Debra Fried keeps several dozen tastefully wrapped silver bowls stacked beside her desk at the "Friends of Bob Graham" headquarters here. The bowls are the political equivalent of green stamps. They come in two sizes, 10 and 18 inches in diameter. The larger bowls are sent "in appreciation" to anyone who gives her boss, Florida Gov. Bob Graham (D), a hand in his campaign against Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.) by hosting an event that raises $25,000. The smaller bowls go to people who host an event that raises at least $5,000.
"Big-dollar contributors" who attend such events are sent a computerized "personal" letter from the governor; "low dollar contributors" get a printed postcard of Graham and his family. "Thank you for your generous contribution . . . . Working together, we will win in November."
These are all tools of the trade for Fried, an aggressive professional fund-raiser hired to help build a $5.5 million campaign war chest for Graham.
There was a time, not long ago, when big-time political fund-raising was the province of influence-peddlers and shadowy bagmen who operated out of their personal card files. Candidates would turn to them to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from a handful of wealthy friends and favor-seekers.
Candidates today, faced with raising millions under federal law that limits individual contributions to $2,000 per candidate, turn to a new generation of political technocrats such as Fried. Political fund-raising has become what Rodney Smith, finance director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), calls "a technician's game."
Fried had never worked in Florida and had no contacts here when the Graham campaign hired her. But she knew the techniques of the trade: research, persuasion and follow-through.
"It's really like selling Tupperware. You get 10 people in a room and no matter what their natural resistance, three to five of them are going to buy some Tupperware," Fried said. "When one Tupperware party is over, you just set up another one, figure out who to invite and do the same thing over again."
The new political technocrats borrow from religion as well as psychology. "If you go to church you'll notice that the people who gave last Sunday will probably give this Sunday and next Sunday," Smith said. "That's not unlike what we do."
Fried, who previously had raised money for Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Bruce A. Morrison (D-Conn.), is one of six fund-raisers on Graham's campaign payroll.
They are, in effect, the sales division of a multimillion-dollar corporation that will go out of business on Election Day, Nov. 4. Some, like Fried, Graham's Dade County (Miami) coordinator, have sales territories.
The division's "sales goals" are set out on a huge chart hanging in the office of campaign finance director Boyd Lewis: $3,257,000 by July 1; $3,525,000 by Aug. 1; $3,826,000 by Sept. 1; $4,963,000 by Oct. 1; $5.5 million by Nov. 1.
"We are the salesmen of the campaign," said Lewis, who raised funds for former vice president Walter F. Mondale's unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1984. "Like any salesman, we know different people respond to different approaches.
"We try to set up programs to reach as many of them as possible. Some people will write a check if you send them a letter. So we've contracted with a Washington firm for a limited direct-mail effort. Another person may need a phone call. So we've set up a phone bank to call them through a firm that makes the calls from California . Other people like to go to fancy parties and shake the governor's hand."
The "fancy parties," relatively small events held in private homes or hotels, are Graham's biggest source of money. His staff has prepared a "PERT" (program education and research technique) chart to spell out 11 basic steps needed to stage a successful fancy party.
The steps include recruiting a host (Graham usually does this himself with a phone call eight weeks before the event), gathering names of people who might attend (from lists of past contributors, issue groups and friends of the host), sending invitations (as a rule of thumb only 5 percent of those who receive them contribute), sending mailgrams and "tickler letters" to "fire up your fund-raisers," securing "final sales," and "follow-up."
The professionals depend on volunteers to contact their friends and business associates to sell tickets, which range from $25 to $1,000 each. "The way volunteers get involved in campaigns these days is raising money," Lewis said. "The idea that the way you win elections is knocking on doors doesn't apply anymore."
It also seems that politicians do not win elections by studying issues or talking to average voters. They are too busy raising money. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee finance director Keith Abbott advises Democratic candidates for the Senate to commit 50 percent of their campaign hours to raising money, and to start years, not months, before Election Day. Rubbing Shoulders With the Candidate
"You have staff people and volunteers, but it is the candidate who has to make the final sale," Abbott said. "Donors want to hear from the candidate, to rub shoulders with the candidate, to develop a special relationship with him or her."
But few dollars come easily in politics, according to professional fund-raisers.
"There's no such thing as generous in politics. People don't give money. They want to know, 'What's in it for me?' " said Smith, one of the nation's most successful political fund-raisers. "They trade money for various gratifications. The big ones are ego, patriotism and a desire to belong to something.
"You're a big deal in your community if a senator or governor stops by your house. It's neat to say you went to dinner with Ronald Reagan, even if 3,000 other people were there. That's leverage and we use it," he continued. "For some people a letter is enough. Others want a picture with the president or an intimate dinner with a senator. The trouble is, every year the demand for personal contact escalates, and candidates accommodate the demand to compete . . . . One of the sad things about the process created by the federal law is that it forces candidates to spend too much time fund-raising."
The Senate race in Florida offers dramatic evidence of the new demands imposed on candidates by the need for money. On almost any recent day, Graham or Hawkins could have been found somewhere in the country looking for cash: Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Diego or Hartford.
Hawkins started building a war chest for her 1986 reelection effort in 1983. Graham, a multimillionaire serving his second term as governor, began in July 1985. Hawkins' campaign estimates it needs to raise at least $6.6 million; Graham's campaign estimates it needs $5.5 million.
The reason: the high cost of television advertising. Florida, a state full of newcomers with shifting political allegiances, is a place where campaigns are won or lost on television. It has 10 "major media" markets. Political professionals say a "moderate" one-week "TV buy" costs about $250,000; a "heavy buy," more than $450,000. Trading on White House Connections
It rained the day Hawkins brought Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III here for a fund-raiser. Two planes of businessmen flew in from Miami; one plane came in from Jacksonville; another from Panama City.
With a major tax bill pending in a Senate-House conference, Baker was a hot property. He is part of one of Hawkins' biggest assets: her connection to the White House. In a year when a net change of four seats could put Democrats in control of the Senate, the Reagan administration has gone all out to help Hawkins and other endangered Republicans.
President Reagan raised $1 million for her at one event last year and has scheduled a second appearance next Saturday in Miami. Vice President Bush appeared last Friday at a fund-raiser for her in Orlando.
Tallahassee, the Florida state capital, is not where Republicans normally go to find money. It is a state government and university town, owned and operated by the Democrats since Reconstruction.
Hawkins brought Baker here "because of Jon Shebel," according to Thomas Kleppe, her administrative assistant. "He said, 'You get me Jim Baker and I'll have a fund-raiser at my house.' "
As president of Associated Industries of Florida, Shebel is the voice of business in Tallahassee, one of the state's best-connected lobbyists, a man who can open doors. He holds three or four fund-raising events a year at his home overlooking picturesque Lake Kanturk, north of the city.
Shebel regards Graham as "a good chief executive" and says, "If he were to run for president, I'd sign on with him." But he is supporting Hawkins because "if someone is doing a good job you don't replace them. She's also a Republican, and I want Republicans to keep control of the Senate."
The June 25 Baker fund-raiser was held on short notice. Invitations for the $1,000-a-couple event did not go out until June 9, just as the state legislature ended its annual session. And some lobbyists were reluctant to attend while bills they had worked on awaited the governor's signature, according to Peter Breslin, who runs Hawkins' Tallahassee office.
About 60 persons finally showed up. They included some home-builders from Jacksonville, whom Hawkins had helped with Veterans Administration problems; a shipbuilder from the Florida Panhandle whom Hawkins had helped with a federal contract; some Miami bankers interested in the tax bill; and a handful of lobbyists such as Shebel, who said, "Access is important to me."
"A lot of people were there to say thank you," Breslin said.
Hawkins couldn't buy help from many of these people six years ago.
"I was her finance chairman. It was the hardest job I ever had. I called on CEOs all over the state and I don't think I ever got a dime," recalled Kleppe. "Nobody gave her a chance. I'd walk in and ask for money, and they'd say, 'You gotta be crazy, son. What are you doing here? Here she is a lady, not only any lady, but a lady with a reputation as a consumer advocate who calls herself The Housewife from Maitland. Get serious.' These same people are giving fund-raisers for her this year. Incumbency is a very powerful thing."
Baker and Hawkins spent about two hours in Tallahassee, attending the event and holding a news conference. According to Hawkins' aides, they raised $30,000, a modest amount by modern fund-raising standards.
Shebel claimed the symbolism was as important as the money. "It was very significant for her to come walking into the enemy's back yard with Jim Baker," he said. "It shows she knows a few people in Washington." Similar Methods, Different Emphases
The sales divisions of both campaigns use surprisingly similar methods. The difference is in emphasis. Hawkins' relies heavily on large events, such as presidential visits, and on direct-mail appeals.
Graham has been advised not to depend on direct mail because, as campaign manager Jim Eaton put it, "Nobody outside Florida knows who Bob Graham or Paula Hawkins is," and "you can spend an awful lot of money before it starts to pay off."
"Direct mail is a technician's game," said the NRSC's Smith. "The hard reality is Republican technicians are better than Democratic technicians. We know what we're doing. Some of their letters don't even ask for money."
Hawkins also relies far more heavily on her party than Graham does on his. The NRSC has earmarked $750,000 for her, the maximum allowed such committees under law. Its Democratic counterpart has only $5 million to distribute throughout the country, and Hawkins' aides estimate that Graham will receive as little as $100,000 from his party.
Graham appears to have a stronger personal network of donors than his Republican opponent -- one of Graham's great advantages. It is made up of hundreds of friends, business associates and political allies he acquired during his days as a student at the University of Florida and Harvard Law School, through his family land-development business in suburban Miami, and in his 7 1/2 years as governor.
The power of the governor's office is his second great advantage; his $8 million net worth the third. The product of a wealthy and influential family (his half-brother, the late Philip L. Graham, was publisher of The Washington Post), he spent $708,000 of his own money to capture the governor's office in 1978.
Graham insists he will not spend his own money on the current campaign. Hawkins' strategists, such as Kleppe, are skeptical. "From the start we've known that if Hawkins spent $6.6 million, he can write a check for whatever he needs," Kleppe said.
Graham, at least in recent months, is relying heavily on political action committee contributions. He has one full-time fund-raiser stationed in Washington to do nothing but raise money from PACs, and the campaign says it raised $140,000 at a single PAC event, held recently a few blocks from Capitol Hill.
The Graham campaign's "sales" were right on schedule July 1. The governor reported raising more than $1.2 million during the previous three months, bringing Graham's total contributions to $4,500,596. The campaign had more than $1.5 million on hand. Hawkins, sidelined for more than two months while recuperating from neck and back surgery, raised about $730,000, bringing her total to just over $4 million. Her campaign reported about $830,000 on hand.
One-fourth of Hawkins' contributions came from PACs until March 31. But Kleppe, her administrative assistant, said the campaign has "raised very little money from the PAC community" in the last three months because of questions about her recovery from surgery.
"There was a real echo chamber," he said. "People were asking, 'Is she going to recover? Is she going to run for the Senate?' It made PAC fund-raising very difficult."
Hawkins, according to aides, intends to resume pursuing PACs in August, just as she resumed attending a seemingly endless round of other fund-raising events in June. Her political survival could well depend on her success raising money this summer.