WASHINGTON – Former President Clinton starred at a Bethesda fundraiser Wednesday night, turning his glitter into an expected $500,000 in gold for wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s, campaign treasure chest.
The money was to come from 300 of the closest friends of Weldon Latham, a high-powered African-American attorney, long-time Democratic Party activist and national co-chairman of Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“When we did the fundraiser for Al Gore (2000 campaign), Bill Cosby was the special guest. Bill Clinton is the special guest this time. He is extremely entertaining,” Latham said in a joint telephone news conference with Sen. Clinton on Wednesday afternoon.
President Clinton’s appearance at Latham’s Avenel home will make this event a great success, Latham added. The president has attended only one or two other fundraisers. Getting the dynamic ex-president on the bill, he said, was “a real coup.”
Clinton’s campaign would not say how much she raises at a typical fundraiser, but the Democratic front runner has already raised a whopping $63 million as of June 30. Trailing her is fellow Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, with almost $59 million.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett were among the guests expected to attend the largest fundraiser held so far in Maryland for Clinton.
Gov. Martin O’Malley and Washington Gas chief James DeGraffenreidt were among the 50 fundraising host committee members. Each committee member was expected to raise $15,000, said Lonnie Soury, Latham’s spokesman. Guests were expected to donate $2,300 or $1,000. That would put the expected totals in the $500,000 to $750,000 range.
In the news conference, Latham rattled off names of several African Americans, Hispanic Americans and women from around the country who were on the committee.
“I wanted a fundraiser to look like America,” he said, “one that represents every group in the nation and various parts of the country.”
Latham’s experience in corporate diversity counseling and government relations was the theme of the fundraiser.
Clinton followed that theme: “America is stronger when we use everyone’s talents.”
Her upcoming health care reform agenda, she said, would close the disparities between black and white Americans.
If elected, she said she would also bring the Small Business Administration back into mainstream government to make government contracting and financing more accessible to minority businesses.
Latham added that he is supporting Clinton over Obama because of her track record as senator and first lady.
“The mere fact that he is an African American, although it is a great source of pride, is not enough,” he said.
Latham is the chairman of the legal committee of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. He has also held appointments in the Ford, Carter and Clinton administrations, including as assistant general counsel in the Office of Management and Budget in the Ford administration and general deputy assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Carter.
“No comment,” said John Flynn, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, about the event. But he pointed out that the Sept. 27 Republican debate in Baltimore, hosted by PBS’s Tavis Smiley, another African American, will address minority issues.