Gurney's Inn
August 01, 2007

Hillary Comes, Money Goes

Senator Hillary Clinton is going to take the money . . . and run.

This weekend, the former First Lady and hubby Bill arrive on the East End. The couple will attend a bevy of bashes guaranteed to add big bucks to the senator's presidential campaign war chest.

When she blew into town in 1998, the then-First Lady spoke to the crowd at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at Alec Baldwin's Amagansett home, emphasizing the importance of "doing your part to contribute to your party." Almost a decade later, it's clear she didn't mean your local party. When Clinton returns to the fiscally fecund South Fork this weekend, some East Hampton politicos wish she'd share the wealth.

According to published reports, Clinton could amass as much as a cool mil over the course of several exclusive high-ticket events in the Hamptons this weekend. None of it comes back to local Dems or local candidates, according to East Hampton Town Democratic Committee co-chair Dick Madden. "They're collecting money for themselves," he said, "I would love it if some of the people who were going to contribute would also contribute to us. We're always looking for money."

Madden recalled that during the event at Baldwin's many local Democrats were asked to help out, performing menial tasks like taking tickets at the door. Even then, none of the cash collected filtered to the local committee.

The concept of collecting money from community residents without offering locals a taste of the take is not unusual, according to Bob Schaeffer, one time Dem committee co-chair. In fact, he noted that when John Kerry came to East Hampton raising money in 2004, "We tried to get him to stop for just 15 or 20 minutes at a rally in Herrick Park, but . . . nothing doing." Local Dems researched what it would take to have a big name like Clinton or another presidential hopeful Barak Obama show up at an event for a local candidate. Schaeffer said they require a significant percentage of the proceeds. "They want a lot of money, it's tough," he said.

They charge a lot of money, too. During a local Democratic function last week, Madden's wife Phyllis complained of the high price of tickets to this weekend's fundraisers. She speculated none of the attendees will be from the rank and file Democratic faithful. "It'll be all South of the Highway," she said. "I certainly don't have the kind of money that would be necessary to attend one of these events," her husband said. "I'm not a rich person." As local party chair he might finagle a complimentary pass, but Madden said he wouldn't use his position that way.

Schaeffer's keeping his money local as well. He paid $500 for a private Clinton fundraiser last summer, but this year he said the prices are too dear. "They're too expensive for the ordinary person, but we have a lot of people here who aren't ordinary and who have a lot of money." Schaeffer acknowledged that often the "big money givers" who come out during the summer and contribute to campaigns like Clinton's are not the same people who underwrite local campaigns. Still, he said, "It's disappointing we can't get them to lend a hand to local elections." A Hillary supporter, Schaeffer noted that during the Clinton fundraiser he attended last year, the candidate was very gracious and mingled with attendees. But, he added, "It cost a lot."

The weekend-long extravaganza is slated to begin with two cocktail parties on Friday. Irene and Bernard Schwartz of Southampton will host a $1000 a head event. A backyard barbecue, featuring music at the East Hampton home of Jaci and Morris Reid comes with a minimum $250 admission price. VIPs will pay $1000 for an exclusive reception. On Saturday Ron Perleman's digs on tony Georgica Pond will be the scene of another $1000 a head event. And on Sunday morning, it's a $500 pancake breakfast with the Patricofs of East Hampton. Come alone and pay $500 for a short stack. Bring the family and it's only (!) $1000.

According to one published report, the Clintons will pose for photos with supporters for $10,000. Two more events, hosted by the Entenmann family and at Martha Clara Vineyard on the North Fork are being touted as more modestly priced. Admission for donors starts at $250.

The Democratic frontrunner for the 2008 nomination, Clinton has reportedly already raised more than $60 million for the race. She's not the only candidate expected to come calling with a hand out this summer. Obama and GOP presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani (who owns a home in Water Mill) are also expected to bag a bundle this summer. Already, Giuliani hosted private fetes in Sag Harbor and Southampton over the weekend. Clinton's expected back again at the end of the month for another go at gotbucks boosters.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton arrived with Hillary in East Hampton for a weekend sweep, raising money for the DNC. Guests of Steven Spielberg's, they raised $600,000 on the so-called "rubber lobster circuit." Each couple at one event contributed $25,000 for the chance to hang with Bill and Hill. The streets of Amagansett teemed with supporters when the president, the first sitting president to visit East Hampton in a century, gave his weekly radio address from the Amagansett Firehouse.

The president thrilled locals, making stops at two family restaurants, Turtle Crossing and Babette's in East Hampton. The First Couple took a walk down Newtown Lane and, according to one published report, their Secret Service agents relaxed at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett once their charges retired for the night.

The visit was cause for bemused speculation, when it coincided with a mysterious draining of Georgica Pond. Some theorized Secret Service agents did the deed to make it easier to protect the president.

The Clintons have made touring the Hamptons during checkbook season a nearly annual event since the 1990s. Last year even supporters worried contributors might be feeling "donor fatigue." Since her August 2006 visit, however, Clinton has added $40 mil to her war chest.

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