Clinton fundraiser defecting to Obama campaign

Times Staff Writer

One of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s major fundraisers, who was ambassador to Chile under President Clinton, is defecting from the campaign and joining Sen. Barack Obama’s national finance committee, campaign aides said Friday.

Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon, who was the U.S. envoy to Chile from 1994 to 1998, had been credited with raising $300,000 for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

But lately, he became “concerned about the tone of the race,” said an Obama aide, who requested anonymity because he has not been directly involved with the development.


Guerra-Mondragon is expected to raise money for Obama as part of his work on the Illinois Democrat’s national finance committee. A Clinton campaign official, who also declined to be identified, downplayed the significance, saying that Guerra-Mondragon’s decision did not portend more defections.

Donnie Fowler, a Bay Area-based Democratic strategist who is not working for either Clinton or Obama, agreed that the switch from one camp to the other doesn’t mean that more are on the way. “I would have to see if there were more jumping,” Fowler said. “You need a pattern in politics.”

Guerra-Mondragon, 65, could not be reached for comment.

He recently joined the Washington office of the law firm Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal. He serves as a senior advisor to the Sonnenschein units involved in lobbying and providing strategy to foreign governments, but he is not registered as a lobbyist or as a foreign agent. Obama rejects money from federally registered lobbyists and registered foreign agents.

Separately, in a move expected to help the Democratic National Committee’s lagging fundraising effort, Obama is preparing to enter into a joint fundraising agreement with the DNC, an Obama aide said.

Such arrangements traditionally are geared to attract money from large donors and help ensure that parties and candidates coordinate their campaign efforts.

The Obama aide said that at any joint fundraiser in which the Illinois senator participated, the party would be expected to adhere to his policy of rejecting money from federal lobbyists and political action committees.

Clinton, who has no such policy, also is on the verge of an agreement with the DNC.

The deals would be similar to one struck by presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain and the Republican National Committee -- with a key difference. Obama is flush, having raised more than $240 million for his presidential run; Clinton also has raised major sums. Both candidates would help the DNC, which has a modest $5.3 million in the bank.

The RNC, by contrast, has $31 million in the bank. McCain has raised $80 million, a third of Obama’s total and less than half of Clinton’s.

McCain also has struck joint fundraising agreements with arms of four state GOP parties -- in New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin and Minnesota -- each of which is expected to be a swing state.

The agreements permit donors to write a single check, leaving it to the candidate and parties to divvy it up. In McCain’s case, a donor could write a check for about $70,000, with up to $4,600 to McCain, the maximum $28,500 to the RNC and $10,000 to each of the four state parties.

Just as the RNC has a major fundraising edge over the DNC, Republican state committees have significantly out-raised Democratic counterparts, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

The Republican state committees reported having $12.9 million in the bank, compared with $6.9 million for Democratic state parties. State party money is significant because it helps candidates with tasks such as voter registration and turnout.