For his opponents, the silver lining to George W. Bush's record-setting fund-raising is that their presidential campaigns will get taxpayer aid faster.

The Texas governor, who raised $37 million through midyear, more than all the other Republican primary candidates combined, decided to forgo federal matching funds to avoid spending limits tied to them.

That means more money for the rest of the field. The Federal Election Commission now says it will have enough money to give the other Republican and Democratic primary candidates all of their matching funds by next July, instead of making them wait until April 2001.

On Jan. 1, when the first payments are scheduled, the FEC will be able to give candidates 39 percent of the federal aid they are entitled to, rather than the 32 percent projected had Bush applied. This means the candidates will have more money to spend as the first caucuses and primaries are held.

Without Bush, the FEC said it will have to pay out around $82 million in federal funds to presidential candidates instead of the $99 million originally expected.

The FEC doesn't have enough money to give out all the federal funds on time because fewer Americans are checking the box on their income tax returns that diverts $3 of their taxes to the presidential campaign fund. Campaigns make up the difference by borrowing against expected federal funds.

To date, five candidates--Republicans Gary Bauer, Elizabeth Dole, John McCain and Dan Quayle and Democrat Bill Bradley--have qualified for matching funds. Vice President Gore has said he will apply for matching funds.

Bauer, for example, who is to receive at least $2.5 million in matching funds based on what the campaign has raised so far, can now expect around $975,000 on Jan. 1 rather than $800,000.

Steve Forbes, who is largely paying for his campaign out of his pocket, is the only other major party candidate forgoing federal money.

The federal government matches the first $250 of individual contributions to candidates who agree to limit spending. Candidates become eligible for federal funding by raising at least $5,000 in 20 different states from individuals contributing no more than $250 each.

The system is separate from public funding of general election campaigns, which Bush could still accept if he becomes the nominee.

CAPTION: Presidential hopeful George W. Bush decided to forgo federal matching funds to avoid spending limits.