- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2000

Republicans already have raked in more than $35.4 million in unregulated "soft money" for the 2000 presidential and congressional campaigns, raising about $1.50 for every dollar raised by Democrats.
Major corporations and businessmen who normally favor the party in power are giving heavily to Republicans who already control Congress and hope to take back the White House in November.
Democrats, who have raised about $25.6 million in "soft money" for party-building and issue-oriented advertising efforts, are getting just half the business contributions going to the GOP, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Organized labor is still solidly in the Democratic camp, providing more than $3 million to Democrats but just $138,800 to Republicans, the filings show. But even solidly Democratic groups such as the National Education Association have hedged their bets by throwing campaign cash to the GOP as well.
The NEA gave $40,000 to the Republican National Committee's state elections committee. Democratic political groups received $75,000 from the teachers' lobby. Mary Elizabeth Teasley, an NEA spokeswoman, said the election of Republican governors in 30 states has lured the group's cash to GOP political coffers.
"It comes from voluntary contributions to our PAC [political action committee]; there is no formula," she said, explaining that the NEA gave $40,000 to attend a Republican Governors Association dinner last year and an equivalent amount to attend a Democratic Governors Association dinner on the same evening.
"Clearly, we have a huge interest in the Republican and Democratic governors. It is a forum for us to get our program forward," the NEA spokeswoman said. "We look for opportunities to advance our policy agenda. So much education policy is made at the state level. Governors are key to that policy agenda."
According to public reports to date in the 1999-2000 election cycle, the top 70 corporate and individual soft-money contributors have given $19.1 million to the two major parties, or nearly a third of the total. Leading the pack were AT&T;, which gave a total of $832,150 to both parties, and Chiquita banana tycoon Carl H. Lindner Jr. of Cincinnati, who gave $625,000.
The Service Employees International Union, Mirage Resorts in Las Vegas, Philip Morris, and the Communications Workers of America each gave between $530,000 and $550,000.
"Sizes of contributions are gigantic … and trade associations and other groups are helping spread the word that it is an OK way to give large amounts," said Kent C. Cooper, president of Public Disclosure Inc., a watchdog group that monitors federal election finances.
The money is not supposed to help specific candidates but both national parties "are getting bolder and tying [use of the money] more closely to election activity," said Mr. Cooper, a former veteran FEC official. "It probably ties in with their fund-raising pitches."
Reports show that the Republican National Committee used millions of dollars in the last weeks of the 1999 campaigns to affect the outcomes of the Mississippi governor's race, which Republicans lost by a nose, and races for the Virginia state legislature, where Republicans won a majority for the first time in history.
In October, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, gave the Republican National Committee $236,500 from his New Republican Majority Fund PAC. Days later, the RNC gave an equivalent amount to the Mississippi Republican Party.
In all, national Republican political committees poured more than $951,725 of soft money into Mike Parker's campaign for governor in the last weeks leading to the November election.
Similarly in Virginia, the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee poured $430,000 in last-minute soft-money contributions into state Republican coffers to affect the outcome of state legislative races. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee countered with $61,800 in contributions to beleaguered Democratic candidates in Virginia.
The DSCC also has set up a New York Senate 2000 group that raised more than $1.2 million, including $362,000 in soft money, for the expected key Senate race between first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic candidate, and Republican New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Both President and Mrs. Clinton held fund-raisers for New York Senate 2000 in the closing months of 1999. In October, the group channeled $200,000 of soft money to the DSCC, according to Public Disclosure. Last month, $123,700 in donations were sent from New York Senate 2000 to the DSCC.
The DNC has a separate group, New York Democratic Victory 2000, to channel soft money to the New York Senate race.
Mr. Cooper said the justification for such soft-money transfers is party-building, "but the [Republican and Democratic] senatorial committees and congressional committees exist to elect Republicans or Democrats to Congress." He said both parties are breaking the spirit, if not the letter, of campaign finance laws by using soft money in a way not allowed to benefit specific campaigns.
The DNC did not respond to inquiries.
RNC spokesman Bill McCarthy said Republican policy is to use soft money "for a variety of purposes ranging from local elections, party building, issue advertising, and so forth."
This year, Mr. McCarthy said, "Our No. 1 priority is to retake the White House. Another top priority will be the [state legislative] redistricting races that will reshape the Congress for the next decade."
Redistricting of House seats for the next Congress "could hinge on 35 to 40 key state legislative races" around the country, the RNC spokesman said. He said the RNC will be "very focused" over the next few months in its decisions to funnel soft money to "highly targeted" state legislative and governors' races that will determine both Republican control of state houses and the House at the federal level.

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