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In Search of Big Donors
in the Land of Big Ben

Many candidates will be seeing the London sights this campaign fundraising season. (Reuters).

Rudy Giuliani is set to travel to London Tuesday to meet with former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, speak at an Anglo-American conservative think-tank and raise campaign funds among ex-pats. His three-day trip will mark the first of several overseas visits by candidates or their spouses to raise support and money among the several million Americans living abroad.

On October 3, Bill Clinton will host a fundraising event for Hillary at a venue in Windsor Great Park, a quaint English deer reserve. Tickets for the event are $1,000 each, although guests can pay an additional $1,300 for "honored guest" status, which includes a photograph with the former President.

Michelle Obama will speak at fundraising event at a hotel in north London two weeks later, on October 15. Her event will cost $1000 per person or $2,300 for a special reception, with VIP treatment reserved for fundraisers who manage to bundle $23,000 from friends and associates.

There is an added incentive for Democratic candidates to campaign overseas because "Democrats Abroad have" voting influence over the primaries, with 22 delegates assigned to the National Convention. Although their votes only count as half - the equivalent of 11 delegates - in a paper-thin primary contest ex-pats could prove decisive.

The Obama campaign has done most to galvanize ex-pat supporters, with an online network spanning the globe. Overseas supporters in dozens of countries including China, France and Switzerland, communicate via the campaign website and occasionally hold fundraising meetings.

And according to FEC contribution listings--which require donors to list their residential address--the Senator also raised far more from ex-pats than his rivals. U.S. citizens living abroad have injected more than $222,000 into Barack Obama's campaign, dwarfing the takings of Democratic candidates John Edwards ($26,430) and Hillary Clinton ($10,950).

Republican Rudy Guiliani is the only candidate to come close to replicating Obama's success among Americans abroad, receiving $177,450, compared to $33,150 given to Mitt Romney and $15,516 to John McCain. Though small, the sums are not insignificant: Obama has managed to raise more from overseas Americans, for example, than he has from most U.S states.

Raising money from U.S. citizens living overseas is tricky, both because of the negative connotations of raising money 'abroad', and because of the danger that non-U.S. citizens or non-green card holders also contribute, breaching FEC rules.

Diana Shaw Clark, campaign coordinator for the UK branch of Americans Abroad for Obama, said they are "hyper-scrupulous" in checking the identity of donors. "It's a very dangerous perception that a candidate's surrogate will come over here to raise money 'abroad'," she said. "It's important to explain they're coming here to raise money from Americans."

--Paul Lewis

By Washington Post editors  |  September 18, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
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