George Will's assertion that "Bush's fund-raising is evidence of democratic vitality" reads like something that could have been written by George Orwell ["The Politics of Participation," op-ed, July 29]. The "just-folks" spin that George W. Bush (and Al Gore) have put on their fund-raising is nonsense. The reality is that neither of these candidates' fund-raising has anything to do with broad grass-roots support.

The "nearly 80,000" people who have donated to Mr. Bush are not representative of the country as a whole. Eighty thousand is about three one-hundredths of one percent of the population. The same math holds for Mr. Gore. A tiny elite is voting with its dollars while the rest of us are bystanders.

And this donor class is far whiter, more male, far richer and significantly more conservative than the country as a whole. Those are the findings of a 1998 Joyce Foundation survey of large donors ($200-plus) to congressional campaigns. For example, 81 percent of this group makes more than $100,000 per year, compared with fewer than 5 percent of all Americans. More than half of the donors said they support cutting taxes even if that means reducing public services. But only one-third of the public agrees with that proposition.

So far, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' analysis of the latest candidate filing to the Federal Elections Commission, the biggest investors in the 2000 campaign are not ordinary people but the finance/insurance/real estate sector, with nearly $13.8 million contributed, just more than half to Mr. Bush. Coming in second is that all-purpose category of lawyers and lobbyists, who have chipped in more than $9.1 million, almost a third each to Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore, and a fifth to Bill Bradley. And the fast-growing communications and electronics sector is a distant third, with nearly $3.7 million so far, divided similarly.


Executive Director

Public Campaign