The three national Republican campaign committees raised $113 million over the first 15 months of this election cycle, more than four times the $24 million contributed to rival Democratic committees, according to Federal Election Commission figures released yesterday.
In an effort to bolster its fund-raising image, the Democratic National Committee, which reported $8.8 million in contributions for the period, announced yesterday that it received another $3.6 million in so-called "soft money" donations from unions, corporations and individuals through April. Soft money contributions are not subject to federal regulation or included in FEC reports.
"The FEC figures shortchange our success," said Michael McCurry, DNC communications director, in explaining the timing of the release that increased DNC receipts nearly 30 percent.
Mary Matalin, chief of staff at the Republican National Committee, said her committee, which raised $43.2 million in the 15-month period, raised another $11.6 million in soft money through April -- about 21 percent of its total.
Soft money donations cannot be spent directly on federal candidates. Such funds are used to pay for party administrative expenses, voter registration drives and other activities at the state level that aid both federal and non-federal candidates.
A Democratic-sponsored campaign finance reform bill pending in the Senate would outlaw soft money contributions despite the misgivings of DNC chairman Ronald H. Brown and many state party chairmen. Corporate, union and large individual contributions directly to candidates are forbidden under federal law but are allowed as part of soft money fund-raising.
The DNC list of soft money contributors included these large donors: $150,400 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; $130,000 from the United Auto Workers; $103,400 from Hollywood producer Frederick Field; $100,800 from the United Steelworkers union; $100,000 each from Agenda for the 90s, a California political action committee, Monte Friedkin, of Hallandale, Fla., and the National Education Association; $85,000 from the AFL-CIO Political Action Committee and $75,000 from the Sheet Metal Workers union.
Despite the GOP's huge fund-raising advantage, the FEC figures showed that it outspent the Democratic campaign committees in direct aid to candidates only $1.2 million to $940,000.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee outraised the RNC, collecting more than $51 million. Its Democratic counterpart raised $10.3 million. On the House side, the Republican committee raised $18.4 million to the Democrats $5.4 million.
Fund-raising is down for both the RNC and the DNC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), according to the FEC.
Traditionally, GOP committees have raised much of their money from small, direct mail donations, while the Democrats have depended more on large donors and PAC contributions. The three Democratic committees, for example, raised $6.2 million in PAC donations to the Republicans' $2.1 million.
The GOP committees have $19.4 million in cash in the bank for this fall's elections, with the House committee having the only debt, about $1 million. The Democratic committees had $5.8 million in cash and $1.7 million in debts, most of it owed by the DCCC.