Time to call in the closer.
With eight weeks to go before the Democratic National Convention and convention organizers still millions of dollars short, President Clinton, the ultimate fund-raiser, is coming to L.A. this weekend to close the gap.
Clinton will be attending a fund-raising breakfast at the Brentwood home of Mayor Richard Riordan and wife Nancy Daly Riordan on June 24. Convention organizers hope to raise at least $1 million from the 200 invited guests at that exclusive bash.
"The president is coming out both to thank those who have worked so hard to get us this far and to do some fund-raising to get us over the goal line," said SunAmerica Inc. chairman and civic leader Eli Broad, who is co-chair of the private-sector L.A. Convention 2000 Host Committee.
Broad said the Clinton fund-raiser will target prominent Angelenos who either have not yet made contributions to the convention effort or who have "given modest amounts." Among the confirmed attendees: Liam McGee, president of Bank of America's Southern California division; David and Marianna Fisher of Capital Guardian Trust; and Motown mogul Barry Gordy.
A cross section of L.A.'s business and civic elite is expected to turn out; host committee organizers say the guests will include a fair number of people from the entertainment industry.
Clinton will also be attending a luncheon fund-raiser the same day for the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. That luncheon will be held at the home of billionaire supermarket mogul Ronald Burkle. The previous evening, he will be at receptions for the California Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee.
"This could be Clinton's last hurrah here in L.A. before the convention," said Hal Dash, president of Cerrell Associates, a local public relations firm with long ties to the Democratic Party establishment. "This is going to be a chance to maximize the president's popular appeal for raising money."
The Clinton visit follows the recent appointment of master Democratic Party fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe, who succeeds former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer as head of the Democratic National Convention Committee. It's all part of an intensified fund-raising focus as the clock winds down on the convention planning effort.
McAuliffe just last month wrapped up a Democratic Party barbecue featuring President Clinton that raised a record $26 million; he says he has raised more than $275 million on behalf of his longtime friend Clinton over the last several years.
Planners well short of goal
Clinton, McAuliffe and other convention fund-raisers have their work cut out for them. As of last week, the host committee had raised approximately $32 million of the $35.3 million it committed to raising in its winning bid for the convention.
And even the $35.3 million won't be enough to cover all the expenses. Broad said the DNCC has planned expenditures over and above that sum, bringing the total needed to nearly $40 million.
"We've told them that we're very close to our original goal and will have no problem getting there," Broad said. "However, we said, 'If you want to do more things and need more money, we'll do our best, but we could sure use some help.'"
What's more, much of the funds raised so far by the host committee have been in the form of in-kind contributions from corporations, leading to a cash shortage as the DNCC starts spending hard dollars on setting up the convention.
At a press conference last week, McAuliffe said he believes all of the money necessary to put on the convention will be raised by mid-July, exactly one month before the Democrats hit town.
"It absolutely is getting to crunch time and everybody's feeling the heat," said one longtime Democratic observer. "There is no high-profile business or high-profile person in L.A. that hasn't been called by the mayor, or by (Host Committee Chief Executive) Noelia Rodriguez or (Host Committee fund-raiser) Sherry Carter. It's really becoming a mad scramble."
That's not to say that there hasn't been progress. Earlier this month, former Los Angeles Lakers superstar and businessman Earvin "Magic" Johnson hosted a fund-raiser at his home that produced about $400,000 for the host committee. And last week, Mayor Riordan announced another $1 million donation from an unnamed source that had just been finalized.
Comparisons with Chicago
Nonetheless, because of the raised costs, the situation is now more dire than it was at a comparable stage when Clinton came out for a fund-raiser about six weeks before the 1996 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, according to Chicago public relations executive Leslie Fox, who chaired the host committee for that convention.
"We had President Clinton come out to raise funds for us six weeks before the convention, but we only needed about $1 million at that time to put us over the top, and we got it at that one event," Fox said. That fund-raiser was held at Chicago's Navy Pier and had nearly 1,000 attendees, she said.
"At least half of those attending were Republicans," Fox said, noting that the bulk of the guests were from the Chicago business community, which is largely Republican.
L.A. convention organizers say it's too soon to predict whether they will need to call upon Clinton's fund-raising prowess again following this Saturday's event.
"It may be that Clinton may not have to do as much himself now because he has sent out his big right-hand man (McAuliffe) when it comes to fund-raising," said one person close to the organizing committees. "Everyone knows that when Terry McAuliffe calls, he's really representing the president. And McAuliffe knows how to rake in the dollars."
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