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Walton, Benioff Join Billionaires Backing Clinton in 2016

By Greg Giroux and Julie Bykowicz
February 01, 2014 12:00 AM EST 222 Comments
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Billionaires Alice Walton, George Soros and Marc Benioff are helping to finance a super-political action committee encouraging former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president, according to a report filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission.

Each gave $25,000 to Ready for Hillary PAC, organized a year ago to provide Clinton outside support if she chooses to seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

The super-PAC earlier reported raising about $4 million last year from 30,000 donors, most of them giving small amounts, such as $20.16. Walton, Soros and Benioff were among 33 people or companies that gave $25,000 in the second half of 2013, the FEC report shows. New Yorkers who chipped in to help their former senator include Roger Altman, the chairman and founder of New York-based Evercore Partners Inc.

The super-PAC can’t coordinate with Clinton if she becomes a candidate. It can, however, sell her campaign its data -- almost 2 million supporters have signed up for the group so far -- or mobilize voters and advertise for her on its own. The group, based in Arlington, Virginia, is limiting contributions to $25,000 even though it is permitted to accept donations in unlimited amounts.

Its early fundraising success, still more than two years before Election Day, could give Clinton a competitive advantage; there’s no comparable candidate-specific super-PAC for any of the prospective Republican candidates, who include Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Leading Polls

Clinton, 66, dominates other Democrats in voter preference polls and has said she’ll make a decision about a White House campaign sometime this year. A Jan. 30 Washington Post-ABC News poll found her with 73 percent of support from Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, a 6-to-1 lead over her rivals.

“I’ll think about it in the future sometime,” Clinton said Jan. 27 at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans.

Walton, the daughter of Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton, is the world’s 13th-richest person with a fortune of $33.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Alice Walton’s donation underscores the Clintons’ longstanding ties to business leaders in Arkansas, where Bill Clinton was governor for 12 years prior to becoming president in 1993. The pro-Clinton group also received $25,000 from John Tyson, chairman of Springdale-based Tyson Foods Inc.

Obama Backers

Benioff, the chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Salesforce.com, was a top fundraiser for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and hosted the president for a Democratic fundraiser at his residence last November. His wife, Lynne Benioff, also contributed $25,000.

Soros, who’s given millions of dollars to Democratic causes, funded the super-PAC, as did his son Robert Soros, managing partner of Soros Fund Management LLC.

Former advisers to Bill Clinton donating to Ready for Hillary included Altman, a former deputy treasury secretary, who gave $5,000. William Galston, a Washington-based Brookings Institution senior fellow and a former White House domestic policy adviser, gave $1,000.

New York Donors

The super-PAC for Clinton, a U.S. senator from New York from 2001 to 2009, received $25,000 each from developer William Rudin, chief executive officer of Rudin Management Co. in New York, and Jon Stryker, a New York architect who gave about $2 million to Priorities USA Action, a super-PAC that helped re-elect Obama and is now converting to a pro-Clinton effort.

Silda Wall, a principal at NewWorld Capital Group LLC, who is divorcing former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, gave $5,000.

The pro-Clinton super-PAC received $25,000 from the Houston law firm of Steve and Amber Mostyn, who gave about $5 million to Democratic groups and candidates in the 2012 election.

Ready for Hillary is led by Adam Parkhomenko, a 28-year-old college student who has advocated for a Clinton presidential campaign for more than a decade. The super-PAC’s advisers include Jeremy Bird, Obama’s former national field director, and Harold Ickes and James Carville, who have longstanding ties to the Clintons.

The super-PAC said in an e-mail to supporters that it had amassed another 7,119 donations last month.

By limiting its donations to $25,000 per individual, Ready for Hillary is focusing on grassroots support, Parkhomenko said, while Priorities USA Action can seek bigger donations. Parkhomenko said Ready for Hillary doesn’t plan to run any television advertising campaigns, leaving that task to other groups such as Priorities.

Priorities, which raised more than $79 million in the 2012 election, will have Obama campaign manager Jim Messina as a co-chairman for the 2016 election, its executive director, Buffy Wicks, said in a statement Jan. 23.

To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bloomberg.net; Julie Bykowicz in Washington at jbykowicz@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

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