- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2001

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The national Republican Party yesterday reported raising a record $6.8 million in March, mostly in small donations from contributors registering their approval of President Bush.

Republican National Committee Chairman James S. Gilmore III and state party chairmen meeting here were quick to call the one-month fund-raising record a vote of confidence for Mr. Bush in his young presidency.

"That´s from 147,000 contributors, with the average donation of 46 bucks — how about that? " said Mr. Gilmore, breaking into a wide smile as an aide handed him the figures.

"It´s attributable to the strong grass-roots support we´re seeing across the United States as a result of the president´s success and his great start, " said Mr. Gilmore, who also is the governor of Virginia.

Republican National Co-Chairman Ann Wagner called the money-raising record "a referendum on the president and his tax-relief and budget programs."

The March figures, released to the Federal Election Commission today, brought total RNC fund raising for the first quarter to $23.7 million — another record, said Mr. Gilmore. He said the three-month total surpassed the amount raised last year, during the presidential election campaign, when donations normally are at their peak.

Deputy RNC Chairman Jack Oliver, who was the Bush campaign´s fund-raiser last year, said the new totals show that "not only are the RNC members, the state chairmen and party leaders excited, but so are the grass-roots activists, who make up the core fund-raising support for this party."

Mr. Gilmore spent the day outlining for state chairmen his ambitious restructuring and expansion of the RNC to help state parties raise money and get the president´s message out to local media and citizens on a daily basis. The total raised from direct-mail and telephone solicitations came from 484,000 contributions, for an average donation of $48.94, the RNC said.

Republicans once again showed they are adept at generating small contributions that legally may go directly to candidates. Of the $23.7 million January-to-March total raised by the RNC, $20.2 million was in federal regulated "hard dollars" — precisely the kind of fund raising in which the Democrats are weak.

The Democrats rely heavily on unregulated "soft money" contributions that would be banned under the proposed McCain-Feingold campaign regulation that has passed the Senate.

"The grass-roots financial backing we are getting shows this party has a broad base of financial support, not just the big contributors," Mr. Gilmore said. He noted that the RNC, unlike the Democratic National Committee, voluntarily files monthly fund-raising reports with the FEC. The DNC does not divulge the average amounts of its fund raising and is not expected to release its fund-raising total until July or later.

Mr. Gilmore said political and structural changes he is making in the party´s principal national committee fit "hand-in-glove with the grass-roots emphasis we´re placing on fund raising. We have doubled the budget for precinct organizations," he said.

Mr. Gilmore said Democrats use labor unions, environmental lobbies and civil-rights groups as a substitute for party organization.

"But what the Democrats do is effective, and so we now need to build up our precinct organizations, because we don´t have a lot of special-interest groups to support us."

Mr. Gilmore has created "a whole new division" within the RNC devoted to reaching out to "groups that we have not had the support of in the past and that we want the support of in the future." He said these include the black, Hispanic, Catholic, Asian and Jewish communities.

"And we´re going to make our party more appealing to women," he said, adding that a special emphasis would be placed on Puerto Rican voters who are coming to the states in large numbers and who have less of a commitment to the Democrats than do some other groups.

"We have to ask what we have to do different to succeed in the future. Frankly, I don´t have all the answers and we´re going to be listening to people across the country who we think are going to give us the answers."

One of the most ambitious changes Mr. Gilmore is implementing is in the RNC media division, headed by Communications Director Mark Miner. For the first time, it is hiring five regional press secretaries to promote the president´s and the party´s agenda around the country.

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