|FILLING THE COFFERS|
May 25, 2000
Kwame Holman reports on the feverish -- and record-setting -- presidential fundraising for the 2000 election.
KWAME HOLMAN: On a recent spring evening, some of Maryland's most loyal Republicans gathered at Baltimore's Grand Hyatt Hotel to honor their party's presumptive presidential nominee, George W. Bush.
SPOKESMAN: "You want money? It's in there with the thing filled out."
KWAME HOLMAN: And on this night, they expressed their support for Bush in cash and checks, handing over one-hundred and one thousand contributions to attend side by side fund-raising events and hopefully meet the guest of honor. A $1000 contributor was ensured a meeting with the Texas governor at a private reception.
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile the $100 donors were treated to drinks and finger food in the main ballroom, while they awaited their turn with the candidate. Donors said they contributed for a variety of reasons.
|The smaller donors|
MARC McFAUL, Bush Supporter: I'm a small business owner and I'm tired of being taxed. No matter what I do, I get a new tax in the mail everyday and I think George Bush will stop that.
CORRESPONDENT: Did you write a check today?
ROSE DAVIS, Bush Supporter: Oh yes. Yes I did and I'm a working woman so I don't have a lot of money so it's a sacrificial contribution -- and I was glad to give it to him. I wanted to help him.
KWAME HOLMAN: Shelly Kamins helped organize the evening.
SHELLY KAMINS, Republican Fund-Raiser: I think that it's one of the great things about America is that people can stand up, write a check for $1000, and in our free system, pursue their beliefs and pursue their convictions with their resources.
SPOKESPERSON: Governor George W. Bush. (cheering)
KWAME HOLMAN: The Bush events in this heavily-Democratic state attracted more than 1000 contributors. The candidate thanked them for their support and urged them to keep it up.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Tonight is a bad sign for Al Gore. It looks like we're going to be competitive in the state of Maryland.
|Rebuilding campaign funds|
KWAME HOLMAN: This particular fundraiser had a specific purpose -- to help the Bush campaign replenish its coffers. Nearly all of a record-setting $70 million -- on hand at the start of the campaign - was spent during Bush's bruising primary fight against Senator John McCain.
RICHARD HUG, Republican Fund-raiser: The primary was tougher than was anticipated. It was not Plan A; it was Plan B. It was always contemplated that he'd run in all 50 states, which he did. But it drained more money than was anticipated.
KWAME HOLMAN: Richard Hug is a top Bush fundraiser -- one of 200 so-called "pioneers." Each already had raised at least $100,000 for the presidential campaign. But Hug and the other pioneers were called on again to organize this new round of fundraisers.
RICHARD HUG: What we don't want to happen is to go black -- that means no TV between now and the convention. Between now and then, we need funding to stay on TV, to get our message out.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Pioneers were successful. In a span of two weeks, they helped Bush raise -- $125,000 in Wheaton, Illinois; $250,000 in little rock, Arkansas; $750,000 in Palm Beach, Florida; and nearly a million dollars in New York and New Jersey.
Fund raising is particularly critical for Bush. A year ago he decided to finance his campaign solely through private contributions. He declined federal matching funds, which would have limited the amount of money he could raise and spent during the primary. But the Bush campaign still had to abide by the limit on how much individual campaign contribution limit contributors may give -- no more than $1000 to a candidate during the primary season, which ends when each party nominates its candidate in August. The limit on individual contributions posed a problem during Bush's added round of fundraising because many of his potential contributors already had reached their $1000 limit. The Washington Post reported on the second-time-around fundraising difficulties for Bush's Palm Beach event last March. Bush's Florida finance chairman, Alfred Hoffman, said: "We thought we had the state tapped out; we were very concerned."
RICHARD HUG: I can empathize. I read the article. I can empathize with Al Hoffman down there. He's a friend of mine. It's tougher the second time around.
KWAME HOLMAN: But, by the end of the night in Baltimore, Hug and his pioneers had exceeded their fundraising goal by 25 percent -- collecting $250,000 for the Bush campaign. To date, Bush's supplemental fundraising effort has brought $10 million into his campaign war chest.
Unlike George W. Bush, Al Gore is taking federal matching funds and therefore his pre-convention campaign is capped at about $40 million. Gore has been out-raised by Bush's unrestricted campaign two-to-one.
With ten weeks to go before the Democratic Convention, Gore has raised all the money he's allowed to for his campaign and has spent all but $10 million of it. So Gore has turned his focus to raising "soft money" -- the unlimited, unregulated amounts given by corporations, unions, and individuals to the national political parties.
Last night the Democrats set a record for a single fundraising event, taking in $26 million for the party at Washington's MCI Center. Most of the 13 thousand who packed the sports arena paid $50 for admission. But the night of speeches and music -- billed as a tribute to Bill Clinton -- also included individual donors who gave up to half a million dollars.
In contrast, for an event at Washington's Mayflower Hotel in April, the Democratic National Committee invited only 50 donors to a private dinner hosted by Gore. Each guest contributed $20,000. The event raised a million dollars. None of those we asked chose to speak to us about the fundraiser, but Scott Harshbarger of the campaign finance watchdog group, Common Cause, did.
SCOTT HARSHBARGER, Common Cause: What we believe is occurring here is that you have a small number of special interests whether they are wealthy individuals, or corporations or unions, who simply are giving huge amounts of money to make sure they have access, make sure they're heard, make sure they have a seat at the table. And candidates and parties, and parties particularly have become almost if you will, glorified money drops and mail drops for funneling soft money.
KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans are raising soft money as well. In fact, until the Democrats' fund-raiser last night, this event hosted by George W. Bush last month in Washington held the record for money raised in a single evening: $21 million for the Republican National Committee. But its the Democrats that have made the biggest gains in soft money contributions this year, raising nearly as much as Republicans have and more than Democrats raised in all of 1996. Coordinating the Democrats' effort is Joe Andrew. A successful Democratic Party fund-raiser in Indiana, he now is chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
JOE ANDREW, Democratic National Committee Chairman: There are clearly individuals that we meet every single day who are enthused, who are energetic about Democratic campaigns, and are willing to dig a little deeper to make sure that our message gets out there.
KWAME HOLMAN: The success of the National Democratic Party's fundraising comes despite continuing investigations into its money raising during the 1996 presidential campaign. Joe Andrew faults the process for any perceived abuses and says Democrats are trying to change it.
JOE ANDREW: Ultimately all of us have to be concerned about the fact that 25 percent of Americans simply don't vote, don't participate in the process. And if there is any belief, even just an iota of evidence that some of those people aren't participating because they think that money is doing something to the process that makes their involvement less important, then we ought to address that. We ought to change something here. And we ought to have campaign finance reform to bring those people back in the process so it has more credibility.
KWAME HOLMAN: Many leading Republicans support the use of soft money. Richard Hug is one who does not.
RICHARD HUG: Frankly I think there's a big problem with money and politics. Probably most people don't really understand the money problems. You should not --corporations -- as an example -- should not be able to throw an untold amounts of soft money to the parties. Unions shouldn't be able to do this. I think individuals should be able to give money and I think it should be more than a thousand dollars. And I think Governor Bush would like to see, I know he wants to see sensible, commonsense campaign finance reform.
|Soft money and issue ads|
KWAME HOLMAN: Much of the controversial soft money goes to purchase so-called issue ads. They were used extensively by both parties four years ago.
DNC AD: Bob Dole attacking the President. But President Clinton cut taxes for 15 million working families, proposes tax credits for college. Bob Dole voted to raise payroll taxes, Social Security taxes, the '90 income tax increase -- $900 billion in higher taxes.
BILL CLINTON (from ad): I will not raise taxes on the middle class.
AD SPOKESPERSON: We heard this a lot.
BILL CLINTON (from ad): We've got to give middle class tax relief no matter what we do.
AD SPOKESPERSON: Six months later, he gave us the largest tax increase in history.
KWAME HOLMAN: According to a Supreme Court interpretation of federal election law, such ads are legal unless they explicitly endorse a candidate.
AD SPOKESPERSON: Tell President Clinton you can't afford higher tax else for more wasteful spending.
KWAME HOLMAN: Joe Andrew says Democrats would be willing to do away with their party's issue ads if Republicans agree do the same.
JOE ANDREW: We're willing to give up the 30-second ads. We want to have debates every single week between Al Gore and George W. Bush. But we will not unilaterally disarm. We're going to make sure that we can get our message out, and we're going to make sure that we can elect Democrats who will fight for campaign finance reform to change the very system that will finance the advertising that is crucial in this election.
SCOTT HARSHBARGER: Common Cause has never asked a candidate or a party to unilaterally disarm. We're real about this. We understand there's a lot of money around and there's going to be lots of money around. But that's why reform is necessary. Until somebody is held accountable we're going to have face the fact that the party, that each party is going to be able to say, well they're doing it therefore we have to do it.
KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, both parties continue to raise soft money at a record-setting pace.
SCOTT HARSHBARGER: Each party is going to try to top the other because that's going to be the headline, it is unfortunately how people measure success in this country and our culture and as well as in our politics and that's going to continue.
KWAME HOLMAN: According to some projections, by election day, the two parties will have raised and spent a half billion dollars in soft money.
|Support the kind of journalism done by the NewsHour...Become a member of your local PBS station.|