unlimited and can be given by corporations and labor unions, which are prohibited by federal campaign law to give directly to a candidate’s campaign.
Former Ambassador to Ireland, Tom Foley, who served in President George W. Bush’s administration, has thrown his support behind New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who helped Foley in his failed campaign for governor of Connecticut.
Foley held a Greenwich fundraiser for Christie in February.
Another GOP candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has also been in the state, but to raise money for the Connecticut GOP, not himself. Still he was given the opportunity to meet key Republican donors. Rubio was the keynote speaker at the Connecticut Republican party’s Prescott Bush Awards Dinner in Stamford on June 4.