Former President Clinton Still Able to Turn Glitz Into Gold for His Wife

Former President Clinton starred at a Bethesda, Md., fundraiser Wednesday night, turning his glitter into an expected $500,000 in gold for wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, money that will go into her campaign treasure chest.

The money was to come from 300 friends of Weldon Latham, a high-powered African-American attorney, long-time Democratic Party activist and national co-chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

"When we did the fundraiser for Al Gore (during the 2000 campaign), Bill Cosby was the special guest. Bill Clinton is the special guest this time. He is extremely entertaining," Latham said in a joint telephone news conference with Sen. Clinton, D-N.Y., on Wednesday afternoon.

President Clinton's appearance at Latham's Avenel home — a well-to-do Washington, D.C., suburb — was expectred to make the event a great success, Latham added. The president has attended few fundraisers for his wife in the presidential campaign, and snagging the dynamic ex-president was "a real coup."

Clinton's campaign would not say how much she raises at a typical fundraiser, but the Democratic front-runner already has raised $63 million as of June 30. Trailing her is fellow Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, with almost $58 million.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett were among the guests expected to attend the fundraiser, said to be the largest held so far in Democrat-heavy Maryland for Clinton.

Gov. Martin O'Malley as well as local business heavies like Washington Gas chief James DeGraffenreidt were among the 50 fundraising host committee members. Each committee member was expected to raise $15,000, said Lonnie Soury, Latham's spokesman. Guests were expected to donate $2,300 or $1,000. That would put the expected totals in the $500,000 to $750,000 range.

In the news conference, Latham rattled off names of several African Americans, Hispanic Americans and women from around the country who were on the committee.

"I wanted a fundraiser to look like America," he said, "one that represents every group in the nation and various parts of the country."

Latham's experience in corporate diversity counseling and government relations was the theme of the fundraiser.

Sen. Clinton followed that theme: "America is stronger when we use everyone's talents."

She also turned to boost her upcoming health care reform agenda, which, she said, would close the disparities between black and white Americans.

If elected, she said she also would bring the Small Business Administration back into mainstream government to make government contracting and financing more accessible to minority businesses.

Latham added that he is supporting Clinton over Obama because of her track record as senator and first lady.

"The mere fact that he is an African American, although it is a great source of pride, is not enough," he said.

Latham is the chairman of the legal committee of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. He also has held appointments in the Ford, Carter and Clinton administrations, including as assistant general counsel in the Office of Management and Budget in the Ford administration and general deputy assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Carter.

Republicans had little to say about the powerhouse Democratic event.

"No comment," said John Flynn, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party.

Flynn, however, noted that Maryland is a home for Republicans, too. There will be a Sept. 27 Republican debate in Baltimore, hosted by PBS's Tavis Smiley, also African American, and the debate is expected to address minority issues.

Capital News Service contributed to this report.