Norman Hsu could have been here on Sunday if he weren’t otherwise occupied.
While the wayward fundraiser was in a jail cell in Redwood City, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the main object of his largesse, was sopping up money from Northern California donors on the final day of the third quarter.
Clinton brought her quest for campaign money first to the Napa Valley, for lunch at the Hall Winery, owned by Kathryn and Craig Hall. Kathryn Walt Hall was ambassador to Austria from 1997 to 2001. Clinton then zipped across San Francisco Bay for a reception at the Pacific Heights home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
She crossed the bay again late in the afternoon for the day’s one public event, a boisterous block party in downtown Oakland. Organizers estimated that there were 14,000 in the crowd.
It was a low-dollar fundraiser, with many paying $20 to become part of Clinton’s “Club 44,” a reference to the number of the next president.
The event featured a sitar player, gospel singers from Glide Memorial Church, and politicians including Feinstein, California Senate leader Don Perata (D-Oakland) and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Clinton called the latter “Gov. Newsom” and quipped: “That’s what he told me to say.” Oakland Mayor Ronald V. Dellums was notable for his absence.
In a somewhat raspy voice, Clinton touched on the themes of healthcare for all, a reversal of global warming, an end to oil company subsidies, universal preschool, and withdrawal from Iraq.
“The era of cowboy diplomacy is over,” Clinton said. “We would like to restart the 21st century and undo the damage that has been done.”
In one of the most Democratic cities in the nation, Clinton was well-received.
“It was much more than I expected,” said Lanique Demartha, who came from Richmond to hear Clinton, and expects to vote for her.
“It would be nice to have a woman as president.”
Bonnie Stewart, an Oakland insurance agent who said she was now a Democrat who supported Clinton because she believed in the need for universal healthcare, said: “It didn’t sound like it was scripted. There were some good lines.”
Clinton is the Democratic front-runner in the polls. But she and her chief rival, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), are locked in a tight race to raise the most money.
Both are expected to bring in between $18 million and $20 million in the third quarter, a drop from the first two quarters. The third quarter is traditionally the toughest one in which to raise money because it covers the summer, when many who might contribute are vacationing.
Other presidential candidates sprinted around elsewhere to raise money on the final day of the third quarter. In the hope of boosting their dollar totals, they all sent out last-minute e-mail appeals.
Obama’s campaign announced it had received donations from 350,000 separate donors, more than any other candidate. Obama touted a poll showing him taking a slight lead in the early-voting state of Iowa, and urged people to donate before midnight so the money could be added to the third-quarter total.
Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina noted that he had broken with other major Democratic candidates by seeking matching funds for his primary campaign. Under the system, candidates can get federal tax dollars to match donations of as much as $250.
“By choosing public financing, John is rejecting business as usual in Washington and the power of the lobbyists and special interests. Instead, he is putting his faith in grass-roots supporters like you,” Edwards’ e-mail said Sunday.
As originally planned, Hsu would have been an integral part of Clinton’s Northern California swing. He was supposed to serve as co-host at a Clinton fundraiser Sunday evening in the Silicon Valley town of Woodside.
But Hsu sits in San Mateo County Jail on a 15-year-old state grand theft charge, and faces new federal investigations into his financial dealings and fundraising activities.
Not wanting to forgo the Silicon Valley money, the Clinton campaign shifted the event to nearby Atherton at the home of attorney Steven Schatz and his wife, Lisa, for the final fundraiser of the quarter.
In the last month, Hsu complicated Clinton’s fundraising efforts. After his troubles were exposed in news accounts, her campaign announced plans to return $850,000 that Hsu had raised from 260 people.
Hsu’s last-known political event was Aug. 27, when he attended a breakfast he helped organize for Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto, not far from where he now is incarcerated. The first news story raising questions about his dealings appeared the day after the breakfast.
DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney said the breakfast was not a fundraiser, but rather a chance for Dean to meet people as part of a prospecting effort. Hsu had donated $35,000 to the Democratic National Committee and, according to Finney, raised $88,000.
The party has given the $35,000 from Hsu to charity.