McAuliffe And The Clintons: Ties That Bind

Jason Stverak President, Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
Font Size:

Poor Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem to know if she’s rich or “dead broke.” But, amidst her book tour and $200,000-a-pop speaking engagements, Mrs. Clinton says she and Bill got where they are with “hard work.”

Count Terry McAuliffe among the hardest workers in Clintonville.

Before Bill and Hillary vacated the White House in 2001, McAuliffe was asked how much money he raised for the Democratic Party during the Clinton era.

“Oh, I don’t know. People say 3 to 400 million. I stopped keeping track a long time ago,” he told MSNBC’S Lisa Myers.

As chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and as the ex-officio booking agent for the Lincoln Bedroom under the Clintons, McAuliffe was known as the “Godzilla of fundraising.”

As governor of Virginia, McAuliffe is positioned to juice Mrs. Clinton’s anticipated 2016 presidential run – just as he did eight years ago when he was her campaign chairman.

Through the permeable membrane that is the Clinton-McAuliffe relationship, money and influence flow both ways.

Bill Clinton gave $100,000 to McAuliffe’s 2013 gubernatorial run. Just as importantly, Clinton has introduced his protégé to world leaders and financiers – resulting in more contributions to McAuliffe.

Clinton’s IRS commissioner, Margaret “Peggy” Richardson, chipped in for McAuliffe, too. Richardson now sits on the board of directors of the company that funds McAuliffe’s former electric carmaker.

Anthony Rodham, Hillary’s younger brother, runs the fundraising arm for GreenTech Automotive.

Hillary’s first overtly political event after leaving the State Department was a fundraiser she hosted for McAuliffe at her Washington home. Mrs. Clinton headlined a subsequent high-dollar soiree in California, and stumped for her moneyman in Virginia.

Since taking office this year, McAuliffe has been back in California, where he introduced Hillary to a biotech conference – and more campaign cash.

It was a long way from the days when a scrappy McAuliffe boasted that he wrestled an alligator for $15,000. Now, more than ever, Hillary and McAuliffe are joined at the political hip.

For all the money in play, the Clinton-McAuliffe ties could put Hillary in a bind.

“McAuliffe represents an unseemly slice of Washington,” Stephanie Mencimer wrote in Mother Jones, most definitely not part of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

“When McAuliffe was the Dems’ top fundraiser, a campaign finance scandal besieged the Clinton White House. Coincidence? No. McAuliffe was all about pushing the envelope when it came to the political money chase.”

As if learning from the master, Mrs. Clinton cashed in at the State Department. Documents point to potential conflicts of interest in her speaking and consulting engagements that netted $48 million for “Clinton entities.”

McAuliffe has been there for Hillary, time and time again.

He put up $1.35 million as collateral for a loan to help the Clintons buy a New York home in 1999, when the couple was burdened by legal debts from the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal and Hillary needed to establish residency for a U.S. Senate run in the Empire State.

As governor of Virginia, McAuliffe controls the election machinery in a key swing state. And his fundraising connections from the past four decades are ready for Hillary.

Mrs. Clinton may not have as much money as she might like; political aspirants seldom do. But — for better or for worse, richer or poorer — Hillary has The Macker, the man Al Gore anointed “the greatest fundraiser in the history of the universe.”