- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

Well, it appears that Terry McAuliffe, who became chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) solely because of his fundraising skills, is experiencing some hard-money cash-flow problems. Hard money represents those contributions to candidates and political parties that are regulated, and, hence, limited by law. According to a report by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) last month, hard-money receipts of the Democratic Party's major political committees declined by 1 percent through June 30, compared to the previous election cycle. (Hard money raised by Republican Party political committees increased nearly 20 percent.)
Last week, The Washington Post reported that hard-money direct-mail donations to the DNC "took a nosedive in August and September." The current situation apparently is so bad that Mr. McAuliffe, who arrived at DNC headquarters promising to significantly reduce the Republican advantage in direct-mail, hard-money fund-raising, refused to provide The Post with recent month-to-month figures for direct-mail contributions. A source close to the DNC, however, told The Post that Mr. McAuliffe has "been on a tear about the direct mail. He is complaining to everyone who will listen."
The Democrats' direct-mail fund-raising problems help to explain why the party's leaders have been delivering tirades bitterly complaining that the nation's approaching confrontation with Iraq has drowned out their efforts to focus the electorate's attention on the economy. Indeed, recent temper-tantrums by former Vice President Al Gore, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and DNC Chairman McAuliffe himself have demonstrated their frustration. Meanwhile, anti-war sentiment has become increasingly intense for millions of prospective voters and donors in the Democratic Party's liberal base. At the same time, these same people have become disillusioned watching their leaders organize the party's congressional support for the president's Iraq policy.
The Democrats' intra-party frustrations have generated an expanding gap in direct-mail fund-raising. For the first nine months of this year, the DNC has raised $21.3 million from direct mail. That is less than a third of the $66.1 million raised so far this year by the Republican National Committee (RNC) from direct-mail. In August and September alone, the RNC raised $16 million from direct mail, or more than 75 percent of the DNC's January-September total.
Direct-mail shortcomings represent a mere symptom of a much larger problem the Democratic Party has with hard money. Figures in last month's FEC report reveal that the $128.7 million in hard money raised by Democratic Party political committees through June 30 was actually less than the money the committees raised through June 30, 1996 six years ago. By contrast, Republican Party political committees raised $283.4 million in hard money through June 30. Not only is that amount more than $50 million above the level the Republican Party raised six years ago, but it is more than $150 million above what Mr. McAuliffe's party has raised this year.
After debts are deducted from cash on hand, as of June 30, Republican Party political committees held an $87-million-to-$27-million advantage in hard money. The August-September "nosedive" in DNC direct mail has made a bad situation worse. No wonder the normally loquacious Mr. McAuliffe is being uncharacteristically tight-lipped.


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