Fri, Jul 23, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Kerry runs high-tech campaign

BUSH STILL AHEAD As the Republican Party still relies on expensive direct mail to raise funds, the Democrats have turned to the Internet with stunning success

THE GUARDIAN , WASHINGTON

The Democratic challenger for the White House, Senator John Kerry, has raised more money in the last six months than US President George W. Bush, with his party embracing the Internet to help it cancel out what is a traditional Republican advantage.

Kerry raised more than US$160 million, according to figures from the federal election commission, compared with US$95 million for Bush.

The Republicans still have the overall advantage -- and spokesmen claimed Bush stopped "focusing on" fundraising last April -- but even so, Kerry has been raising money at an unprecedented pace.

The Democratic surge still leaves Kerry far behind Bush, who has plenty of cash in hand -- some US$64 million -- for a television advertising blitz scheduled to steal the thunder from Kerry after he is officially nominated at next week's party convention in Boston.

Yet last month alone, the Democrat raised US$37.7 million, nearly triple Bush's monthly take of US$13 million.

Ralph Nader's resources were meager in comparison. His campaign finance report showed the independent candidate had raised roughly US$500,000 in June, with just US$207,000 in the bank.

The Democrats seem to owe their newfound prosperity to a confluence of technology, personal hostility to Bush and opposition to the Iraq war. These factors are augmented by a shortened primary season that saw the early emergence of Kerry as the presumptive nominee.

Echoing Howard Dean, the failed Democratic contender who used the web to build a grassroots base, the Kerry campaign has used new technologies to great effect, said Michael Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute.

That helped the Democrats compete with the Republicans' traditional strength in fundraising through direct mail, which is costlier and more time-consuming than soliciting funds over the Internet.

"The Republicans for 25 years had this very large advantage in small donors based on direct mail, but they spent a lot of money to get it. This year the Democrats in a sense leapfrogged the technology and were able to raise a lot of money on the Internet," Malbin said. "The Democrats in a sense went to the next generation of fundraising."

Kerry, who had US$37.2 million in the bank on June 30, has matched Bush's spending in key battle-grounds, thanks in part to support groups such as Moveon.org, which have helped pay for media ads.

Both candidates are expected to run through their coffers before they are formally nominated, after which, according to US election regulations, they will receive US$75 million in public funds for campaigns.

But a Republican spokesman said that the apparent advantage in Kerry fundraising was deceptive, noting that Bush -- unlike his Democrat challenger -- did most of his fundraising last year.

In contrast, Kerry has raised about three-quarters of his funds since March 2, when he defeated his rivals to become the presumptive nominee.

Bush continues to raise funds for Republican senate and congressional races, and was due to appear at a dinner in Washington last night that organizers expected to net at least US$21.5 million.

However, even that collection for a single event -- with some 6,500 guests expected at the $2,500-a-plate dinner -- pales beside the US$38.5 million Bush raised at an event last May.

This year's high cash flow is viewed as a measure of the intensity of this campaign season, with strong emotions on the Iraq war.

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