By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Bush's troops point out that unions and other "special-interest" groups will be pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers of the Democratic nominee. But the Democratic challengers face a real bind. The government matches the first $250 of every private donation but requires that candidates stick to a primary-campaign spending limit that will be about $45 million. That wouldn't be enough for, say, a Howard Dean to match up with Bush, who will be able to spend as much as he wants because he's forgoing the matching funds.
Latest figures from the Federal Election Commission show just how much Bush's $84.7 million dwarfs everyone else. Dean has raised $25.3 million; John Kerry, $19.9 million; John Edwards, $14.4 million; Dick Gephardt, $13.6 million; Joe Lieberman, $11.7 million; Wesley Clark, $3.5 million; and Dennis Kucinich, $3.4 million. Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton haven't even reached half a million each. To rake in enough money to compete with Dubya, a candidate like Dean might have to forget about matching funds so he can spend more money. So much for campaign finance "reform."
Dean's staffers have an edge in one area. Half of the $15 million they raised during the summer came from online contributorsmore than anyone else, including Bush, got through the Internet. But fundraisers are another story. A June 18 party hosted by actor-director Rob Reiner raised $125,000. That's nothing compared with the money raised by Bush, even from his Archie Bunker types. Dean nearly matches Bush's total of 262,000 donors, but Bush gets three times as much money overall, according to The Wall Street Journal.
It's not that the Democratic candidates don't have their own bundlers. Kerry, for example, has created a "Hall of Fame" for $100,000 bundlers, but he only has 10 of them and hasn't disclosed their names. And Democrats have powerful allies. Edwards's chief fundraiser is Fred Baron, a Dallas lawyer and former head of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
Long shot Dick Gephardt of Missouri, a veteran of many small Midwestern-style campaigns, knows how it's done. "Every fundraising event I have had has yielded other people who will do fundraising events, and that's what you seek to do," he said. "It's like a giant Tupperware party."