Gephardt Is Still Leader in Raising Campaign Cash

Article excerpt

HOUSE MEMBERS set new records this spring for raising campaign cash, taking in nearly $44 million in contributions during the first six months of the year.

Not surprisingly in a city where money tends to follow power, Republicans led the fund-raising pack, collecting $27.5 million of the total contribution pool. But the top spot still belongs to a Democrat - Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, the House minority leader.

Gephardt raised $1.2 million in the first six months of 1995, eclipsing even Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who took in nearly $885,000, Federal Election Commission records show.

The records cover only the personal campaign funds of the House members and do not count money raised by separate committees that are affiliated with them, such as leadership political action committees.

Gingrich stepped down this spring as chairman of GOPAC, a separate committee that has raised more than $8 million since 1985 to help boost the election chances of GOP candidates. GOPAC's refusal to disclose detailed information on contributions led to the filing of a complaint against Gingrich with the House ethics committee.

Similar leadership PACs are used by more than 60 current and former members of Congress as fund-raising devices that let them extend their influence by doling out cash to colleagues or exploring bids for higher office.

A separate committee affiliated with Gephardt, the Democratic Leader's Victory Fund, was the official host of a fund-raising gala June 23 in St. Louis that featured a performance by pop singer Michael Bolton and appearances by Democrats from across the country.

The event raised more than $633,000 in contributions. Of that total, $250,000 was donated to Gephardt's personal fund-raising committee. The rest was earmarked for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which provides money, staff and other resources to help elected Democrats to the House.

Dan Sallick, a spokesman for Gephardt, said the congressman's fund-raising prowess shows that Democrats remain competitive, even though they no longer control the House.

"We have always been aggressive about being prepared to run the most competitive race possible," Sallick said.

Campaign reports show that Gephardt collected $478,000 in contributions from individuals, $437,000 from political action committees and $250,000 from the St. Louis gala. He spent more than $658,000 in the first six months of the year, most of which paid the costs of a direct mail fund-raising effort.

Republicans didn't have to work quite so hard for their money, GOP fund-raising experts told The Associated Press."Fund raising in general is a lot easier" with the GOP in the majority, said Dan Morgan, who raises money for about 40 House Republicans. "People are returning my calls, saying, `Let me find the money to do that.' "

Steven Stockmeyer, a Republican who runs an association of business political action committees, said there has been "a sense of panic" among some PAC groups because they had invested so heavily in Democrats. "Now they are playing catch-up, unashamedly," he said. "That's one reason you're seeing the big numbers."

In all, 36 of the top 50 money-raisers were Republicans, the AP found. Two years ago, when Democrats controlled the House, just 15 of the top 50 came from the GOP.

Freshman Republicans proved particularly aggressive at raising money, the AP survey found. Ten first-termers, all Republicans, made the top 50 list. And the average GOP freshman raised $142,000 in the first six months after being elected, compared with just under $78,000 for the average freshman Democrat.

GOP fund-raising experts said the aggressive level of activity this year comes in part from Gingrich and his top lieutenants, who, like the Democrats before them, have sought to turn their majority into fund-raising advantage. …