After reentering presidential fund-raising circles on Tuesday night, it didn’t take long for David Geffen to jump into the political fray.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is calling for Barack Obama to remove Geffen from his campaign, return the money he raised and to denounce remarks he made to the New York Times’ columnist Maureen Dowd.
Long simmering resentments against the Clintons boiled over in an interview with Dowd, published in her colmn on Wednesday. Among other things, he said of the Clintons, “Everybody in politics lies, but [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it’s troubling.”
Geffen was one of the top fund-raisers for the Clintons throughout much of the 1990s, made frequent visits to the White House and Bill Clinton in turned stayed at his Malibu pad. But they had a bitter fallout in the final days of Clinton’s administration, when the President pardoned Marc Rich instead of Leonard Peltier, whom Geffen was pushing for freedom. Geffen stepped back from political activity until now, but he has rarely, if ever since, spoken to the Clintons.
Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson released this statement, according to E&P:
“While Senator Obama was denouncing slash and burn politics yesterday, his campaign’s finance chair was viciously and personally attacking Senator Clinton and her husband.
“If Senator Obama is indeed sincere about his repeated claims to change the tone of our politics, he should immediately denounce those remarks, remove Mr. Geffen from his campaign and return the money.
“While Democrats should engage in a vigorous debate on the issues, there is no place in our party or our politics for the kind of personal insults made bu Senator Obama’s principal fund-raiser.”
Clinton herself told the Associated Press today, “I’m just going to stay focused on my campaign and I’m going to run a positive campaign about the issues that affect the people in our country.”
In the column, Geffen calls Bill Clinton “a reckless guy” who “gave his enemies a lot of ammunition to hurt him and to distract the country.” He doubted that Bill Clinton has changed. “I don’t think anybody believe that in the last six years, all of the sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person.”
Of the pardons, Geffen says, “Marc Rich getting pardoned? An oil profiteer expatriate who left the country rather than pay taxes or face justice? Yet another time when the Clintons were unwilling to stand for the things that they genuinely believe in.”
“Obama is inspirational, and he’s not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family,” Geffen told Dowd.
The Obama campaign declined to denounce Geffen or to give back any money.
“We aren’t going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters. It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln bedroom.
“It is also ironic the Senator Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina State Sen. Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because ‘he’s black.'”
Political consultant Andy Spahn, who helped organize the event, says that Clinton’s campaign mischaracterized Geffen’s role in the Obama campaign as much more than the co-host of the fund-raiser. “This is between Geffen and Clinton. David Geffen has no role in the Obama campaign. He’s expressing his feelings about the Clintons.”
He said that about 35 people showed up later in the evening for a dinner with Obama at Geffen’s home.
“The evening was really, really successful on every level,” Spahn says. “He’s a very inspirational figure who calls on people to help themselves.”
“The evening was a tremendous statement on his behalf about his strength and credibility.”