- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 29, 2004

By April 30, the Republican National Committee (RNC) already had spent $115 million of the $180 million it had raised since the beginning of last year. For the president’s sake, the RNC had better hope the money was spent wisely. The latest reports issued by the Federal Election Commission summarizing fund-raising and spending patterns of President Bush, Sen. John Kerry, the RNC and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) paint a picture that White House strategists clearly had not envisioned last fall.

Well on the way to a pre-convention goal of $200 million, Mr. Bush’s coffers already had collected $85 million by Sept. 30, including a third-quarter tally of $50 million, which smashed his 1999 quarterly fund-raising record by $20 million.

At September’s end, Democratic front-runner Howard Dean led his party’s money race by raising a mere $15 million during the same quarter. Meanwhile, Mr. Kerry’s fund-raising total plunged to $3.3 million that same quarter, on its way to a humiliating $2.3 million for the fourth quarter. It was a collapse of such magnitude that Mr. Kerry felt compelled to mortgage his Boston mansion and loan his campaign $6.4 million in a last-gasp gamble that reeked of desperation. With Iowa and New Hampshire polls in the late fall confirming the seeming futility of Mr. Kerry’s campaign, the absolutely last development any sentient observer expected was to read six months later that Mr. Kerry, after capturing his party’s nomination on March 2, Super Tuesday, had raised $105 million during the March-April-May period. That was $50 million more than Mr. Bush’s campaign raised during the same three months.

At the end of February, a balance sheet of Mr. Kerry’s campaign showed a net worth of minus $5 million, while Mr. Bush had $110 million cash on hand. By the end of May, the president’s cash-on-hand advantage had shrunk to about $35 million. But Mr. Kerry, whose campaign had outraised the Bush-Cheney team by a nearly equal amount ($32.6 million) during the April-May period, clearly had the fund-raising momentum.

Comparable trends are developing between the RNC and DNC. Although the RNC had raised $83 million more than the DNC through the end of February ($139 million versus $56 million), its cash-on-hand advantage was only $28 million. Over the next two months, the DNC’s total increased by 63 percent ($36 million), while the RNC’s total rose by less than 30 percent; and the RNC’s cash-on-hand advantage declined to $22 million.

The wild card this year will be the 527 groups, so named because of the IRS section governing them. These groups receive the soft-money contributions that McCain-Feingold prohibited the national party committees from accepting.

According to the latest IRS data, the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonpartisan campaign-finance watchdog group, reports that there are about 30 such groups that have raised at least $750,000 each. Cumulatively, these 527 groups have raised about $102 million, at least $95 million of which has gone to unabashedly Democratic organizations (e.g., America Coming Together, $19 million; Media Fund, $15 million; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, $9.2 million; MoveOn.org, $8.7 million; EMILY’s List, $3.1 million; the Sierra Club, $2.5 million; the AFL-CIO, $2.5 million).

Individually and collectively, these trends should be worrisome for Republicans.

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