Money might be tight for some Democrats, but New York Gov. Mario Cuomo is set to pick up pledges of $500,000 in Beverly Hills on Sunday.
The intimate and unannounced reception hosted by Mark Nathanson at his home will include such heavy hitters as Max Palevsky, TV producer Aaron Spelling ("Dynasty" and "Love Boat"), attorneys Frank Rothman and Greg Bautzer, investor Charles W. Knapp and Jody Evans, the long-time fund-raiser for former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. The commitment by those attending, Nathanson said, will be to give or raise at least $25,000 each over the next two years.
Cuomo, whose keynote speech electrified the Democratic National Convention last summer, is constantly mentioned as presidential material. He is in California for two speeches over the weekend--graduation at Stanford University on Sunday morning and a dinner the preceding night, benefiting the George Moscone scholarship fund at Hastings Law School.
Orchestrating his visit are Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, San Franciscan Nancy Pelosi--supported by Cuomo in her losing bid for Democratic national chairman--and Nathanson, a senior v.p. at Spelling Productions and a consultant on investments for people in the entertainment industry.
Even on the lucrative Westside, it is extraordinary to pick up $500,000 in pledges at a reception for 20 people--especially if the event has been kept unpublicized.
The event has become interesting in other ways. It was unclear at first if the reception that Pelosi described in a phone interview Wednesday night was the same meeting that Nathanson was hosting. She said that the reception here was a "little meeting" and that nothing political was coming out of Cuomo's trip to the state. On the other hand, Nathanson was clear that those coming were pledging monetary support and wanted to get in early on a possible presidential candidacy. When queried about Nathanson's statement, Pelosi then said that those coming would "commit to give or raise a floor of $25,000 a head over the next two years."
'Looking Beyond New York'
Pelosi said that Cuomo "has me convinced that he is not a candidate for President." Nathanson, on the other hand, said that people were "looking beyond New York." He said he had been swamped with calls for his reception, "126 calls, aside from the people I have asked." He has kept the event small, but he added, "Hopefully, we'll let a few more people come. They can't wait to give money."
But this is a surprise to Martin Steadman, Cuomo's press secretary. "My people in the governor's office told me that they made clear to Nancy Pelosi that it was not to be a campaign fund-raising trip. The governor said he would be glad to meet with people, but he was not soliciting funds."
Pelosi had offered no reason as to why commitments were for money given or raised over a two-year-period--even though the gubernatorial election in New York will be held in November, 1986. That's just 17 months from now. When asked why such support was coming for someone she insisted only wanted to be governor of New York--support especially crucial to home state Sen. Alan Cranston--Pelosi answered "with major contributors, it's a donor's-choice world. We are not asking anybody to abandon our local responsibilities."
Frequently in two interviews Pelosi used the term we, which, when asked, she explained meant the Speaker and herself. She, her husband Paul and Brown are hosting a small reception before the Moscone dinner. No money commitments are necessary to attend that reception, she said, but "I will be helping him (Cuomo) raise some money in Northern California for sure."
Movie producer Irwin Winkler will host a non-fund-raising dinner for Cuomo before he takes the red-eye flight back to New York on Sunday night.
Pelosi insisted that the governor was not particularly interested in returning to California. Nathanson, however, said that a fund-raising event for Cuomo would be held in the next several months at the home of Westside socialite Sandra Moss.
Nathanson said he was not sure how the checks would be made out.
And let's remember, if money were contributed for a presidential campaign, each donor would be limited by federal law to $1,000--but there is no limit as to how much money rainmakers, like the heavy hitters coming to this reception, could help shower down on a candidate by raising $1,000 each from a lot of friends and fulfilling early pledges. And, if past presidential history is a guide, a lot of early support can go to an "exploratory political action committee," and the federal contribution limit on pacs is $5,000.