Thursday, August 17, 2000
Chesley among elite fund-raisers
By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. If you are Stan Chesley, Cincinnati's best known class-action lawyer, being at a Democratic National Convention means being at the center of it all.
Wednesday morning, in the opulent Beverly Wilshire hotel at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, Mr. Chesley popped his key card into the door of his suite and said he didn't have much time to talk.
Source of millions
I just got an invitation to lunch with Gore and Lieberman, he said, waving the invitation to a picnic on the Warner Bros. studio grounds for the two candidates.
Mr. Chesley has raised millions for the campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic House and Senate campaign committees, much of it through fund-raising events at his Amberley Village home featuring visits by the president and vice president.
He is among that famous few whose campaign contributions bought them a night in the Lincoln bedroom at the White House, and Mr. Chesley has been a frequent visitor at White House social and policy events.
So, at this week's convention, which is nearly as much about raising political dollars as it is about launching presidential campaigns, Mr. Chesley is among an elite group of donors and fund-raisers whose schedules are full from dawn to midnight with parties, fund-raising receptions and meetings.
With big names
Mr. Chesley was at the glittering Hollywood show Saturday that raised about $10 million for President Clinton's presidential library. Sunday, he was having breakfast with Mr. Gore's campaign manager, Donna Brazile.
Monday night, he was in a private sky box in the Staples Center with members of the Kennedy family, watching Mr. Clinton give his farewell speech to the party.
Hanging with Travolta
More Hollywood stars than you can imagine, Mr. Chesley said, sitting on his bed with a phone in his ear and a half dozen pairs of shoes on the floor. I ended up getting in a TV shot with John Travolta.
Mr. Chesley is a trial lawyer, and the American Trial Lawyers Association is one of the principal founts of campaign dollars for the Democratic Party.
The lawyers group was not particularly happy about the choice of Joe Lieberman, the senator from Connecticut, as Mr. Gore"s running mate. Mr. Lieberman has close ties to the insurance industry, a major economic force in Connecticut.
Plaintiffs' attorneys and insurance companies are natural enemies, and part of Mr. Chesley's job in Los Angeles is to unruffle feathers among his fellow trial lawyers about the Lieberman choice.
Joe is a good friend of mine, said Mr. Chesley, who, like Mr. Lieberman, is Jewish.
Sitting on the terrace porch of his suite Mr. Chesley sipped tea and showed file folders for each day of the convention.
In each folder was a fistful of invitations, along with a blue sheet listing all the events of the day.
The parties are fine, he said, but this is really about electing Al Gore. You can have the rest of it.
What he would like to see, he said, is the Gore-Lieberman campaign get out the message that George W. Bush is not prepared to be president.
My question is, "what has he been doing the rest of his life?' He's like Rip Van Winkle. He was a little boy growing up in Texas and then he's a 50-year-old man getting elected governor.
Having Bill Clinton in the White House has been good for Mr. Chesley and having Mr. Chesley around has been good for the Democratic Party.
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