Texas Gov. George W. Bush raised another $12 million in just two months for his already record-breaking bank account, his presidential campaign said yesterday as it instituted an Internet disclosure system that will provide daily updates on his contributions.
Bush will report collecting well over $50 million total--more than any primary candidate ever--by the end of this month, which is the next deadline for filing campaign fund-raising reports with the Federal Election Commission. But his campaign decided not to wait, posting on its Web site (www.georgewbush.com) more than 600 dense pages of donations received in July and August and promising more money information each day.
Bush has been seeking to mute criticism from his rivals over the unprecedented scope of his fund-raising and his decision to opt out of the presidential matching fund system, which limits campaign spending in exchange for an estimated $13 million in public funds. His campaign said "instant disclosure" is one of several campaign reforms he supports, along with an increase in the $1,000 limit on individual donations and a ban on unlimited "soft money" contributions to parties from unions and corporations.
The online money report will lag two weeks behind, according to Bush's campaign, which said that as of Aug. 29, Bush had collected $49.25 million. His total by the end of September is likely to be much higher, however, since he has 10 fund-raising events around the country scheduled this month.
None of Bush's rivals expressed interest in joining his Internet experiment, with a spokeswoman for Vice President Gore calling it a "token gesture"; other campaigns were equally unenthusiastic. Highlighting how wide a money lead Bush has, conservative activist Gary Bauer chose yesterday to announce that he has collected $5 million --10 percent of the Texan's total.
Dole Spokesman Leaving
Elizabeth Dole's chief spokesman is leaving the campaign. Ari Fleischer, a veteran Republican communicator, is being "pursued by some people downtown," he said yesterday. At the moment, these unnamed forces include "one very large trade association, a couple PR firms, and I'm giving some consideration to opening up my own shop."
Fleischer insists that his departure is in no way the result of a shake-up, meltdown or power struggle at Dole-for-president campaign headquarters. Washington being Washington, there was speculation to that effect.
"Absolutely not," Fleischer said. "Working for Elizabeth Dole has been nothing but an honor. She is an extraordinary lady. Frankly, I'm going to miss what I came here for--to be part of her history-making campaign." He said the meeting at which he told the candidate about his decision ended with a hug.
Fleischer, 38, instead cited political fatigue and the lure of private-sector salaries. "After 20 years in this business, there's something to be said for less hours and more money," he said. "I was 38 when I joined the campaign six months ago and I turned 55 last week."
No successor has been chosen, Fleischer said. And he had this observation about job prospects in the Washington influence industry: "The thing about these opportunities is they don't last forever."
Staff writer David Von Drehle contributed to this report.