Powerhouse fundraiser Hassan Nemazee had a lot of friends in Democratic circles. And one of the most important appears to have been the party’s money-man par excellence, Terry McAuliffe.
But since the news broke yesterday that Nemazee had been charged with running a $292 million Ponzi scheme, the normally loquacious McAuliffe hasn’t been his usual voluble self.
We asked Tracy Sefl, a Washington communications specialist who has acted as a spokesperson for McAuliffe, whether she could put us in touch with him so we could get his reaction to the charges against Nemazee. Replied Sefl, via email: “No. Sorry. Nothing personal.”
We tried again. Did she have a statement from McAuliffe? “No.”
It’s not hard to see why McAuliffe might be keeping a low profile on this one. Few top Democrats appear to have played a more important role than McAuliffe in making Nemazee a major player, and helping him stay one.
Nemazee first became a force in the Democratic fundraising world by raising money in the ’90s for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. In 1995, that won him an invitation to one of the events that McAuliffe, as a top Clinton fundraiser, put together for big donors, featuring coffee with the president at the White House.
But the Clinton years weren’t the end of it. After he stepped down as DNC chair in December 2005, McAuliffe quietly became a vice-chair of Carret Asset Management, a private equity firm of which Nemazee was co-chair. McAuliffe reportedly used the firm’s swank Washington office to write his memoir — and to begin laying the groundwork for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which launched just over a year later.
And when that memoir, entitled What A Party, came out in 2007, Nemazee was right there to help McAuliffe promote it (see picture above).
That March, Nemazee — reportedly “at the behest of” McAuliffe — hosted an event for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, that featured Bill Clinton at New York’s elegant Cipriani restaurant, and brought in more than $500,000. Nemazee, of course, went on to be a national finance chair for the campaign, while McAuliffe gained a reputation as its most tireless cable TV spinner.
Then this year, McAuliffe launched his own bid for office — that ill-fated run for Virginia governor. And his first major fundraising event, in January, was at the Park Avenue home of his old friend Hassan Nemazee.
Like the Cipriani dinner, this one also reportedly featured Bill Clinton. Other Democratic fundraising heavy hitters like Stanley Shuman, Marc Lasry, and Alan Patricof were there. Guests ate spring rolls and dumplings. The total haul: $350,000 — or one third of McAuliffe’s total campaign funds at the time.
Nemazee told reporters afterwards that the former president had said it was “an honor and a privilege to be … in a position to return the favor that [McAuliffe] has done for me and Hillary for so many years.”
From there, things didn’t go so well though. McAuliffe was crushed in the Democratic primary this spring. And now Nemazee has been indicted for allegedly orchestrating a multi-million dollar fraud.
Additional reporting by Justin Elliott