- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

In their fight to retain control of the U.S. Senate in November's election, Democrats won't be able to rely on the deep pockets of individual candidates the way they did in their successful 2000 campaign.
None of this year's Democratic Senate nominees, or potential nominees in states where primaries have yet to happen, has indicated he or she will spend the $10 million that was critical to Democrats' wins in Washington state and Minnesota, or anywhere near the $60 million spent by a Democrat to win New Jersey in the last election.
Those three races accounted for Democrats' holding one vulnerable open seat and scoring close wins over two Republican incumbents. Democrats almost entirely funded their own successful bids, which Republican and Democratic party officials and outside observers say allowed individual donors, other Democratic campaigns and the national party to put resources into other races.
"If the candidate didn't have their own money in it, those three races could have easily sucked up another $30 or $40 million that would have had to come out of other races," said Ron Faucheux, editor of Campaigns and Elections magazine.
Democrats turned a 54-46 Republican advantage before the election into a 50-50 Senate. Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords' subsequent defection from the Republican Party to independent status delivered control to Democrats.
Sen. Maria Cantwell spent $10 million of her own money to unseat Sen. Slade Gorton in Washington and Sen. Mark Dayton spent $11 million to defeat Republican Sen. Rod Grams in Minnesota.
But the 2000 New Jersey race for the seat vacated by Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg stands in a league of its own. Jon Corzine's campaign spent $63 million including $60 million of his own money to beat Republican Bob Franks. Mr. Faucheux says Republicans were scared away from a winnable race by the size of Mr. Corzine's fortune and his willingness to spend.
All told, Republican Senate nominees spent $2.6 million of their own money in 2000, while Democratic Senate nominees spent $90 million of their own, according to Federal Election Commission data. That accounted for more than one third of the money Senate Democrats spent, but less than 1 percent of Republicans' spending.
This year, Republicans anticipate Democrats having to make tougher funding choices.
"It certainly would make it more difficult for Democrats to make decisions on where to spend when last time around they had Jon Corzine pouring tens of millions of dollars into his campaign, as well as Cantwell having the money to fund her campaign at the time," said Dan Allen, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Jim Jordan, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the self-funders definitely helped.
"The net effect of self-funders was, it left us money we could spend in other states," he said.
But he said that's not as important this year, for two reasons: First, the committee is 40 percent ahead of its 2000 fund-raising pace, and second, the states in play this year are just not as expensive as those in 2000. There are no races in California or New York, which alone absorbed millions of dollars.
One race with big-money potential this year is North Carolina, where former Clinton administration Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles is running. If he wins a Sept. 10 Democratic primary, he may have to dip into his fortune to compete with likely Republican nominee Elizabeth Dole, who is one of the top fund-raisers this year.
And then there's New Jersey, where Republican nominee Douglas Forrester transferred $6 million from the prescription-drug-plan company he co-owns to his campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Robert G. Torricelli. Democrats charge that amounts to a corporate donation to his campaign, which would be illegal, but Mr. Forrester says the money is his, and that he just chose to leave it in a company account until now.
Wealthy candidates aren't new, and Republicans had their own slate of big spenders in 1998, including Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald of Illinois, who spent $7 million of his own money to unseat a Democrat incumbent, and Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, who spent $10 million on a failed Senate bid. He won a House seat in 2000.

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