Fundraising, the top Qualification

Yatindra Bhatnagar

Decades back when I applied for a job involving writing and publicity the bosses   were more curious to know about my fundraising ability. In interviews most of the questions were related to what, how, and when did I raise funds and what could I do for them in that field if the job is offered. 

Disgusted, and grew disinterested, I did not pursue, and of course, was not offered the job. I was otherwise well qualified and also had fairly good experience in raising funds for the journalist union I was leading, the cultural, religious and literary organizations I was an important part of, and other causes. But I was more keen to offer my journalistic/writing and publicity skills, not money-raising.  

Sadly, these days fund-raising is the top qualification touted and admired – for an academician, surgeon, and an athlete and of course, a politician. The recently disgraced USC Dean, Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito, may be otherwise an awful person but was awesome in raising funds. And so the bosses looked the other way. 

The other day Los Angeles Times – that exposed Puliafito completely and earned kudos - also highlighted the ‘achievement’ of Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor of California, who is aiming to succeed Brown who will be termed-out next year. 

Brown might be aiming for more powerful job of the president in 2020. You don’t stop; in any case, not in politics. He is seriously projecting his image widely. He will need barrels of money and might get it. 

Newsom holds an edge in fundraising in Hollywood. The film and TV celebrities - producers, writers, and agents included - traditionally tend to support Democrats. They poured millions for Hillary Clinton but she lost, was a lost cause, anyway.

It’s not easy to make Hollywood stars see clearly through the haze of perception or publicity how the wind is blowing, or how should the wind blow. 

There is another Democrat, ex-mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, also getting money from Hollywood, but is behind Newsom. Villaraigosa was a two-term Mayor and had umpteen occasions to meet with, and do things the industry wanted. It’s a fair game, you scratch my back, and I scratch yours. 

Who thought donating big is an unselfish act? Not many do it that way. It’s pay-for-play. Businesses donate to get what they want despite vociferous denials by the receivers that the money doesn’t influence their decisions. Whom are they trying to fool? Or maybe they succeed in fooling the people and get elected because of that. 

The story about Newsom and others has largely focused on their fundraising ability and record, as if they don’t have other qualifications or they didn’t matter. Yes, money makes the mare go, as the old saying goes. For elections, funds are very important to spread the message, hire more workers and reward your own.   

Newsom has raised some 16 million, so far. The top prize-winner must be former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nany Pelosi, who has raised $26 million. Los Angeles Times also reported that Madame Pelosi raised about $600 million in the last 15 years. That means, 40 mil yearly, 3 ½ mil monthly. Wow! That’s a full-time job. 

Remember, the same venerable Congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi, was the Speaker of the House and had advised party-members to vote for the 2000-page Obamacare bill and then they can read it afterward. The obedient Democrats did exactly that - who cares if they now find some portions unacceptable like the insurance fees that go up every year or the money from other departments diverted for it. 

Newsom raises money for his own campaign; Pelosi is more generous – she does it for her party that may elect her Speaker again if it gets a majority in 2018. Often it comes back multi-fold, that’s the art and science of fundraising. That’s why all the lawmakers are multi-millionaires. The few who are not, will reach there soon.  

In any case, both Newsom and Pelosi have strong claim for any fundraising post in  future for anyone who becomes Cal Governor or House Speaker from their party. These worthies may or may not leave a legacy of memorable service to the people, but have the most important qualification: fundraising. Both are San Franciscans. Both the Senators from California, 25-year veteran Dianne Feinstein (84) and the newcomer Kamala Harris (52) are also from San Francisco. What a City! 

Don’t try to know how the donors get their rewards. We, the common people, will always marvel.


Random Recollection