- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

President Bush’s re-election campaign is gathering so much in contributions that some Republicans are wondering why he needs all that money for an uncontested primary, while others wonder why he plans to accept federal financing for the general election campaign.

“Why does an incumbent with no opponent have to raise $100 million and more?” asked Republican fund-raiser Richard Norman.

So far Mr. Bush has taken in more than $84 million for his primary campaign and is shooting for $150 million to $175 million by the time he is formally nominated Sept. 2 at the Republican National Convention in New York.

By contrast, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s total raised to date is only $21 million, far ahead of any of his eight nomination rivals in the Democratic Party.

“It’s clear why the Democrats need the money,” said Mr. Norman. “Democrats who are vying for votes in a few small states need to raise $5 million or $10 million in those early states to get their names out there and compete.

“But Bush already has the attention of everybody in the world, has no opponent in the primary and yet he has raised about as much money as all the Democrats put together.”

Bush campaign officials offer several reasons why they are out to raise so much money.

One reason is that Mr. Bush can spend the money fending off Democratic attacks and presenting his own message through TV ads while Democrats’ nine-way primary is dominating the news through the coming winter and spring.

“Bush doesn’t have a Republican opponent but he does have a long list of Democratic opponents and needs all that money to attack them and solidify his own base,” said Mark Braden, an election-law lawyer and former counsel to the Republican National Committee.

Another reason is that, after the primary season ends, Mr. Bush can give the Republican National Committee whatever he has raised but not spent. The RNC can then spend it in the general election to get out the vote and to counter the $300 million to $500 million that liberal Democratic groups are expected to plow into anti-Bush ads — at least three times what the Democrats spent against Mr. Bush in 2000.

“These new, ‘third party’ liberal groups, which plan to spend $364 million to $520 million to defeat the president and other Republican candidates, have the makings of the next campaign-finance scandal — George Soros, meet Johnny Chung,” said RNC spokesman Jim Dyke. Mr. Soros is a billionaire donor to liberal causes. Chung pleaded guilty to charges of illegal fund raising for President Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign.

Mr. Bush broke all records, including Mr. Clinton’s, for primary-election fund raising in 2000 by raising about $130 million in federally regulated dollars, at a time when no primary donor could give more than $1,000 to a candidate. The new cap is $2,000, which has led some Bush aides to suggest the president could use his donor base to generate an astounding $400 million in primary and general-election contributions combined.

Mr. Bush raised so much in 2000 that he eschewed federal matching funds for his primary, thus freeing him of the state-by-state federal spending limits imposed by the Federal Election Commission on candidates who accept tax dollars for their primary contests.

Mr. Bush will again forgo matching funds for his primary campaign, but Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman said he will accept federal money for the fall general election. That means Mr. Bush, like his Democratic opponent, will be limited to spending $75 million

Some Republicans think if Mr. Bush turns down federal financing for the fall campaign and raises his own money instead, he would have far more than $75 million.

But Bush campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel said, “It is not feasible for the campaign to raise a similar amount of money in such a short period of time.”

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