Clinton's Party

REES, MATTHEW

Clinton's Party Terry McAuliffe, friend of Bill, seizes the Democratic reins. BY MATTHEW REES IN AUGUST 1986, Life magazine published a short profile of a precocious 29-year-old Democratic...

...employ tactics that, like the tying up of the gator, violate the spirit of the game...
...Conveniently, a photo of McAuliffe in action found its way to Life's photo department...
...Distasteful though he may be, "the Macker," as he calls himself, is drooled over by party leaders...
...One of those who vouch for him is his fund-raising mentor, Tony Coelho, the former congressman who temporarily chaired Gore's presidential campaign...
...BY MATTHEW REES IN AUGUST 1986, Life magazine published a short profile of a precocious 29-year-old Democratic fund-raiser named Terry McAuliffe...
...In the aftermath of the Florida election controversy, Democratic voters are infinitely more hyped up than they otherwise would be after losing a presidential election...
...Indeed, there's little doubt that with McAuliffe at the helm the DNC will, over the next few years, raise more money than ever before, even without the benefit of the Lincoln bedroom...
...It described McAuliffe as specializing in a "zany mix of sledgehammer persistence and personal magnetism," and it illustrated the point with an account of how he once wrestled an alligator in order to get the seminole Indians of Florida to fork over a $15,000 contribution...
...That will win him plaudits from Democrats...
...McAuliffe, he said, is "the greatest fund-raiser in the history of the universe...
...So will his expected willingness to accept a role that's relatively narrow...
...Mike McCurry, a former Clinton spokesman and an enthusiastic McAuliffe backer, thinks his friend will be content with this role: "He is more on the schmooze side than the substance side of politics...
...But omitted from these write-ups has been any reference to the letter Life subsequently published from a reader who had scrutinized the photograph...
...Gore had it right...
...For if there's one thing McAuliffe will deliver as party chairman, it's money, and lots of it...
...But Democrats can only keep their fingers crossed and hope that the thin ice on which McAuliffe skates never caves in...
...Richard Gephardt, a man not known for being warm and cuddly, once bought a golden retriever puppy, had it housetrained, and then personally presented it to McAuliffe on Christmas day, according to Fortune...
...McAuliffe declined the London posting in order to assist Al Gore's fledgling presidential campaign, but Clinton still found a way to pay his golfing buddy back...
...It might seem odd to have a figure like McAuliffe lead a party whose elected officials almost unanimously support doing away with the fund-raising practices he helped pioneer...
...It's also an early indicator of just how primed Democrats are to win congressional majorities two years from now, and to take back the White House in 2004...
...But don't expect much bellyaching from them, at least not in public...
...He will remain dogged in the pursuit of campaign contributions (it's noteworthy that as long ago as 1986 he was hitting up groups, like Indian tribes, who probably had no business making political donations...
...One longtime advocate for campaign-finance reform of the McCain/Feingold variety, asked to assess the choice of McAuliffe to run the DNC, replied, "He single-handedly destroyed campaign-finance law in the United States...
...Bill Richardson, who wanted to run, and whose service as Clinton's bagman on numerous issues would seem to have earned him the right to run, was told in plain language to forget it...
...Over the past decade he's been mixed up in a number of complicated business deals that have attracted the scrutiny of federal investigators...
...McAuliffe's expected accession guarantees Clinton will remain an active figure in Democratic politics...
...The episode has become a staple of McAuliffe profiles written as he's ascended through Democratic politics...
...Al Gore, in a speech last May, made clear why...
...And their party is poised to win majorities in the House and Senate two years from now, for which McAu-liffe will inevitably get a chunk of credit...
...The reader observed, "If McAuliffe wrestled with anything, it must have been his conscience, and his conscience lost...
...A few years ago, Gore lobbied McAuliffe to accept the chairmanship of the DNC, and when he refused, Gore resorted to lobbying his wife...
...McAuliffe was the first to urge stepping up the use of White House hospitality, including the renting of the Lincoln Bedroom, as a lure to donors...
...The alligator, far from being dangerous, had had its mouth tied shut, rendering it "as dangerous as a three-month old kitten...
...After the harrowing experience with Ed Rendell, the recently departed party chairman who committed a gaffe nearly every time he spoke, leading Democrats will be happy with McAuliffe if he functions as nothing more than a full-time fund-raiser...
...Within 48 hours of Gore's concession to George W. Bush, Clinton had put out the word that McAuliffe was going to be the next DNC chairman (Clinton's gratitude stems in no small part from McAuliffe's having raised $300 million in recent years for various Clinton causes...
...Now that McAuliffe is slated to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee, this anecdote nicely captures what's likely to be the upside, and the downside, of his leadership...
...There's so much attached to him that something is bound to blow up...
...McAuliffe has set all sorts of records for fund-raising, like the gala in Washington's MCI Center last May that netted $26.5 million in a single night, but the best way to measure his effectiveness is to take note of how other leading Democrats treat him...
...Republicans are likely to intensify the scrutiny of McAuliffe...
...But in this pursuit he's destined to Matthew Rees is a staff writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD...
...McAuliffe naturally professes total innocenceŚhe once told Business Week, "The worst thing I've ever gotten is a speeding ticket...
...a leading Republican strategist told me, "Choosing him is very risky...
...But given Coelho's own checkered past, praise from him for honesty is a bit like praise from Madonna for modesty...
...As for Clinton, he offered McAuliffe one of the most highly sought-after ambassadorships, Great Britain, even though McAuliffe's foreign-policy experience is said to be limited to owning an Irish bar in Washington, D.C...
...But Maynard Jackson, the former mayor of Atlanta, decided late last week to challenge McAuliffe, saying, "I don't think we can be so preoccupied with money that we forget about the grass-roots...
...Just ask those who have studied his now legendary fund-raising tactics for Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection effort...
...He's about as honest as they come," Coel-ho once told reporter Tim Burger...
...He may even help prevent an excessively divisive presidential nominating process in 2004, given his clout within the partyŚnot to mention his experience wrestling alligators...
...Those potential problems notwithstanding, McAuliffe would seem to be well positioned to have a successful chairmanship...

Vol. 6 • January 2001 • No. 16


 
Developed by
Kanda Sofware
  Kanda Software, Inc.