- Chairman of the Democratic National Committee
- Chaired President Clinton’s multimillion-dollar legal defense fund during the Monica Lewinsky scandal
- Has been investigated by federal government for questionable business deals
Terry McAuliffe, current chairman of the Democratic National Committee, graduated with a law degree from Georgetown University. He began his career as a financier for the Democratic Party when he worked on the unsuccessful reelection campaign of President Jimmy Carter in 1980. More recently, he developed a reputation as an exceptionally effective fundraiser for the Clinton administration. He raised money not only for both of Bill Clinton’s successful presidential bids, but also for Hillary Clinton’s victorious New York State Senate run. During the Clinton presidency, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal threatened to cause a decline in the President’s war chest, McAuliffe initiated and chaired Clinton’s multimillion-dollar legal defense fund.
McAuliffe is particularly adept at the raising of soft money – funds that, by endorsing an overall cause or party rather than a specific candidate, are legally permitted to exceed the limits normally placed on contributions to a political campaign. Because they are not bound by such restrictions, soft money contributions are often so large – frequently in excess of $100,000 – that donors naturally expect to receive some form of payback in return for their generosity. McAuliffe’s soft money strategy was responsible for President Clinton’s 1996 scandal concerning the Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers and the White House coffees, two tactics employed to solicit huge donations from wealthy friends and patrons of the Clintons. Al Gore once declared McAuliffe “the greatest fund-raiser in the history of the universe.”
Notwithstanding his success at raising money, McAuliffe has been the subject of federal investigations into questionable business deals and real estate ventures, illegal fundraising, and campaign finance abuses. One case involved a lease with a government agency for which McAuliffe’s firm may have illegally received a $375,000 contingency fee. McAuliffe was also involved in a 1997 money-laundering scandal with the group Citizen Action.
Another storm of scandal to recently swirl around McAuliffe involved the extraordinary $18 million windfall he pocketed from his investments in the telecommunications company Global Crossing (GC). In just eighteen months, McAuliffe’s $100,000 initial investment in the company grew to $18 million. Moreover, the New York Times reports that McAuliffe earned yet additional millions from trading the stock and options after the company went public in 1998. Press reports indicate that McAuliffe also did “political work” for Global Crossing CEO Gary Winnick, and even arranged a golf outing for Winnick with then-President Bill Clinton. Winnick would later contribute $1 million to Clinton’s presidential library. Shortly after Winnick made this contribution, the Pentagon awarded Global Crossing a $400 million contract. Moreover, GC soon became the Democratic Party’s biggest corporate donor. The appearance of impropriety in this chain of events is unmistakable.
The Bush administration eventually cancelled the Pentagon deal when it learned of irregularities in the bidding process, which were detailed in separate complaints filed by those who had lost the bidding war. At that point, Global Crossing’s stock price plummeted immediately. In summation, this was a case where GC had artificially inflated its stock price, allowing its executives – and Terry McAuliffe – to reap enormous profits during the year preceding GC’s filing for bankruptcy – while employees lost their 401(k) retirement plans and their life’s savings.