Leslie Danziger was in Texas on a business trip Tuesday when she ran across a notice in her hotel lobby announcing that Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was holding a fund-raising dinner there that night for his Democratic presidential campaign.
Danziger, the chief executive officer of a high-technology company in Tucson, said she went back to her room, got on the phone, and after a few calls, tracked down local Clinton campaign officials for details about the event. That evening, she went downstairs with her husband, and they each wrote $1,000 checks to the Clinton campaign.
"I feel it is critical at this point in time for those of us who support him and have been laying back to come forward," she said as she stood in the crowd at the fund-raiser. "We've got to stop this in the political process; we've got to make it possible for good people to come forward without having their entire personal life destroyed."
Money is the mercury of politics--the most sensitive measure of a campaign's temperature. And there are no signs yet that Clinton's money-gathering has been seriously chilled by the unsubstantiated allegations of marital infidelity recently directed at him.
"Obviously, there are some people who want to talk about the issue," said Gordon Giffin, a Democratic fund-raiser in Atlanta who is collecting money for Clinton. "But I have not incurred a single situation where anyone has said to me that because of the (adultery allegations): 'I don't want to participate.' "
Since last Sunday's appearance with his wife on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" to discuss the adultery allegations, Clinton has held eight fund-raisers across the South and in New Jersey. Rahm Emanuel, the campaign's national finance director, says Clinton raised over $140,000 in Mississippi and Louisiana on Monday, over $195,000 in Texas on Tuesday and $165,000 in New Jersey on Wednesday night.
Results for individual fund-raising events are virtually impossible to verify. But each of those functions were sufficiently well-attended to leave the impression that if donors are trying to run away from Clinton's campaign, they may need a new compass.
"That's a very good crowd for a Democrat in Houston," said City Councilman Vince Ryan as Clinton spoke to donors at the Warwick Hotel last Tuesday. But Ryan cautioned: "A lot will depend on whether in the next few days and weeks, these allegations have any truth to them. The worst thing that can happen to a candidate is for the American people to think he's lying to them."
If the turbulence has had any major effect on Clinton's fund raising, it may have been in stemming the rush of dollars into his treasury. As Clinton surged in the polls in New Hampshire--site of the nation's first primary--he attracted growing interest from donors eager to jump on his train before it pulled out of the station. Now, some are hesitating in order to make sure it does not stall.
"People were calling saying: 'I've got to get in with Bill Clinton,' " said Patricia Duff Medavoy, who is raising money for the Arkansas governor in Hollywood. "Now you get the feeling that people are a little bit frozen. They want to wait it out and see what happens."
Even so, the bottom line for Clinton still looks strong--especially when compared with his competitors. Despite the recent controversy, Clinton raised $1.6 million in January, his campaign announced Friday.
Those figures are down from December, when Clinton raised $2.4 million. But January is traditionally a slower fund-raising period, and Clinton has devoted less time lately to seeking money so that he could concentrate on quarrying for votes in New Hampshire.
Most important for Clinton, his fund raising still appears to be outpacing his rivals. Though one source said Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey had seen his contributions pick up over the past week, officials in the campaigns of both Kerrey and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin say they are likely to report total January receipts significantly below Clinton's figure. Sources say Kerrey is expected to list about $1 million raised in January, while Harkin may be closer to $600,000.
The candidates are not required to release figures on their total January take until later this month. But a good indication of their relative positions will come on Monday, when they submit requests to the Federal Election Commission for matching funds on some of money they raised last month.
On Friday, Clinton's campaign announced that during January he had raised roughly $650,000 in contributions of $250 or less--money that is eligible for federal matching funds. By contrast, sources in Kerrey's campaign said they would be requesting about $400,000 in matching funds.
Also on Friday, the campaigns submitted reports to the FEC showing their total receipts through the end of December, 1991. Those figures showed that Clinton had established a significant financial advantage over his competitors by raising almost $3.3 million and ending the year with $1.88 million in cash on hand.
Harkin reported total 1991 receipts of $2.2 million and ended the year with only $178,780 in available cash. Kerrey reported raising $1.9 million in 1991, with $590,000 in cash at year's end. Former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas reported 1991 contributions of $1.06 million and ended the year with just $112,798 in cash. Former California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., who has limited contributions to his campaign to $100 or less, reported raising $519,209 in 1991, with $80,530 on hand on Dec. 31.
President Bush reported receipts of $10.05 million in the last three months of 1991--figures for the year were not available--and $6.95 million in cash on hand at year's end. Figures for conservative columnist Patrick J. Buchanan, who is challenging Bush for the Republican presidential nomination, were unavailable.
Those collecting money for Clinton cite several reasons why the adultery allegations have not sapped his fund-raising momentum. These include a sense among supporters that the mainstream press erred in giving wide attention to unsubstantiated charges raised in a supermarket tabloid. Many also say they believe Clinton has handled the controversy gracefully and candidly.
At a private meeting of his national finance committee in Washington on Jan. 25, Clinton acknowledged in an emotional speech that he had made mistakes in his personal life, even while emphatically denying the tabloid allegations made by Gennifer Flowers that she and Clinton had carried on a 12-year affair.
Said one of those at the session: "He conducted himself in a way I don't think I've ever seen from an elected official. He in no way misled us to believe that he had been perfect."
But fund-raisers are among the most pragmatic people in the political world, and these judgments have been reinforced by practical considerations.
First, after months of published reports that Clinton might face charges of infidelity, donors were aware that such allegations might surface and thus were not as shaken by the accusations as they might have been, sources said.
Clinton also has benefited from skepticism among many fund-raisers that any of his Democratic rivals could effectively challenge President Bush in November. "If there was somebody in the race of a comparable stature, there might be a different dynamic," said a fund-raiser for another candidate. "But that's not the case right now."
But political observers say perhaps the key reason donors have not bolted from Clinton is because polls show that voters have not. If that changed, the money flow might too.
As one senior Clinton fund-raiser said to a colleague at the recent national finance meeting: "There are a couple of people in this room who can't stand the sight of blood."
Times staff writers David Lauter and Sara Fritz in Washington contributed to this story.