In politics, a “rainmaker” is an individual who can raise campaign funds for others.
Often, a rainmaker is a retired politician who still has a significant following and can make use of those connections for fundraising purposes. Staffers and professional fundraisers can also act as rainmakers for politicians.
When Hillary Clinton was running for president, her famous husband often served as her rainmaker. Former president Bill Clinton was a big draw for fundraisers; the prospect of meeting with Bill Clinton was enough to bring out donors in droves.
In a piece titled “Bill Clinton: Hillary’s Rainmaker,” the Huffington Post reported on a fundraising drive which used the former president’s star power:
Pitchman Bill Clinton’s e-mail promised contributors to his wife’s campaign a chance to watch the Oct. 30 debate with him: “You, me, a TV, and a bowl of chips.” Within five days, Hillary pulled in $170,000 in chunks of $200 and less, more than three times what she raised in the preceding five days. “Oh, we had a blast,” David Monterosso, one of three chosen to watch the debate told Hillary, in a telephone call videotaped by the campaign. “And I made sure your husband ate some carrots.”
Retired politicians can be rainmakers – but so can politicians who are still in office. In 2012, US News and World Report declared that then-president Obama was the most effective fundraiser in US history. Not only did Obama beat his challenger, Mitt Romney, at the fundraising game, but the president did so largely by drawing on his own appeal, instead of using a third-party rainmaker.
In a piece titled Rainmaker in Chief: Obama Officially the Biggest Fundraiser Ever, US News and World Report announced, “the 2012 election’s $6 billion price tag is officially the most ever spent, and President Barack Obama is officially the biggest fundraiser in the modern history of American politics, the Federal Election Commission filings show.”
Of course, presidents and former presidents aren’t the only ones who can make it rain. Sometimes, rainmakers are found where one least expects them, as the New York Times reported in 2003.
George Pataki was governor of New York at the time. In a piece called National GOP Discovers Pataki to Be a Formidable Rainmaker, the Times announced with surprise that Pataki was turning into one of the best fundraisers for the Republican party.
Rainmaker can have a positive connotation, but it can also be used to suggest a moral or legal taint.
Back in 2008, the Washington Examiner wrote about the former senator Joe Biden’s fundraising practices. The article, Rainmaker Lobbyist Aids Biden, focused on Biden’s connections to a lobbyist named William Oldmaker. The piece repeatedly used the word “rainmaker” to describe Oldmaker, with the implication that the word alone was enough to tarnish his reputation:
William Oldaker, a federal lobbyist whom one watchdog group dubbed “the rainmaker,” and his associates have held dual roles as insiders for Mr. Biden’s political committees and the lobbying firm co-founded by his son R. Hunter Biden.