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kskiska Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-14-04 01:32 AM
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Kerry Spurs Ambitious Fundraising
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Democratic Front-Runner Seeks to Offset Bush's $100 Million

Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) is setting in motion one of the most ambitious fundraising plans in Democratic Party history, fearful that without tens of millions of dollars' worth of television advertising this spring, his candidacy will be overpowered by the $100 million-plus bank account of President Bush.

Expecting to lock up the Democratic nomination shortly, Kerry plans to spend much of next month traveling coast-to-coast, aggressively wooing the donors who sat on the sidelines in 2003 or who bankrolled Democratic rivals Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.), Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) and retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, aides said. The courtship is well underway -- at least a dozen major fundraisers from other camps say they have agreed to work for Kerry -- and the campaign collected $6.5 million in the 23 days after his Iowa victory.

The greater challenge for Kerry will be tapping into former Vermont governor Howard Dean's donor base, a collection of 300,000 fiercely loyal supporters who gave more than $41 million. "We don't know the answer yet," said one Kerry strategist, who marveled at the number of Dean contributors and their willingness to keep sending money despite a string of Dean defeats.

It has become a cliche to characterize campaigns as the most expensive ever. But what makes the 2004 contest unique is that the two major party candidates will be able to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. That is because for the first time since Congress enacted campaign finance laws in 1974, both the Republican and the Democrat have opted out of the public financing system in the pre-convention season, choosing to reject taxpayer dollars in favor of the much larger sums they expect to raise on their own.

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