- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2007

Democratic presidential front-runners this week will report raising far less money in the past three months than they did in the first two quarters of the year, campaign-finance consultants say.

However, the sharp decline in third-quarter fundraising totals, due to the Federal Election Commission today, has little to do with the front-runners’ political popularity.

Typically, there is a decline in contributors during the summer months, and many donors already have given the maximum allowable contribution to a campaign.

“Historically, the numbers go down every third quarter. The easier fruit is the low-hanging fruit, so campaigns tend to get the most money from their known supporters early in the campaign,” said Jan Baran, a Washington-based campaign-finance lawyer. “But as time passes, they find it increasingly difficult to find new supporters.”

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York reportedly has raised between $17 million and $19 million in the third quarter. Her chief rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, is expected to report that he has raised between $15 million and $20 million during the same period.

Mr. Obama received $33 million in the second quarter, at least a third of it in individual donations of less than $200. In contrast, Mrs. Clinton raised $21.5 million for her primary campaign during this same period, with $2,300 in maximum contributions accounting for more than half of her total.

Campaign-finance advisers like Mr. Baran said it is going to become increasingly difficult for Mrs. Clinton to raise large sums of money because most already have given the maximum amount. Fundraising consultants said that more than 70 percent of her donors fell into that category.

Mr. Obama, on the other hand, had more than 300,000 donors, many of whom contributed multiple times.

“That’s how he has been able to keep up with Clinton,” Mr. Baran said. “The other campaigns have run into problems with maxed-out contributions, so their success will depend on being able to find new contributors and, presumably, small donors.”

Among the four leading Democratic candidates, Mr. Obama raised $58.5 million in the first two quarters, followed by Mrs. Clinton with $52.5 million, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina with $22.9 million and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico with $13.2 million.

Mr. Edwards, who was expected to report third-quarter contributions of about $7 million, has opted to take public financing in next year’s primaries. That means he will receive millions of dollars in matching funds but must agree to a limit on overall spending and state-by-state caps.

“I would be very surprised if we didn’t see all of the candidates at a lower [third-quarter] level,” Democratic campaign-finance adviser Mike Lux said. “Anybody whose fundraising goes up from the first two quarters, you have to credit that campaign with top-notch efforts.”

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