$1 Billion down the drain! Hillary supporters ARE PISSED. #Sosad
NEW YORK — When Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine greet the very top fundraisers and donors to their failed campaign at New York’s Plaza Hotel on Thursday evening, many of them will have one question in mind: Where’s the autopsy?
The call for a deep and detailed accounting of how Clinton lost a race that she and her donors were absolutely certain she’d win didn’t begin immediately after the election — there was too much shock over her defeat by Donald Trump, and overwhelming grief. Her initial conference call with top backers, which came just days after the outcome, focused primarily on FBI Director Jim Comey’s late campaign-season intervention.
But in the weeks since, the wealthy Democrats who helped pump over $1 billion into Clinton’s losing effort have been urging their local finance staffers, state party officials, and campaign aides to provide a more thorough explanation of what went wrong. With no dispassionate, centralized analysis of how Clinton failed so spectacularly, they insist, how can they be expected to keep contributing to the party?
“A lot of the bundlers and donors still are in shock and disbelief by what happened. They’re looking for some introspection and analysis about what really happened, what worked and what didn’t,” said Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and a top campaign bundler himself. "It may take some time to do that, but people are still just scratching their heads."
Or, in the words of a Midwestern fundraiser who’s kept in touch with fellow donors, “A lot of people are saying, ‘I’m not putting another fucking dime in until someone tells me what just happened.’”
Donors recognize that part of the problem is the current fragile state of the party: With the race for its chairmanship raging, the Democratic National Committee has yet to announce any plans for a full post-mortem of its own in the style of Republicans’ 2012 Growth and Opportunity Project, causing some party officials to worry that they may not see one at all — at least until a new chair takes over in the spring.
And while individual Democratic operatives have privately dug into what they think went wrong, there have been no obvious moves from central members of the Clinton team to publish a full accounting.
The frustration over the lack of an autopsy report isn’t universal, noted longtime Clinton friend and donor Alan Patricof.
“There’s a lot of people expressing the feeling that the campaign had not been run as well as it could be, but I have a different approach,” he said. “There’s always a Monday morning quarterback: She should have gone to Wisconsin, she should have done this, she should have done that."
But without a framework for holding anyone accountable, increasingly annoyed party money men and women have been left to chatter among themselves about the underlying causes of the party’s defeat and about how to move forward. Some have gone as far as to ignore calls from former Clinton finance officials seeking to thank them, while others muse about leaving politics altogether. A handful of the party’s top donors have even turned to considering direct involvement: Illinois’ J.B. Pritzker and Florida’s John Morgan are considering gubernatorial runs of their own, as is California’s Tom Steyer, who’s been keeping his name in the news by cranking out a steady stream of furious news releases about Trump’s Cabinet nominations.
“Everybody’s still frankly stunned, and in the back of their minds they think they’re going to wake up tomorrow morning and all of this never happened, including me,” said Patricof. “People are all asking the question of what’s next, who’s next in the Democratic Party leadership, who are the up-and-coming people ahead of 2020. But at this point, it’s [just] a lot of questions."
“Half the group is in a mourning stage,” added another of the party’s highest-level bundlers over the past three cycles. “The other half is like, ‘OK, it sucks. It’s bad. Now let’s gear up."
Absent a single campaign infrastructure those donors can use to do that, a handful of Democrats have looked to step in and provide a centralized outlet for donor planning. One is Clinton ally David Brock, who is planning a retreat for top party finance players in Aventura, Florida, over the Thursday-to-Saturday of Trump’s inauguration week.
The weekend is being billed as “THE meeting for getting together plans to resist Trump,” according to an email invitation sent by veteran Clinton strategist James Carville to high-level donors and obtained by POLITICO.
Among the gathering’s planned sessions: “Learning from 2016: Strategy, Policy, and Building a lasting winning Coalition,” “Campaign Tactics of the future: Polling, Social Media, and Targeting,” “The New Face of the Right,” “Holding Trump Accountable,” and “Ethics Watchdog on Steroids."
Meanwhile, as a handful of Clinton’s regional finance staffers have started signing onto other candidates’ political efforts, her Southwest finance director Stephanie Daily recently circulated an email seeking to keep that local group of donors together to meet periodically — just days after Kaine stopped through California for a series of at least five small fundraiser meetings billed as “thank you” events.
Still, five weeks after Democrats’ shock, donors are still slow to agree to fund any one organization or blaze any one path ahead.
“Most people are keeping their powder dry. It’s a bad strategy. It is classic Democrat to go into a fight, but pull back or say they’re never going to do politics again,” added another frustrated top-tier fundraiser, noting the lack of attention paid to this month’s Louisiana Senate runoff.
"All the Republican donors I know are organizing campaigns and groups and setting stuff up."