In a May 17 deposition, made public by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics last week, Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) defended his actions on behalf of savings and loan executive Charles H. Keating Jr. He also described for Sens. David Pryor (D-Ark.) and Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.) his three principles for raising political money:
The reason I am before you is that Charles Keating, a persistent man who had an on-going problem with regulators that covered a span of several years, sought my help and also made contributions that happened to spread over several election-year cycles. There's nothing unusual about that . . . .
I want to touch on a few of the fundamental principles of fund-raising that are relevant to all this.
I'm sometimes called the best fund-raiser in the Senate, particularly by people from whom I raise money. I had to become an expert to survive in California politics.
One principle of fund-raising is that people who give once are likely to give again. But if you stop asking them, they'll stop giving or they'll start giving to something else. This principle holds true for mail solicitations -- that's why you get constant letters seeking small contributions -- and for personal solicitations seeking large contributions. So you ask often.
It took me a long time to figure out another principle and when I finally did, it astounded me: many people trying to raise money can never bring themselves to ask for really large amounts. Yet, for those you are soliciting, it's a compliment, a compliment to ask someone for a large sum.
If they're capable of giving big and you ask small, some potential donors will be insulted or they'll think you're stupidly unaware of their exalted financial status. In either case, you'll get little or nothing, so you should ask big.
A third principle is that people who have given to other causes may give to yours. Therefore, you try to keep track of all who give what to whom.
All three of these principles applied to Keating: you know he's given lavishly to others, you don't ask a guy like him for peanuts, and you ask frequently.