A top Democratic moneyman recruited by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign has put fundraising activities on hold, saying he can’t do it with a clear conscience because the former secretary of state has too many unanswered questions swirling around her.
New York businessman Jon Cooper, who Team Clinton enlisted for its elite corps of early fundraisers known as “HillStarters,” said that he decided not to tap his donor network for Mrs. Clinton because she hasn’t provided enough answers about foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation while she ran the State Department, her exclusive use of private email for official business as America’s top diplomat and her commitment to liberal priorities.
“I’m officially on the fence,” said Mr. Cooper, a bundler for President Obama’s campaigns who is active in Democratic politics in New York, which Mrs. Clinton represented in the U.S. Senate and where she has set up her campaign headquarters.
Mr. Cooper said he was writing a fundraising email to the roughly 10,000 people in his network when he realized that his heart wasn’t in it.
“I was sitting there trying to draft the email, and I just couldn’t do it,” he told The Washington Times.
Mr. Cooper, who is openly gay and married to longtime partner Robert Cooper, said he was disappointed with how long it took Mrs. Clinton to support gay marriage as a constitutional right plus her reluctance to back a liberal economic agenda, including raising the federal minimum wage.
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But his concerns about Mrs. Clinton only deepened with revelations about potential conflicts of interest from the Clinton Foundation pocketing donations from foreign entities with business pending before the State Department and her use of a private email in office that may have violated federal open records laws.
“It’s just the drip, drip, drip that is a little concerning, and I just wish that there would have been a more forceful response from the Clinton campaign to some of this,” he said.
He hasn’t ruled out eventually supporting Mrs. Clinton, especially if, as expected, she wins the Democratic presidential nomination. And the Clinton campaign likely will still benefit from a powerful fundraising operation, despite Mr. Cooper’s early absence from the effort.
But Mr. Cooper’s misgivings, and his willingness to make them public, underscores a growing angst in the upper echelon of the Democratic Party about the Clinton campaign.
“I’m not saying there are any inherent weakness[es] in Hillary as a candidate, but there are some valid questions that are being raised by good people, and I think we need to have better answers to some of these questions,” said Mr. Cooper.
“I would have hoped there would have been a strong and forceful and complete and detailed response to the questions that were raised,” he said. “That’s a sign that they still need to do a bit of a better job in the top organizational structure of the campaign. They don’t really have complete answers to these questions.”
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He is among a growing chorus of party insiders calling for a credible challenger to enter the primary race against Mrs. Clinton, either to provide a viable liberal alternative or at least to test Mrs. Clinton in preparation for a general election contest.
“I’m going to be supporting a Democrat. I just want it to be the strongest possible candidate,” he said.
The Clinton campaign last week attempted to allay the mounting concerns with a memo to prominent Democratic supporters and donors. The memo by Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon insisted that there is not a “shred of evidence” that Mrs. Clinton misused her office as secretary of state.
The campaign has struggled to push back against allegations of pay-for-favors at the Clinton Foundation in the upcoming book “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.”
The book, by conservative political adviser Peter Schweizer, argues that the Clintons got rich off speaking fees and donations from various foreign entities with business with the State Department under Mrs. Clinton.
The deals include a free trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s investments in the South American nation, development projects in Haiti after a devastating earthquake in 2010 and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline that occurred while the project was under State Department review, according to previews of the book.
The campaign attempted to dismiss it as a right-wing hit job, but further reporting by The New York Times revealed that the Clinton Foundation accepted $2.35 million from a businessman involved in deals that helped Russia nearly corner the world uranium market with State Department approval.
Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons despite an agreement signed with the Obama administration that donations to the foundation would be disclosed to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
The deal gave the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, control of uranium mines stretching from Asia to the Western U.S., including half of America’s uranium supply.
Shortly after the Russians announced plans to buy uranium-mining giant Uranium One, a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin and the deal paid Mr. Clinton $500,000 for a speech in Moscow, according to the newspaper.
That was about five times Mr. Clinton’s typical speaking fee.
Mrs. Clinton also attempted to put the email scandal behind her last month at a press conference where she explained that it was simply “convenient” to mingle personal and work email. But the issue became entangled in a House investigation of the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Mrs. Clinton has been asked to testify this week but is expected to decline the invitation.
Mr. Cooper said he wants to be able to get “deeply passionate” about his party’s candidate.
“For me personally, I want to be able to come home each day and look my kids in the eye and justify everything that I’ve done that day,” he said. “If I come out wholeheartedly for Hillary, I’m going to have to explain why I’m doing that, because I can just sit this out. I’m not going to, but I could.”