WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton is stepping back into the limelight before the November midterm elections, helping to raise money for the Democratic National Committee in a series of fundraisers, NBC News has learned.
The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee will headline three events — in San Francisco, Chicago and New York — for the DNC this fall to boost the party’s chances of seizing control of the U.S. House and Senate.
Billed as “intimate dinners with discussion,” the first invitations were set to go out Monday night for a September event in San Francisco.
Clinton, the former secretary of state whose stunning loss to Republican Donald Trump in 2016 led to widespread criticism of her campaign strategy and message, has maintained a fairly low profile over the past year and a half.
She is also planning fundraisers for some women running for Congress in key races, according to a Democratic source close to her.
In July, Clinton held a fundraiser in New York for Lucy McBath, who became a “mothers of the movement” gun control activist after her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in 2012 in a dispute over loud music. McBath recently won her runoff in Georgia.
But Clinton has yet to hit the campaign trail as Republican campaign officials openly welcome her involvement as a means of tying her to Democrats running in Republican-leaning states and districts.
Clinton has been featured in a parade of Republican campaign ads this year, from the Ohio governor’s race to the GOP’s Senate campaign committee. “She called you ‘deplorable,'” one digital ad last spring reminded voters in 10 states Trump won in 2016.
Clinton’s outside political organization, Onward Together, has been contributing to Democrats challenging House Republicans representing districts she won in the 2016 presidential contest — donations that have drawn criticism from GOP strategists.
"The longer a scandal-plagued Hillary Clinton lingers in American politics, the worse off House Democrats will be,” said Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
An NBC review of midterm advertisements shows that Republicans running in competitive districts are tying Democrats to Clinton, along with other high profile "liberal" women including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Republicans are also emphasizing cultural issues — such as immigration — instead of the economy and the tax cut the Republican-controlled Congress passed last year.
Clinton does not yet have specifics to provide about individual candidates she may campaign for, according to her spokesman, Nick Merrill. "There has never been a more important midterm election, and Secretary Clinton is going to do her part to lift up the next generation of leaders," he said.
But she is well aware of Republican hopes to use her as a campaign foil, Merrill said: "You pay attention to those you’re threatened by. If they didn't think she was still a force in the party, then they wouldn't continue to treat her like the president."
The DNC, the party’s official apparatus, has lagged behind the Republican National Committee in fundraising.
So far for the 2018 cycle, the DNC has raised $110 million, compared with $213 million taken in by the RNC. Yet, in a shift from the past, the majority — 60 percent — of the DNC's online contributions have come from women. And Clinton is a proven fundraising powerhouse. A month ago she raised $1.5 million in one week for ActBlue, an online fundraising platform for Democrats, around the issue of family reunification at the U.S.-Mexico border, with 50 percent of it coming via Twitter.
The DNC has hosted other fundraisers this summer with top party leaders. Former President Barack Obama headlined an event in Washington, and former Attorney General Eric Holder was the featured guest at an event in Atlanta.
In May, Clinton raised funds for the DNC at its annual Women’s Leadership Forum gala featuring Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, two prospective 2020 Democratic primary hopefuls.
Even as the DNC lags in fundraising, individual Democratic candidates have been outraising Republicans, with Democrats in 56 House districts outraising their GOP counterparts.
Several Democratic-leaning outside groups are also deploying considerable cash. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is planning to spend $80 million to help flip the House to Democratic control. ActBlue surged past the $1 billion mark in contributions to Democratic candidates this cycle.
One area where the DNC has been over-performing is its online store — 2018 is already the highest grossing year for the DNC online shop in history.