Politics

The fundraiser with a ‘Midas Touch’

  • Alexandria (VA) Times
  • |
  • February 22, 2007

by Karen Feld

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Terry McAuliffe addressing the DNC convention in Boston, 2004 as Democratic Party Chairman.
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McAuliffe with former President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
McAuliffe, of McLean, chairs the Senate’s 2008 presidential bid.

Terry McAuliffe is ready for the challenge, any challenge.

“I’ll do anything once,” boasted the McLean resident and author of the recently published, “What A Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and Other Wild Animals.”

The exuberant, non-traditional fundraiser with the infectious smile, once wrestled an alligator for $15,000 campaign contribution; and in 1994 when he was Democratic National Committee Chairman he sang for his supper at an Indian casino nightclub for $500,000. His latest venture: chairing Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

McAuliffe recently celebrated his 50th birthday and his book launch in D.C. with Sen. Clinton at his side at the Park Hyatt Hotel. While partying, McAuliffe said his birthday wish was to be number one on the New York Times bestseller list.

“I’m tied for five now, so I’m chasing that guy Marley with the dog. I should have thrown our designer mutts, Daisy and Finnegan, on the cover.”

Both Clintons read the galleys before the book was published. “The president didn’t change anything,” he said. “Hillary line-edited, adding semi-colons.”

Former President Bill Clinton and McAuliffe are close pals and golf buddies, bound by philosophy and outlook on life. “We both believe the glass is overflowing,” explains McAuliffe. President Clinton hosted his New York book celebration. “If Hillary wins, it will only enhance Bill’s eight years,” McAuliffe speculated. “His role as ‘First Gentleman’ will be that of ambassador-at-large.”

McAuliffe believes that voters today are willing to listen to anyone. “They want change. I don’t think race, gender or religion are barriers.” As for Sen. Barack Obama: “He’s good for us strategically,” McAuliffe said. “The competition toughens us.”

McAuliffe is a witty storyteller who’s never at a loss for words. He speaks in hyperbole, but one thing is certain: when it comes to understanding American politics and fundraising, he gets it. He is known as the best Democratic strategist on the American political scene today.

When I asked the media-savvy McAuliffe which television show he’d go on to get a message out, he said without hesitation, The Daiily Show with Jon Stewart. Interestingly, I asked him that same question five years ago for a magazine profile, and his answer was “Meet the Press,” the show he appeared on right after he was named chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Yes, times have changed.

When McAuliffe, a family man, isn’t on the road, he if often spotted with his wife, Dorothy, and five kids at the McLean Family Diner, or at McLean Hardware. “I’m a real fixer-upper,” he said.

The McAuliffes moved from Washington to McLean “when the kids started coming; we wanted swing sets and more land.”

McAuliffe, originally from Syracuse, N.Y., credits Ethel Kennedy who lives nearby with influencing his decision. Terry and Dorothy McAuliffe have five children ranging in age from 4 to 15. The older four attend Potomac School in McLean where Dorothy is Chair of the Board. Peter, the youngest, is enrolled at Country Day School in McLean. Seven-year-old Sally “is wired like I am.”

If she goes into politics, he said with a smile, “I’d come out of retirement.”

-KAREN FELD

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