THIS CAMPAIGN season the national political parties are having to make do without the big "soft money" checks to which they had become so addicted. Instead of six-figure or higher donations from corporations, labor unions and wealthy people, the parties are limited to individual donations that are capped at $25,000 a year. And so, like their candidates, the parties are more reliant than ever on fundraisers with well-stocked Rolodexes -- the kind of folks who can coax $10,000 or $25,000 checks from many friends and associates.
Both the Republican and Democratic national committees have set up new programs as an incentive for such bundlers. The RNC has just launched its "Super Rangers," modeled after the $100,000 Pioneers and $200,000 Rangers who have swept up checks for the Bush campaigns. Attaining Super Ranger status requires producing $300,000 in contributions for the party by Aug. 15. On the Democratic side, there are two similar entities: Patriots, who collect $100,000 for the party, and trustees, who bring in a combination of $250,000 for the party and Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign (Mr. Kerry gets the first $2,000 from an individual contributor, and the party gets the rest.).
But there is a significant difference between the approaches of the two parties -- and it's not just that the Republicans set the money bar higher. The RNC plans to post the list of Super Rangers on its Web site, just as the Bush campaign does with its Pioneers and Rangers. The DNC says it will not disclose the names of its Patriots and trustees. This is wrong. It is inconsistent with Democrats' professed belief in the importance of full disclosure.
More than that, it is inconsistent with the practice of the party's putative nominee, Mr. Kerry, who -- to his credit -- was the first contender in the Democratic pack to release the names of his big campaign bundlers (those who collect $50,000 or more). "John Kerry continues the leadership of transparency," his campaign crowed in March when it released an updated list of bundlers. The Kerry campaign gave itself a similar pat on the back last month when it released a list of the lobbyists Mr. Kerry has met with during his Senate career. "This is part of our effort to be as transparent as possible, in contrast to the Bush administration," said press secretary Stephanie Cutter. Will Mr. Kerry exempt his party from the transparency program?