WASHINGTON – As if celebrity name recognition and superstar political status weren’t enough, Sen. Hillary Clinton has added another tool to her mega-fundraising arsenal: her newly renovated Washington mansion.
In work that ended last month according to District of Columbia building records, Clinton, D-N.Y., spent well over $800,000 expanding and updating her Embassy Row manse, adding a new pool house and a giant ballroom-like addition for entertaining.
She has been quick to realize a return on that investment, holding major money-raising bashes over the last few weeks.
“I like having people over to my house,” Clinton said.
And she made sure it’s a nice place to visit in the sultry D.C. summers, installing three new high-efficiency air conditioners, 60 new indoor lights and 20 outside to go with her spiffed-up pool.
“It’s a really good place for people to be able to come,” she said. “It’s easy to get to and people like coming, and I can really help raise money for other Democrats.”
She’s not kidding. A recent fundraiser at the home for Tennessee Senate candidate Rep. Harold Ford Jr. took in more than $300,000. An event Wednesday for the Democratic National Committee earned about $550,000.
“The house will have great cachet in a place like D.C., especially at a time when the Democrats don’t control either houses of Congress or the White House,” said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant.
Clinton’s also using the 7,218-square-foot brick colonial to boost her own record-breaking re-election campaign, hosting $4,200-a-head fundraisers. Her campaign declined to disclose how well those have done.
While the attractive home would be an asset for raising money in Washington during a presidential campaign, it could also have a downside on the campaign trail.
“One thing’s for sure: She can’t run for president as a Populist,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “With that kind of house, she can’t tell people in the rest of the country that she’s a Washington outsider.”
He added that while the home is an advantageous tool, it cements her insider status for an election that will feature no sitting president or vice president.
“She’s the closest thing in this election to an incumbent,” Sabato said.