- The Washington Times - Friday, April 21, 2000

The fund-raising arms of House and Senate Democrats have banked more campaign cash than their Republican counterparts heading into this pivotal election season, despite the House Republicans' committee setting a fund-raising record in the first quarter.

With about 6 and 1/2 months to go before the election, the House Democrats' campaign committee has $10 million more in cash on hand than the Republicans. The campaign committee for Senate Democrats has $5.5 million more available than the Republicans' committee.

"We've been very frugal with our money," said John Del Cecato, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "We firmly believe we need to save our resources for the real campaign."

The DCCC raised $12.3 million and had $28.6 million in cash on hand at the end of March for its bid to retake the House. That was 57 percent higher than the war chest of the National Republican Campaign Committee, which reported $18.2 million in the bank.

NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said House Republicans will close the gap.

"There's going to be no shortage of money," Mr. Forti said. "By the time 'D-Day' rolls around, we're confident we'll have more money than they do."

House Democrats hold the edge despite the NRCC raising $20 million in the first three months of this year, more than it raised in the entire 1993-94 campaign cycle. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and NRCC chairman, has set a goal of $70 million for this election.

Mr. Davis said two weeks ago that the NRCC has been hurt by Texas Gov. George W. Bush's devotion to fund raising for his presidential campaign instead of stumping for House candidates. President Clinton earlier this month appeared at a DCCC fund-raiser in Silicon Valley that raised $1.4 million, and Vice President Al Gore will attend a June 5 fund-raiser for the DCCC that is expected to rake in about $1.5 million.

Mr. Bush will meet NRCC officials in Washington later this month to plan fund-raising events for top-tier House candidates.

The DCCC has about a $9 million advantage in so-called "soft money," which cannot be spent directly on candidates.

Republicans hold 222 seats in the House to the Democrats' 211, with two independents. Twenty-three Republicans are retiring, compared with just seven Democrats.

For the Senate races, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $8.6 million in the first quarter and had $17.1 million in cash on hand, more than half of it soft money. The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced Thursday it had raised $10.5 million in the first three months, but has less cash on hand, $11.5 million. About $4.5 million of that was soft money.

DSCC spokesman David DiMartino said its cash-on-hand total is a 475 percent increase from the first quarter in 1998.

"We'll have more when it's time to make a difference in the fall," he said.

Stuart Roy, spokesman for the NRSC, said the committee has less cash on hand in part because it paid off a $5 million loan last year from the previous election cycle.

Republicans have a 55-45 advantage over Democrats in the Senate. Eighteen Republican senators are running for re-election, compared with 10 Democrats. Four Democrats and one Republican are retiring.

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