An Aug. 21 article overstated the amount of money raised in the 2004 presidential race. Instead of reporting that "nearly half of the $1.475 billion has been raised," the article should have said that "nearly half of the $1 billion -- $475.5 million -- has been raised by the campaigns of President Bush and Democratic challenger John F. Kerry." (Published 8/22/04)
The Bush and Kerry campaigns, the two national parties and independent political groups have raised more than $1 billion so far this year, almost double the presidential cash collected at this stage in the 2000 election season, campaign reports released yesterday show.
The contributions range from the $10 million-plus in donations to new "shadow party" groups, to a record volume of small contributions being made both through the Internet and direct mail.
The unprecedented fundraising comes despite enactment of the most significant campaign finance reform in a quarter-century. It is being driven, strategists say, by unusually strong sentiments within the rank and file of both parties.
"You have two very excited, angry, involved groups of partisans who see everything at stake," said Gary Jacobson, a campaign finance expert at the University of California at San Diego. "Passions are high, and the elections are dead even. That is a scenario for shaking money loose from people."
Nearly half of the $1 billion-plus has been raised by the campaigns of President Bush and Democratic challenger John F. Kerry. Each rejected public financing during the primary season so he could break the $44.8 million spending limit that goes with the taxpayer subsidy.
That has allowed the two to raise unlimited amounts. Each has already broken presidential fundraising records, Bush collecting $242 million and Kerry at least $233.5 million. Each has far outpaced the record Bush set in 2000 when he raised $94.1 million.
The most dramatic shift has been at the Republican and Democratic national committees, which in this cycle were for the first time barred from collecting unlimited "soft money" contributions from corporations, unions and the wealthy.
Despite the ban, the RNC and DNC are far ahead of where they were at roughly this stage in 2000. The exact difference cannot be determined because the parties reported quarterly in 2000 and report monthly now.
Much of the loss of soft money has been made up with a surge of small-donor support. At the DNC and RNC, contributions of less than $200 have more than doubled from the 1999-2000 cycle -- from $26.2 million to $64.4 million at the DNC, and from $58 million to $117 million at the RNC.
"There are a lot more people willing to give relatively small amounts of money when the issues are sharply drawn and the two candidates are fighting over what people care about," said Michael J. Malbin, executive director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.
The RNC and DNC reported yesterday that they raised $390.5 million from Jan. 1, 2003, through the end of last month: $245.3 million at the RNC and $145.2 million at the DNC. Through the first 18 months of the election cycle in the previous presidential race, when the parties could collect unlimited soft-money contributions, they had raised a combined $284.1 million through the end of June 2000.
In addition to the candidates and parties, the relatively new, independent groups active in the presidential race -- called "527s," for a section of the tax code -- have sharply boosted fundraising and spending. Those linked to the presidential campaign collected $153.9 million through June 30.
Of this, $144.9 million was raised by pro-Democratic independent groups and $9 million by pro-Republican groups. The GOP groups began aggressive fundraising only in late May, and a better picture of their cash position will emerge on Oct. 20, the next reporting period.
Jim Jordan, a spokesman for the two most successful Democratic 527s -- America Coming Together and the Media Fund -- said the large amounts of money being raised this year "are a sign of both a very energized electorate and the increasingly sophisticated mechanics of political fundraising." Jordan said, "More people want to give, and the campaigns and groups are better at finding those people."
ACT and the Media Fund reported raising a total of $55 million by the end of June.
On top of the money raised by the campaigns, the parties and the 527s, there are a host of foundations and nonprofits active in voter registration and turnout, much of it concentrated in the states where the election is expected to be the closest. By conservative estimate, these groups, which do not public disclose fundraising and spending, have collected at least $30 million.
Another reflection of the money surge in the current election cycle can be seen in the large donations. In 1999-2000, actress Jane Fonda set what many believe was then a record with a $12.3 million contribution to Pro-Choice Vote.
In this cycle, that record has been broken twice. Financier George Soros has given a total of $12.7 million, and insurance executive Peter B. Lewis has given $14 million.