Exceeding expectations, Kerry raises $180 million

Democratic challenger now on par with Bush

July 02, 2004|By Lisa Getter | Lisa Getter,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign announced yesterday it has raised a total of $180 million, exceeding nearly all expectations and keeping the Democrat financially competitive with President Bush.

As of the end of May, Bush had raised about $215 million for his re-election bid - a record for any presidential candidate. Kerry has raised more than any Democratic contender for the White House.

The Kerry campaign said that in June, for the fourth month in a row, it pulled in more than $30 million.

The Bush campaign has not released its June fundraising figures, but it expects to report it had $64 million in cash on hand at the month's end. Kerry's campaign did not release its cash-on-hand figures.

Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said the candidate had received $100 million in donations of less than $200 - far below the $2,000 limit on individual contributions. "The strength of the small donor has helped level the playing field with the Bush campaign," she said.

Kerry's reliance on the Internet, a tactic the Bush campaign has not aggressively pursued, helped fuel his fund-raising success. He has raised $56 million online this year, including $12.5 million last month.

Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, called Kerry's fund-raising total "an amazing amount - he is far closer to parity with Bush's totals than anyone thought."

Potter added: "The small donor/Internet component also demonstrates the importance of Internet - and there, Kerry has a clear advantage over Bush."

University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato attributed Kerry's fund-raising success to the strong partisan fervor surrounding this year's presidential race.

"Everyone underestimated the degree of anger at George W. Bush. That intense emotion, rather than any particular love for John Kerry, has fueled Democratic fund raising," he said.

Michael Meehan, a senior adviser to Kerry, said the campaign could reach the $200 million mark at its current pace.

Kerry, however, will have less than a month to spend his money. Once he accepts the nomination at the Democratic National Convention, which begins July 26 in Boston, the campaign will be limited to spending $75 million in public funds for the general election.

Bush will be officially nominated - and receive the $75 million in public money - in early September. That will give him an additional month to raise and spend private donations.

Aides said Kerry has not yet decided whether to use his campaign fund to pay off a $6.4 million loan he made to his campaign in December, when his coffers were nearly bankrupt. Bush at the time had $99 million in cash.

Times staff writer Mark Z. Barabak contributed to this article. The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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