The Democratic National Committee is significantly behind the fund-raising pace it set in the last presidential election, party officials said yesterday, with $40 million collected in 1999 compared with more than $58 million for its GOP counterpart.

The financial news comes as Democrats are increasingly concerned that their party's White House nominee will emerge from this year's early primary season out of cash and facing the huge bank account of GOP front-runner George W. Bush. The DNC also finds itself with far less cash on hand than the Republican National Committee--about $2.5 million after its debts are paid off, compared with $10 million and no debts for the GOP.

Overall, the DNC raised about $8 million less last year than it did in 1995--the year before President Clinton's reelection--despite a huge increase in 1999 fund-raising for most other candidates and party committees. Most of the falloff came in the party's direct mail fund-raising among small donors, officials said. Fund-raising among big donors was $900,000 behind what it was four years ago. Events headlined by Clinton, however, brought in $22 million last year, compared with $19 million during the 1998 congressional election year.

"You have two Democratic presidential candidates taking money, as opposed to one in 1995, and a very, very high-profile Senate race with Hillary Clinton. There's just more competition out there for Democratic money this year," said DNC Chairman Edward G. Rendell. The former Philadelphia mayor was brought in to the DNC last fall as part of a major shake-up designed to produce more money for the party, and he said he is spending 85 percent of his time soliciting funds.

Yesterday, the DNC also finalized a long-delayed new finance team to assist Rendell, after months of unsuccessfully wooing prominent party activists to fill the vacant finance chairmanship. Rather than one big name, the DNC settled on three less-proven money-raisers: Joel Hyatt, the failed 1994 Ohio Senate candidate and founder of Hyatt Legal Services; Chicago lawyer Joe Cari Jr.; and ex-DNC treasurer Carol Pensky.

Bradley's Banner Effort

Bill Bradley yesterday became the latest presidential candidate to advertise on the Internet--spending $25,000 to put "banner ads" on a pair of sites that offer free e-mail, juno.com and hotmail.com. These sites will target his ads to the computers of people from New Hampshire, Iowa and California.

One of the banner messages says: "Tired of politics as usual?" Then a picture of Bradley appears with the words: "I am. See what I'm going to do about it." It links to his Web page.

Among Republicans, Texas Gov. George W. Bush is already advertising on the Internet. Arizona Sen. John McCain said he is planning banner ads, highlighting his opposition to taxes on sales made over the Internet, to be placed on sites where people shop.

Gore as President, at U.N.

Al Gore became president yesterday.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, taking up the microphone after Gore's speech to the Security Council, applauded his performance, saying: "Thank you, Mr. Vice President, or perhaps I should say President--"

Following a long pause filled with laughter from the typically staid diplomatic gathering, Annan added: "of the Security Council."

"I'm working on it," Gore responded.

With the United States in possession of the rotating Security Council presidency this month, Gore took a campaign break to act as council president for the first formal debate of the year.

The lighthearted exchange brought into the open what many diplomats really think: that the vice president was using his speech to court votes from gays and African Americans who support a more active role on AIDS.

"Vice President Gore has been for a long time actively involved in African issues," said South Africa's ambassador to the United Nations, Dumisani Kumalo. "It's not as bad as it looks."

Special correspondent Colum Lynch at the United Nations contributed to this report.