George W. Bush is readying another nationwide fund-raising blitz to supplement his growing campaign coffers and cement his quest for the White House after the spring Republican primaries, supporters say.
Political strategists who have already helped raise more than $67 million for the Texas governor’s presidential bid say a further grass-roots fund-raising wave will be aimed at pushing the war chest toward the $100 million mark by the time of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia this summer.
A Bush campaign aide said the campaign has $31.4 million on hand after spending almost $36 million.
In the name of Mr. Bush’s presidential quest, the strategists say his fund raising also aims to raise an additional $100 million in so-called “soft-money” for state Republican committees to help bring Republican majorities again to Congress and more state legislatures. Mr. Bush has already raised tens of millions of dollars for state Republican parties this year.
Mr. Bush is using ready-made lists of 30 Republican governors, who months ago committed him their full support and turned over their own state political and fund-raising operations to bolster his candidacy, said Gov. Edward T. Schafer of North Dakota, chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
“You’ve got a political organization that got each one of us [governors] elected, and usually those organizations are strong, they’re committed, and they really know the state and the workings of the state because they’ve been engaged in getting us to the governors’ chairs,” Mr. Schafer told The Washington Times.
“And that’s good, particularly in caucus states and grass-roots efforts when you’ve got to get out the vote or get people turned out for a rally or to get them engaged,” he said.
The Republican governors have sent fund-raising letters tailored to their own constituencies on behalf of Mr. Bush’s candidacy, the North Dakota governor said. He said the governors also tapped their top political fund-raisers to put together big events for $1,000 donors in their states to benefit both the Bush campaign and state Republican parties.
As a result, Mr. Bush’s political war chest has swelled by about $10 million in the last three months.
In order to amass a lot of money fairly quickly, campaigns have targeted political loyalists and others willing to donate the $1,000 maximum legal individual contribution, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Mr. Bush’s average contribution of $844 for reportable donations through Sept. 30 is the third highest among candidates, FEC reports show. Contributions to the campaign of his major Republican contender, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, averaged $915. On the Democratic side, contributions of Vice President Al Gore averaged $954, while those of former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey averaged $771.
By Thursday, presidential and congressional candidates for next November’s elections must file their latest quarterly FEC reports of contributions and expenditures above $250 for the last three months of 1999.
According to several strategists and consultants, Mr. Bush’s second fund-raising wave during the rest of the primary season will target the $200 to $500 givers. Attempts to reach the governor’s senior strategist, Karl Rove, for this story were not successful.
Mr. Bush “can come back to a place like North Carolina and have a lot of participants at the $200 to $500 level,” said Marc Rotterman, a Republican political consultant who organized several $1,000-per-person events in Raleigh last August that raised more than $400,000 for the Bush campaign.
“It was not a hard labor to raise that money,” Mr. Rotterman said. “A lot of activists want a winner and they perceive that Governor Bush can go all the way.”
State Republican finance chairmen say they are excited by Mr. Bush’s ability to rally crowds and get money flowing for their own local political efforts as well as his own. In a visit to Portland, Ore., last July, 400 luncheon guests contributed $379,000 to his campaign. The state party raised additional thousands by auctioning baseballs that Mr. Bush, who once was an owner of the Texas Rangers, signed during his visit.
“He raised more than any other candidate has raised in Oregon in history,” said Butch Swindells, a Portland trust and investment executive who serves as Republican state finance chairman.
Mr. Bush’s appeal is bipartisan, he said. “I have never found a candidate that generated more interest from regular Democrats than this candidate.”
With a growing donor list now topping 160,000 contributors, members of the money-raising team say Mr. Bush’s strategy envisions second donations from proven givers after next spring to keep his campaign generously fueled through the November elections.
“People are coming out of the woodwork to support him,” said John Trescott, spokesman for Gov. John Engler of Michigan, a key organizer for Mr. Bush.
A multimillion-dollar direct-mail campaign continues for donors who traditionally make $10 to $100 donations. According to Mr. Bush’s FEC reports, direct-mail results are flourishing and showing substantial grass-roots support for his presidential bid.
From July 1 to Sept. 30, Mr. Bush’s campaign committee paid more than $1 million in so-called “caging fees” to an Alexandria company, Automated Compliance Services. The company receives the postage-paid business-reply envelopes containing non-reportable contributions under $250 in response to the Texas governor’s various mailed fund-raising appeals. The caging fees indicate that there are tens of thousands of small givers in addition to individual contributors reported to the FEC, direct-mail experts say.
By Sept. 30, Mr. Bush reported donations of $55.9 million from 66,226 donors. Other major contenders reported as follows: Mr. McCain, $7.06 million from 7,722 donors; Mr. Gore, $26.8 million from 28,055 contributors; and Mr. Bradley, $19.02 million from 24,675 contributors.
Fund-raising activities have substantially swelled Mr. Bush’s grass-roots support while state Republican organizers have rallied their most loyal political activists behind his campaign, top strategists say.
“I think the reality of it is, no matter what may happen in the first couple of [primary] shots, that George W. is going to get the nomination,” Mr. Schafer said.
“When he gets the nomination, one of the huge differences that’s going to take place this year than in ‘96 [when a bruising primary battle caused Republican nominee Bob Dole to run out of campaign funds] is he’ll have the money and the organization to be competitive throughout the summer.”
In 1996, Mr. Dole’s campaign was quiet from May to August, after he had the nomination sewn up, while President Clinton swelled his campaign coffers and used the White House to project his messages to the American people on nightly TV news programs.
But Mr. Bush’s campaign will be competitive and ready to match the Democrats throughout next spring and summer, Mr. Schafer said.
Republican governors and their campaign operatives “are going to be engaged during that period of time in states that have 340 electoral votes. Now he only needs 270 to win [the November election]. So I think that’s where we can really bring the strength as well,” he said.
Former President Bush, the Texas governor’s father, is actively engaged in fund raising and political organizing for his son, with travel expenses being paid by the governor’s presidential campaign committee.
The former president’s top political strategists and advisers and those of another son, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida also are big campaign money-raisers and organizers for George W. Bush. They include Ann W. Herberger of Miami, President Bush’s coordinator for the 1988 Iowa caucuses who also served as Gov. Jeb Bush’s finance director for his 1994 and 1998 gubernatorial campaigns. Mrs. Herberger’s firm also is a financial consultant for the Republican Governors Association.
Four fund-raising and political organizing experts for former California Gov. Pete Wilson and other major Republican candidates in that state have signed on with Mr. Bush. They include Wendy Cator of Newport Beach; Joanne Davis of Long Beach, who worked for unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Dan Lungren; Lacee Beaulieu of El Cajon, who raised money for unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Matt Fong; and Wendy Warfield of Sacramento.
Mr. Bush’s other top paid financial and political organizers in key states include: Ralph Reed of Century Strategies, Duluth, Ga., former executive director of the Christian Coalition; Market Strategies Inc., of Livonia, Mich., (Mr. Engler’s polling firm); Cathy Blaney in New York City; Lori Hardwick in Portland, Ore.; Todd Olsen and Ted Delisi in Austin, Texas, (direct-mail specialists who purchased Mr. Rove’s Austin firm); Tom Benedetti in Richmond; Stan Huckaby in Alexandria, (President Bush’s campaign treasurer in 1992); and Debbie LeHardy in Arlington, (1994 fund-raising director for the American Cancer Society’s “Race for the Cure” against breast cancer).