Finance reports for '92 presidential race show scanty fund-raising

July 16, 1991|By Paul West | Paul West,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON 8 — WASHINGTON -- The slow-starting 1992 presidential campaign is off to an equally sluggish beginning on the money front, according to finance reports filed yesterday.

Former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas, the lone declared Democratic contender, had raised $507,045 and had $114,047 left in the bank as of June 30, his campaign reported.

Democratic Gov. L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, the only other presidential possibility required to file a campaign finance report yesterday, listed $118,875.85 in contributions to his exploratory campaign.

Four years ago, by contrast, the eventual Democratic nominee, Michael S. Dukakis, had already collected about $4.6 million, according to Federal Election Commission reports, and had about $3.5 million in the bank. On the Republican side, then-Vice President George Bush had amassed $9.4 million in contributions and his campaign bank balance topped $5 million.

"The absence of a well-defined field of candidates has lulled a lot of people into complacency and an unwillingness to make contributions," said Peggy Connolly, the Tsongas campaign press secretary. "It's a rockier road this time."

As Mr. Dukakis did, Mr. Tsongas is seeking financial support largely from his home state of Massachusetts and the Greek-American community, she said.

Unlike Mr. Dukakis, who was a sitting governor when he ran for president, Mr. Tsongas has been out of public office for seven years and is trying to raise funds in the midst of an economic recession in New England.

Though the Tsongas finance report is likely to be viewed by other politicians as a clear sign that he has failed to establish himself as a credible threat to win the nomination, his spokeswoman insisted that early fund-raising targets had been met. She added that Mr. Tsongas is now "shifting gears" and would devote more time to raising money in the months ahead.

Mr. Wilder, who says he'll decide by summer's end whether to enter the 1992 race, reported spending $29,173.88 on his exploratory campaign and had $89,701.97 cash-on-hand as of June 30.

Mark Warner, his campaign chairman, said about 40 percent of the Wilder donations had come from supporters in Virginia. He said the governor has met the requirements for federal matching funds in six states. (To receive federal matching funds, a candidate must raise $5,000 in each of 20 states in donations of $250 or less.)

Mr. Wilder has not been personally involved in the fund-raising efforts, according to Mr. Warner, although a list of past Wilder contributors was used to solicit donations.

At least two other unannounced Democratic hopefuls, West Virginia Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, have also begun raising funds. Mr. Rockefeller held his first fund-raising event in Lutherville on Saturday and said he'll formally declare his candidacy around Labor Day, if he decides to run.

Neither is required to disclose his fund-raising progress at this stage because of a loophole in federal election law that allows unannounced candidates to wait until they declare before reporting preliminary campaign finance activity.

With no Republican opposition in sight, Mr. Bush is expected to wait until later this summer to authorize his supporters to begin collecting money for his re-election effort.

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