“It's building a team and providing recognition to the people who do that work that I think creates a successful fundraising operation. It's not any one person.”
— Robert Farmer
Robert Farmer, 68, has been a national campaign treasurer for four Democratic presidential candidates and has been called the "father of soft money" because he realized how to exploit a loophole in campaign finance law to help Michael Dukakis's 1988 presidential bid -- and to put the Democratic Party on equal fundraising footing with the GOP.
Twenty years ago, his Democratic "Trustees" were the forerunners of President Bush's big-donor Rangers and Pioneers. Farmer ran the money operations for John Glenn, Dukakis, and Bill Clinton, and a grateful President Clinton made him U.S. consul general in Bermuda. In the 2004 presidential race, after soft money had been banned, Farmer ran fundraising efforts for his friend John Kerry. Experts predict the nominees in 2008 will need to raise a record $500 million apiece to compete.Farmer: I've never seen anybody bet $2 on a horse and not root for them all around the track [chuckles]. A good fundraising operation is made up of people. It's all those on the finance committee.
I remember one time being invited by a governor of a Western state [Washington], whose wife had financed his first campaign. His wife thought it would be nicer for re-election if it was more publicly financed. And so he invited me out for dinner, and I went out, and we had a three-hour dinner. I ran into him about a year later and I said, 'How's it going governor?' and he said, 'Things are going very well, and I learned one thing from the dinner with you.' And I was a little bit upset because we talked, after all, for three hours, but I'm always willing to learn. So I said, 'What was that?' And he said, 'Well, if I went to Tacoma, and walked into somebody's house and there was a really big crowd, I'd say to myself, wow, I didn't realize how popular I was in Tacoma. After the dinner with you, I said, wow, I hadn't realized how popular the host was in Tacoma.'
So, a lot of this has to do with putting together a fundraising group or committee of credible people who have the resources and the networks to be effective. And when I talk to people, I try to explain to them why it serves them well to get involved early and become what is called part of the family. And they are not looking for contracts, and they are not looking for anything improper. People who have been successful like to climb mountains and this is another mountain to climb.
Fundraising provides an entree for people to be part of the political process. And since it is so important to us all, I encourage everybody to be involved, whatever side of the aisle that they're on. I think it's a good thing for our democracy.
Monday, July 23, 2007
"Soft Money Man"