The Teflon Kingmaker

Is Terry McAuliffe corrupt, as his critics charge, or just especially good at playing the dirty game of politics? A fresh look at Mother Jones’ coverage of the new DNC chairman may help you decide.

Image: AP/Wideworld

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Terry McAuliffe, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is to political fundraising what Lee Atwater was to political advertising: successful, ruthless, and daring.

McAuliffe was a friend and money man to the Clinton administration from day one, raising campaign money both for Bill’s two presidential campaigns and Hillary’s Senate run, and organizing a multimillion dollar defense fund to defray legal costs associated with the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandals. Some now say that McAuliffe is positioning himself to help Hillary Clinton run for the White House in 2004.

Before he’d even moved into his new office, McAuliffe managed to anger both a large chunk of the Democratic party and the Bush White House. Black Democrats accused McAuliffe of hijacking the DNC election from Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, considered a shoo-in until McAuliffe threw his hat in the ring in December with endorsements from both Bill Clinton and Al Gore. And in his acceptance speech on February 3, McAuliffe fired this broadside at George W.: “If Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, Jim Baker, and the US Supreme Court hadn’t tampered with the results, Al Gore would be president, George Bush would be back in Austin, and John Ashcroft would be home reading Southern Partisan magazine.”

McAuliffe is the kind of loose cannon who can be both boon and bane to a political campaign and party. A day after his election to the DNC, the man who raised the acquisition of soft money to an art form went on “Meet the Press” to say, “Let’s just get rid of all soft money, from labor unions, corporations, everybody. Take it off the table. There is too much money in the political process.” This from the man Gore has called “the greatest fundraiser in the world.”

McAuliffe has an uncanny ability to slip out of potential trouble unscathed. The fundraising scandals surrounding Bill Clinton’s 1996 campaign — including the White House coffees and Lincoln bedroom sleepovers, both of which were McAuliffe’s ideas — seemed to roll off McAuliffe’s back. After repeatedly claiming that he had nothing to do with the DNC-related soft money scandals, saying he only raised funds specifically earmarked for Clinton’s presidential reelection, McAuliffe eventually admitted having raised between $3 million and $5 million for the DNC. Still, he managed largely to dodge the spotlight.

Likewise, McAuliffe avoided a potentially career-ending scandal in 1997, when the Department of Justice investigated a number of his real estate and campaign financing deals — one involving Ron Carey, disgraced former president of the Teamsters who was indicted this week on charges of perjury — which to GOP observers looked an awful lot like the result of influence peddling. The accusations against McAuliffe in those cases were later dropped.

More recently, while McAuliffe was raising money for Hillary Clinton’s Senate run, he offered to put up $1.35 million of his own money to help the Clintons buy their house in Chappaqua, NY. Public criticism of the arrangement prompted the Clintons to opt for the common man’s home-buying approach: They took out a mortgage. Still McAuliffe’s offer serves as a loan guarantee, which critics say constitutes an illegal gratuity.

Back in 1997, we looked into McAuliffe’s career, from his start as a campaign worker with Jimmy Carter’s doomed 1980 reelection campaign to the DOJ investigation of his business dealings in the 1990s. Below, we’ve provided links to some of our investigations into McAuliffe to help you decide whether he is corrupt — or just especially good at playing the dirty game of politics.

 

Big Game HunterMother Jones, April 1997
Fundraiser Terry McAuliffe knew how to bag big donors for President Clinton, but has the stalker now become the prey?

McAuliffe, Inc.Mother Jones, April 1997
The Department of Justice appears to be investigating real estate deals in which Clinton’s chief fundraiser may have profited from political connections.

The Boy Wonder Comes of Age Mother Jones, April 1997
A map of McAuliffe’s cash-strewn career path.

WE'LL BE BLUNT

It is astonishingly hard keeping a newsroom afloat these days, and we need to raise $253,000 in online donations quickly, by October 7.

The short of it: Last year, we had to cut $1 million from our budget so we could have any chance of breaking even by the time our fiscal year ended in June. And despite a huge rally from so many of you leading up to the deadline, we still came up a bit short on the whole. We can’t let that happen again. We have no wiggle room to begin with, and now we have a hole to dig out of.

Readers also told us to just give it to you straight when we need to ask for your support, and seeing how matter-of-factly explaining our inner workings, our challenges and finances, can bring more of you in has been a real silver lining. So our online membership lead, Brian, lays it all out for you in his personal, insider account (that literally puts his skin in the game!) of how urgent things are right now.

The upshot: Being able to rally $253,000 in donations over these next few weeks is vitally important simply because it is the number that keeps us right on track, helping make sure we don't end up with a bigger gap than can be filled again, helping us avoid any significant (and knowable) cash-flow crunches for now. We used to be more nonchalant about coming up short this time of year, thinking we can make it by the time June rolls around. Not anymore.

Because the in-depth journalism on underreported beats and unique perspectives on the daily news you turn to Mother Jones for is only possible because readers fund us. Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism we exist to do. The only investors who won’t let independent, investigative journalism down are the people who actually care about its future—you.

And we need readers to show up for us big time—again.

Getting just 10 percent of the people who care enough about our work to be reading this blurb to part with a few bucks would be utterly transformative for us, and that's very much what we need to keep charging hard in this financially uncertain, high-stakes year.

If you can right now, please support the journalism you get from Mother Jones with a donation at whatever amount works for you. And please do it now, before you move on to whatever you're about to do next and think maybe you'll get to it later, because every gift matters and we really need to see a strong response if we're going to raise the $253,000 we need in less than three weeks.

payment methods

WE'LL BE BLUNT

It is astonishingly hard keeping a newsroom afloat these days, and we need to raise $253,000 in online donations quickly, by October 7.

The short of it: Last year, we had to cut $1 million from our budget so we could have any chance of breaking even by the time our fiscal year ended in June. And despite a huge rally from so many of you leading up to the deadline, we still came up a bit short on the whole. We can’t let that happen again. We have no wiggle room to begin with, and now we have a hole to dig out of.

Readers also told us to just give it to you straight when we need to ask for your support, and seeing how matter-of-factly explaining our inner workings, our challenges and finances, can bring more of you in has been a real silver lining. So our online membership lead, Brian, lays it all out for you in his personal, insider account (that literally puts his skin in the game!) of how urgent things are right now.

The upshot: Being able to rally $253,000 in donations over these next few weeks is vitally important simply because it is the number that keeps us right on track, helping make sure we don't end up with a bigger gap than can be filled again, helping us avoid any significant (and knowable) cash-flow crunches for now. We used to be more nonchalant about coming up short this time of year, thinking we can make it by the time June rolls around. Not anymore.

Because the in-depth journalism on underreported beats and unique perspectives on the daily news you turn to Mother Jones for is only possible because readers fund us. Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism we exist to do. The only investors who won’t let independent, investigative journalism down are the people who actually care about its future—you.

And we need readers to show up for us big time—again.

Getting just 10 percent of the people who care enough about our work to be reading this blurb to part with a few bucks would be utterly transformative for us, and that's very much what we need to keep charging hard in this financially uncertain, high-stakes year.

If you can right now, please support the journalism you get from Mother Jones with a donation at whatever amount works for you. And please do it now, before you move on to whatever you're about to do next and think maybe you'll get to it later, because every gift matters and we really need to see a strong response if we're going to raise the $253,000 we need in less than three weeks.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate