- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 3, 2007

When Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton recently announced her presidential candidacy, she also revealed her intention to become the first such aspirant from a major party to forgo public financing for both the primaries and the general election since the program began in 1976. For after her Jan. 27 announcement, the Hillary-for-president campaign claimed its first victim: Sen. John Kerry, who said he would not seek the 2008 nomination.

At this stage, there simply is no way of estimating how much money the Clinton fund-raising juggernaut is capable of collecting. After Mrs. Clinton’s weekend announcement, we are swimming in uncharted waters. Terry McAuliffe, whose once-eye-popping fund-raising feats for Bill Clinton and the Democratic National Committee will soon be viewed as relatively quaint, has signed on as chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Harold Ickes — the Clinton White House deputy chief of staff who daily monitored the money tally sheets for the Clinton re-election campaign — is also aboard. More recently, Mr. Ickes wrote the book on how to bypass the McCain-Feingold soft-money ban by exploiting the 527 loophole during the 2004 campaign. As chief of staff for America Coming Together, he was instrumental in raising $80 million in 2004; and as a director of the Media Fund, he helped raise another $60 million that same year.

Political strategists expect that serious Republican and Democratic presidential candidates will raise $100 million before the end of 2007. That’s the so-called “entry fee.” In Mrs. Clinton’s case, consider it the floor. In her Senate re-election campaign, Mrs. Clinton raised more than $51 million and spent $37 million. At the end of November, she had more than $14 million in the bank. She used much of the $37 million to finance a national donor database.

If Mrs. Clinton emerges as the party’s nominee before the end of February 2008, she conceivably could raise half a billion dollars before the Democratic convention and another half a billion before the November election. Remember: When Mr. Kerry wrapped up the Democratic nomination on March 2, 2004, his campaign established the then-lofty goal of raising $80 million before the Democratic convention in late July. (We remember hearing snickers.) Confined to maximum individual contributions of $2,000, he raised $195 million in less than five months. By rejecting federal funds for the general election, today Mrs. Clinton can accept individual contributions totaling $4,600. And if she becomes the Democratic nominee, she will have two years to cash the checks.

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