Landow's priceless talent: a knack for raising money

ROGER SIMON

July 22, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

While many Democrats left New York last week with stars in their eyes, Nate Landow left with dollar signs in his.

Landow, who yesterday resigned as Maryland's Democratic Party chairman, is a rich man, which is no big deal.

But Landow has a special skill: He knows how to separate other rich people from their money.

Which is why he now has been given the job of raising money nationally for the Bill Clinton/Al Gore campaign.

While others ran around New York tooting horns and waving flags, Landow never forgot that the business of politics is business.

He suffered a couple of shots in the press for this. We journalists like to pretend that becoming president or vice president has to do with articulating ideas.

Guys like Landow know it has more to do with grubbing for money.

Which is why guys like Clinton and Gore need guys like Landow.

Even at the pleasant, low-key party for the Maryland delegation given by AT&T in New York, Landow kept his eyes on the prize.

While the other Maryland delegates were wandering around eating, drinking and schmoozing with each other, Landow hung out in a corner with AT&T executives.

And though this was a buffet-style dinner party that did not exactly require a speech, Landow called everybody to order and made one:

"The Democratic convention is one of the most exciting free assemblies in the world," Landow said. "And AT&T is a great American institution with a great future!"

AT&T, as a corporation, cannot give money to presidential campaigns. But it can give money to political parties. And AT&T executives can give money to whomever they want.

And Landow knows that when AT&T throws you a little party and their executives show up, you thank them effusively.

Because you can always put the arm on them later.

Landow is not an easy man to get along with. Which is one reason he doesn't get along with that famous get-along guy, William Donald Schaefer.

But at least Schaefer now will be rid of Landow as state chairman.

"Raising money is something Landow knows about and does well," a top aide to Schaefer told me yesterday. "He does not understand local or state politics. But he knows money."

Nate knows money. Which, in his line of work, is like saying he knows the secret of life.

Jerry Brown, an unsuccessful presidential candidate, has articulated all the problems with this.

If the fat cats are the people who give you the money, and if guys like Landow put you in touch with the fat cats, then a presidential ticket must spend a lot of time with the fat cats and the Landows.

These are the guys who want you to stop by for breakfast when you whistle through their state.

And if you want to become president or vice president, you don't say: "Sorry, I've got to meet with factory workers this morning."

Instead, you say: "What time do you want me there?"

Landow has been part of a conservative Democratic fund-raising group that thinks the party is in danger of selling out to "urban" interests. And so Landow and National Democratic Party Chairman Ron Brown have feuded for years.

Which is apparently why Brown stuck Maryland with lousy seats at the convention, something that pleased Landow's enemies no end.

"This is the closest Maryland has ever been to Guam," Governor Schaefer told me with glee as he looked over to Maryland's nearest neighbor in the balcony of Madison Square Garden. "These are the worst seats ever!"

But did it matter? When it came time to give Landow a national campaign job, did Brown's enmity and Schaefer's enmity toward him matter?

Are you kidding? Nate Landow is a man who raised $1.9 million for Walter Mondale, for cripes sake.

So think what he can raise for Clinton and Gore.

Does Landow know how to be one of the guys? No.

Does Landow know how to go on "Meet the Press" and articulate the party's message? Naw.

Does Landow know how to win friends and influence people? Forget it.

What Nate Landow knows is how to raise the green, the cabbage, the moola, the dough.

And in politics a guy like that has a real future.

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