With their control of the House at stake next year, House Republicans are off to an impressive start in collecting campaign funds. Not only has their campaign committee shattered previous fund-raising totals, but some of their most vulnerable incumbents have managed to put together sizable kitties for what could prove difficult reelection campaigns.
The disclosure of the exact totals for the first six months of 1999 is not required until July 15, but GOP officials say lawmakers participating in House Majority Whip Tom DeLay's "Retain Our Majority Program" are off to a good start. Under the project, DeLay (Tex.) has instructed lobbyists and members of his whip team to direct a total of roughly $100,000 to each vulnerable Republican.
Aides say that Rep. James E. Rogan (Calif.), one of the House impeachment managers targeted by Democrats, has $750,000 in cash on hand. Moderate Republican Jack Quinn (N.Y.) has about $450,000, Rep. Jay Dickey (Ark.) has about $410,000, Rep. Ernie Fletcher (Ky.) has $525,000 and Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (Calif.) has $495,000.
"This is the highest I've ever posted in my life in a non-election year," said Rep. Robert W. Ney (Ohio), who collected about $245,000 and said his total was nearly five times what he reported in the first half of 1997. The ROMP program was a "significant boost," he said.
A few of these incumbents already face serious opposition: State Sen. Adam Schiff, who is challenging Rogan, said he has raised roughly $500,000. Although Schiff expects Rogan to outspend him, he said he was satisfied with his current financial outlook.
The National Republican Congressional Committee reported raising $26 million between Jan. 1 and June 30. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee took in $12 million during the same period, according to the Associated Press.
The Democratic National Committee reported that it had finally raised enough to retire its debt from the 1996 elections, when the DNC refunded around $3 million amid allegations that the contributions illegally came from foreign sources.
The Right Conservative
Steve Forbes keeps saying he represents the social right. Well, maybe. But he is conservative enough that Paul Weyrich, a revered conservative leader who coined the term "moral majority" and helped create the Christian Coalition and the conservative Heritage Foundation, has endorsed Forbes's bid for the White House.
Weyrich called Forbes a "man of humility" and said it was important to have an option other than Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
"Other candidates appear to be more closely aligned with the social issue positions I have taken, but in the end what matters is who could deliver on these issues if elected," Weyrich said in a statement. "I have concluded that Forbes is in a better position to deliver than even the most ardently committed social issue candidates."
Just last February, Weyrich told supporters that "politics had failed" and that "we probably have lost the cultural war." He pretty much vowed to limit his political involvement. But the prospect of a Bush presidency seems to have changed that.
"I'm committed to Steve Forbes for the distance," Weyrich said, "but if the Republicans give us the same sort of ticket that we've had over the last several elections and if Steve Forbes does not get the nomination and if [New Hampshire Sen.] Bob Smith runs as an independent, I will end up supporting Bob Smith."
Location, Location, Location
The Hillary Rodham Clinton Exploratory Committee has paid $6,000 to two conservatives who hate the idea of her being in the Senate.
Last year, San Jose entrepreneurs Ron Shearer and Tom Bottenberg, who develop Web sites, had the bright idea of acquiring www.hillary2000.org, paying $105 for the address on the theory that the first lady eventually would want it. "We believe that was the only logical name for Hillary to use should she run for Senate," Shearer said. "It was a good business move, good foresight on our part."
Clinton committee spokesman Howard Wolfson agreed, but cautioned profiteers from attempting further gouging. "It's one Web site per committee," Wolfson said.
Staff writers Terry M. Neal and Lloyd Grove contributed to this report.