- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Under the current soft-money ban to political parties, fund raising must focus on hard-money contributions, and Republicans outpaced Democrats by about $83 million in the first six months of the 2003-2004 election cycle.

During the first six months of 2003, with the new soft-money ban in effect, federally registered Republican Party committees raised $139.1 million, while Democratic committees raised $56.4 million, according to Federal Election Commission numbers.

Soft money describes the unlimited contributions that wealthy individuals, unions and corporations could make to political parties. Hard money in contrast, is subject to caps.

But overall fund-raising totals for both parties have gone down, compared with the first six months of 2001 when soft money was allowed. During that time, Republicans raised $160 million in both hard and soft dollars and Democrats raised $77 million in both.

Still, experts say both parties are adjusting to the new law and learning to more effectively raise hard money.

“Living in a hard-money world is something the parties can adapt to and are adapting to,” said Celia Wexler director of research for Common Cause. “This is not going to hobble them incredibly; they’re still raising a heck of a lot of money.”

Miss Wexler said one thing that has eased the transition is that the new campaign finance law, which went into effect after the November 2002 elections, raises the cap on individual hard-money contributions from $1,000 to $2000.

Partly because of that, most of the political committees have been able to raise more hard money so far this year than during the comparable period in 2001, even though their overall fund-raising totals have dropped without soft money.

Republicans traditionally have outpaced Democrats at raising hard money, so Democrats have focused on raising soft money to make up the difference. As a result, Republicans say the soft-money ban hurts Democrats more.

“For years, Democrats pretended that they wanted campaign finance reform, all while relying heavily on soft money,” said the National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman, Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds of New York. He said yesterday’s Supreme Court decision upholding key parts of the new law “breaks the Democrats’ back.”

But leading Democrats said they are doing just fine.

“The Democratic National Committee has spent the past three years preparing to operate effectively under the new law and putting the party in the best financial shape in its history,” said DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. “This year, the DNC is expected to have its most successful year of federal fund raising. …”

Mr. McAuliffe said Democrats have increased Internet fund raising by 600 percent, and gone from 400,000 small donors to 1 million.

Greg Speed, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the new law forced Democrats to focus on “the grass-roots level for greater financial support,” and to “place a greater emphasis on communicating with our base.”

He said the changes have worked. Before 2003, the DCCC had never raised more than $1 million per month by direct marketing in an off-year, but this year they have raised more than $1 million in each of the past six months through direct mailing and other direct-marketing efforts.


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