- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 20, 2002

Hoping to maximize their dollars, congressional candidates and political parties are increasingly taking a team approach to fund raising.
They're pooling resources for joint events or sharing donors, then splitting up the money afterward in a strategy that helped raise at least $90 million for Republicans and Democrats in the last election.
Federal regulators have blessed the joint ventures for more than a decade, and they're cropping up around the country again this election.
"It's like a waterfall. The water pours in till it fills up one bucket and then it goes to the next bucket," said Ben Whitney, campaign manager for Republican Senate candidate Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who is using at least four joint committees to broaden his fund raising.
Some joint committees are created to divvy up contributions from a particular fund-raising event and give donors the convenience of writing one check. When President Bush went to Connecticut to raise money for Reps. Nancy L. Johnson and Rob Simmons, they divided the money through a joint fund-raising committee created for the event.
Others give candidates and party committees access to each other's donors throughout the election season, with money divided in prearranged formulas. In some cases, if a donor reaches the contribution limit for one candidate, the extra money simply goes to another who is part of the joint committee.
Democratic donor Peter Buttenweiser said such committees offer him and his wife a way to continue giving after they've donated the legal maximum to congressional candidates.
The investment banking heir estimates he's given around $300,000 for the 2000 and 2002 elections to joint fund-raising committees.
The joint committees give political parties another source of "soft money," five- and six-figure checks from businesses, unions and others that candidates can't accept. The parties can take soft money in unlimited amounts for general party-building activities, such as get-out-the-vote drives and ads highlighting party issues.
Donors to joint committees like Missouri Senate 2002, set up by Sen. Jean Carnahan and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, aren't supposed to know how the party is spending the soft money. Mr. Buttenweiser said he doesn't know for sure, but believes that if he donates to a Carnahan joint committee, for example, it will help Mrs. Carnahan.
"I happen to have close working relationships with the Democratic Senate campaign committee, and I know their people," he said. "I have confidence that first of all, if the Carnahan campaign raises, let's say, $3 million to put in this joint account, that they will get back that and probably more, not in cash but in services, like TV ads and other kinds of assisting help from the DSCC, that they'll get at least the $3 million and probably a lot more."
DSCC spokeswoman Tovah Ravitz-Meehan said no money raised through joint fund-raising agreements is earmarked by the party committee for a certain race. Instead, it goes into a general pot of money for spending as the DSCC sees fit, she said.
For example, in 2000, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein raised far more for her joint committee with the DSCC than the DSCC spent on her re-election bid, while this year it is likely to spend more on Texas Democrat Ron Kirk's Senate race than he will raise for the Kirk-DSCC Victory Fund, Miss Ravitz-Meehan said.

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