Sen. John McCain’s large share of small campaign donations, compared with other presidential candidates, confirms his role as “political insurgent” in the race for the White House, says the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.
With less than one-fourth the funds raised by rival Gov. George W. Bush, about a third of Mr. McCain’s campaign cash has come from grass-roots donors giving less than $200, the center found in a study of federally reported contributions.
By comparison, “special-interest” givers wealthy corporation executives, lawyers and lobbyists have showered the Texas governor and Democrats Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley with maximum $1,000 donations that make up the vast bulk of their primary campaign finances, the study found.
“McCain’s money pattern matches the campaign,” Larry Makinson, the watchdog group’s executive director, said at a news conference. “It’s much more an insurgent effort than an establishment campaign, and the numbers reflect that.”
However, Mr. Makinson acknowledged that Mr. Bush’s number of small givers almost equals Mr. McCain’s, even though Mr. Bush’s fund raising quadrupled the Arizona senator’s.
Through Dec. 31, Mr. McCain raised $4.65 million in donations under $200, while Mr. Bush raised $4.52 million. Mr. Bush’s maximum $1,000 contributions totaled $50.6 million, or 75 percent of his total, while Mr. McCain’s $1,000 gifts totaled $5.5 million, or 35 percent.
“Of course, McCain raised considerably less money overall than the other candidates during 1999 $15 million in all, versus $27 million for Gore and Bradley, and $67 million for Bush,” Mr. Makinson said. “Still, the differences are significant.”
Another significance, not shown in the center’s study, was Mr. McCain’s apparently unsuccessful efforts to raise even larger sums of so-called “special interest” money.
According to his campaign expenditure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), he traveled extensively last year to New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and elsewhere for fund-raising events and meetings with potential $1,000 givers. He also retained professional fund-raisers to tap big political givers.
For the first nine months of 1999, Mr. McCain led all presidential candidates in money raised from casino gambling interests, Mr. Makinson said only to be overtaken by Mr. Bush in the last quarter. By year’s end, Mr. McCain raised $69,312 from the gambling industry; Mr. Bush raised $95,450. Gambling executives gave $25,250 to Mr. Gore and $8,500 to Mr. Bradley.
The top five givers to Mr. McCain, who is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, were executives of telecommunications and financial companies U.S. West Inc. ($50,300); Goldman Sachs & Co. ($47,885); Viacom Inc. ($47,750); Merrill Lynch ($37,425); and Nomura Securities International ($31,500). But his fund raising badly trailed the other candidates in all sectors of the economy, the study found.
Mr. Bush widely led in contributions from physicians and health professionals, the insurance industry, commercial bankers, securities and investment executives, computer, automotive, and oil industries. He narrowly led Mr. Gore in contributions from lawyers and law firms.
“Most money from attorneys historically has gone to Democrats, though that tends to be the case more in congressional campaigns than at the presidential level,” Mr. Makinson said.
Mr. Bush also bested his White House rivals with contributions from civil servants and public officials, which Mr. Makinson attributed to the coattails of his father, former President George Bush. The younger Mr. Bush also has active backing from political organizers and fund-raisers of the 30-member Republican Governors Association.
Mr. Gore raised more campaign money from Washington lobbyists and the entertainment industry. Mr. Bradley led fund raising in the education sector.
The FEC requires candidates every three months to itemize all contributions and expenditures of $200 and above and to report total contributions received. The reports must include the occupation or profession of reported contributors, which was the basis for the center’s study.
Geographically, Mr. Bush’s fund raising bested all candidates. “Only in Arizona has John McCain raised more,” Mr. Makinson said.
“On the Democratic side, … Al Gore has carried most of the Sunbelt and the Great Plains. Bradley has raised more from the Northeast, most of the Midwest, the Pacific coast, Montana, and Utah. Final score: 19 states for Bradley, 31 for Gore. Among Bradley’s 19 states, however, are California and New York the two richest lodes of campaign cash in the nation.”