|Clark's band of irregulars|
Diverse group of local Democrats rally to general
By Paul Merrion
Crain's Chicago Business
October 20, 2003
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark is recruiting an eclectic group of Illinois supporters for his political army, marching mainly to one drumbeat: "I'm not sure the other Democratic candidates have much prospect of winning," says Howard Tullman, a major Democratic donor and Chicago entrepreneur who founded Tunes.com Inc. and other high-tech concerns.
It's way too soon to know whether Mr. Clark can maintain the top-tier status and rush of fund raising he achieved in the first two weeks of his campaign, when he garnered almost $3.5 million, including more than $78,000 from Illinois.
At this early stage, many Clark campaign supporters are mainly looking for alternatives to the existing field. They range from CEOs to the self-employed, from first-time campaign donors to those who, like Mr. Tullman, have stayed overnight in the Lincoln Bedroom.
At the corner of Clark and Illinois streets, about 50 supporters from the Internet-driven Draft Wesley Clark movement get together every Tuesday night for beer and informal conversation at Frankie Z's Clark Bar.
"It's good to put a face with a screen name," says John V. Moore, a free-lance publicist and an Illinois coordinator of the Draft Clark campaign.
A much more select group of potential supporters and contributors met a few weeks ago for a video teleconference with Mr. Clark in the downtown law offices of Theodore Tetzlaff, a major Democratic fund-raiser who's known the candidate for about five years.
"I was impressed," says Cook County Assessor James Houlihan, who says he attended mainly out of curiosity. "He made a very good case" for his campaign, but like most politicians, Mr. Houlihan says he's still in a "wait and see" mode about the race.
Out of that session came plans for Mr. Clark to attend a $250-per-person Oct. 27 fund-raiser here, which is expected to pull in at least $100,000 — a more-than-respectable haul for a campaign that started only last month.
"None of the other candidates inspired me. None of them is the whole package" that's needed to win, says Chicago attorney Robert Fogel, a major fund-raiser for former President Bill Clinton and one of the Clark event's co-chairs. "We'll see if he's the whole package or not."
Illinois already ranks seventh in Mr. Clark's fund-raising totals, according to figures released last week. That compares with ninth for the nominal front-runner, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who also relies heavily on Internet-driven fund raising.
Backing from Emanuel
But Illinois is likely to figure higher in Mr. Clark's future fund raising, if for no other reason than the strong backing of U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Chicago, a seasoned fund-raiser and one of several former Clinton administration aides involved in the Clark campaign.
"A lot of people who were on the sidelines" are interested in the Clark campaign, says Rep. Emanuel. "Polls show that primary voters are very pragmatic: Who can beat Bush?"
More than a dozen Chicago-area executives and professionals have pledged to raise at least $10,000 each for the Oct. 27 event, which is being organized by David Rosen, president and CEO of Competence Group Inc., a political fund-raising consulting firm, who is the campaign's Midwest finance coordinator.
In addition to Mr. Tetzlaff, other co-chairs include veteran party donors such as Mr. Tullman and his brother Glen, chairman and CEO of Libertyville-based Allscripts Healthcare Solutions Inc.; Bettylu Saltzman, a party activist who was Chicago chief of staff for former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill.; William Brandt Jr., president and CEO of Development Specialists Inc., a bankruptcy restructuring firm based in Chicago, and venture capitalist J. B. Pritzker.
But Mr. Clark also has signed up several newcomers to organize the event, including David Lehmann, managing director in Chicago for New Jersey-based securities firm Knight Trading Group Inc.; Mark Erwin, a floor trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and John Bucksbaum, CEO of Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc., a shopping mall developer.
"He is very charismatic, just an incredibly bright person," says Mr. Bucksbaum, who adds that his involvement in the campaign grew out of a chance encounter last April when he and Mr. Clark — a Chicago native who grew up in Arkansas — sat together at a Wharton School dinner.
To many supporters, the idea of a former general leading the Democratic ticket in a time of war is intriguing, to say the least.
"It dawned on me, if Democrats are going to have any chance here, (they) needed to pull a Democratic Eisenhower," says James Klutznick, vice-chairman of Senior Lifestyle Corp., a Chicago housing developer and one of the event's co-chairs.
But, as with any candidate, some supporters are motivated by factors other than ideology or political calculation.
"My connection is, I'm from Arkansas, and at one level, it's about supporting a hometown guy," says Bob Nash, vice-chairman of Chicago's Shorebank Corp. and one of the Chicago event's co-chairs. "It's not a tough sale. A lot of people are uncommitted, I'm finding."
©2003 by Crain Communications Inc.