White House Hopefuls Hold Fundraisers Abroad

Rudolph Giuliani is raising campaign cash in London. Only U.S. citizens and green-card holders can legally give to U.S. campaigns. But Giuliani, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are all holding events for Americans living in the British Isles.

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Today, Republican Rudolf Giuliani campaigned for the White House in England. Tonight he's got a lecture and dinner with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. But in this cash-craze race for the White House, he also did something no other presidential candidate has ever done: He held a fundraiser on foreign soil.

NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY: The event with former Prime Minister Thatcher is meant to establish Giuliani as the natural heir to Thatcher's old friend, Ronald Reagan. Thatcher gave Giuliani the Margaret Thatcher Medal of Freedom. Giuliani gave a speech praising the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.

Earlier today, he made that relationship a bit more special in a new way with a fundraising reception targeting Americans living in London that came up with a press conference this morning.

Mr. RUDY GIULIANI (Former Mayor, New York City; Republican Presidential Candidate): Given the expense of American presidential elections, every fundraising opportunity is important. You've got to take advantage of it.

OVERBY: And there is money to be taken advantage of. Presidential candidates cannot accept contributions from anyone except U.S. citizens and green card holders. But London is swarming with Americans in the securities and investment industry. It's an industry that had showered more money on Giuliani than on any other candidate. That's according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

London has so many refugees from Wall Street because in this country with the (unintelligible) law, their activities are more heavily regulated than they used to be. Tim Montgomery is a conservative political blogger in London.

Mr. TIM MONTGOMERIE (Editor, ConservativeHome.com): There is a huge number of Americans here with a lot of money, and so I think there's something quite wise and savvy about Rudy Giuliani coming over here to tap that money pool.

OVERBY: It's been common for White House candidates to send surrogates overseas to campaign and even raise money. But until Giuliani, no presidential candidate has ever gone hunting for dollars overseas. Robert Mutch is an independent historian of money's role in American politics.

Mr. ROBERT MUTCH (Political Historian): To my knowledge, this have never happened before, and I think it's never happened before because it never made sense before.

OVERBY: Here's why it makes sense now: First, as Giuliani himself noted, the presidential campaigns are eating cash like never before. Second, more Americans work overseas in this global economy. And, finally, those Americans -the same as others - are getting more involved in politics. And it's not just Republicans.

Christine Marques, in Geneva, is the international chair of Democrats Abroad. She lists the hot-button issues from the Iraq War to global warming, and says this.

Ms. CHRISTINE MARQUES (International Chair, Democrats Abroad): I think that every American feels very strongly about many of these issues and they want to make sure that their voices are heard.

OVERBY: Overseas voting surged in 2004. Turnout was up 75 percent from the year 2000, according to the Pentagon, which manages all absentee voting from outside the U.S. Where there are votes, there's money. So now, it's cost-effective to after big contributors in foreign cities.

Two weeks from today, Bill Clinton will hold a fundraiser in London for his wife Hillary's campaign. He'll already be there on a book tour according to the campaign. And the following week, Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, will fly to London for two fundraisers. The campaign says it's a quick, over and back trip. She doesn't want to be away from their children more than two nights.

Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

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