Political Parties Now Busted, despite Fund-Raising Success but Coffers Already Starting to Fill for '98 Run

Article excerpt

The Democrats and Republicans, after fund-raising binges that generated an unprecedented half-billion dollars for the 1996 election, are basically broke.

Not to worry, however: Six-figure contributions already are refilling the tills.

The Democratic National Committee reported total receipts of $207 million over the two-year buildup to Election Day. The total included $99 million in "soft money," the controversial contributions raised outside the reach of election law and not subject to rules limiting contributions. The Republican National Committee did even better, reporting $297 million in receipts. The GOP's soft money accounts received $110 million. Not all of the money was raised by the national committees. The totals include transfers of money raised by other branches of the party, as well as some loans. Despite the record take, both parties' federal campaign accounts are in the red, according to post-election reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. The reports cover Oct. 17 through Nov. 25, including the hectic last two weeks before the election Nov. 5. "It's pretty lean here," conceded Republican spokeswoman Mary Crawford. But it's common for parties to deplete their resources in an all-out push to win, she said. The Republican committee reported $3 million in debt, with only $138,000 in cash on hand in its federal account. The Democrats reported a $2 million shortfall - the $3.7 million left in their federal account was overshadowed by $5.7 million in debt. However, the parties also have some remaining soft money, which can pay part of their salaries and overhead and be used for "party-building" activities but not for directly influencing an election. …