A Washington Post investigation reveals how Bill and Hillary Clinton have methodically cultivated donors over 40 years, from Little Rock to Washington and then across the globe. Their fundraising methods have created a new blueprint for politicians and their donors.
Their fundraising haul, which began with $178,000 that Bill Clinton raised for his long-shot 1974 congressional bid, is on track to expand substantially with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 White House run, which has already drawn $110 million in support.
The Post identified donations from roughly 336,000 individuals, corporations, unions and foreign governments in support of their political or philanthropic endeavors — a list that includes top patrons such as Steven Spielberg and George Soros, as well as lesser-known backers who have given smaller amounts dozens of times. Not included in the count are an untold number of small donors whose names are not identified in campaign finance reports but together have given millions to the Clintons over the years.
The majority of the money — $2 billion — has gone to the Clinton Foundation, one of the world’s fastest-growing charities, which supports health, education and economic development initiatives around the globe. A handful of elite givers have contributed more than $25 million to the foundation, including Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra, who is among the wealthy foreign donors who have given tens of millions.
Separately, donors have given $1 billion to support the Clintons’ political races and legal defense fund, making capped contributions to their campaigns and writing six-figure checks to the Democratic National Committee and allied super PACs.
The Post investigation found that many top Clinton patrons supported them in multiple ways, helping finance their political causes, their legal needs, their philanthropy and their personal bank accounts. In some cases, companies connected to their donors hired the Clintons as paid speakers, helping them collect more than $150 million on the lecture circuit in the past 15 years.
The couple’s biggest individual political benefactors are Univision chairman Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl, who have made 39 contributions totaling $2.4 million to support the Clintons’ races since 1992. The Sabans have also donated at least $10 million to the foundation.
The Clintons kept big contributors in their orbit for decades by methodically wooing competing interest groups — toggling between their liberal base and powerful constituencies, according to donors, friends and aides who have known the couple since their Arkansas days.
They made historic inroads on Wall Street, pulling in at least $69 million in political contributions from the employees and PACs of banks, insurance companies, and securities and investment firms. Wealthy hedge fund managers S. Donald Sussman and David E. Shaw are among their top campaign supporters, having given more than $1 million each.
The Clintons’ ties to the financial sector strained their bonds with the left, particularly organized labor. But unions repeatedly shook off their disappointment, giving at least $21 million to support their races. The public employees union AFSCME has been their top labor backer, giving nearly $1.7 million for their campaigns.
The Clintons’ fundraising operation — $3 billion amassed by one couple, working in tandem for more than four decades — has no equal.
By comparison, three generations of the Bush family, America’s other contemporaneous political dynasty, have raised about $2.4 billion for their state and federal campaigns and half a dozen charitable foundations, according to a Post tally of their fundraising from 1988 through 2015 — even though the family has collectively held the presidency longer than the Clintons.