US Politics Fueled By Money
More Than Ever
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The 2000 US president candidates are raising mountains of campaign cash, but the price of a White House campaign is higher than ever and that is extinguishing political stars early in the race.
The latest casualty was Elizabeth Dole, who won nation-wide attention and crucial support from women voters but pulled out Wednesday saying it was "futile" to run against George W. Bush and his mammoth money machine.
"It's a money game," agreed political expert Richard Simiatin, predicting that next year's national elections will cost a billion dollars more than the 1996 vote, which totaled 1.9 billion dollars.
Bush has raised a record 60 million dollars 13 months before the November vote and has 37 million dollars still on hand, enough that he can refuse federal matching funds and their spending limits.
Publishing tycoon Steve Forbes has said he will bankroll his own campaign for the Republican nomination and "spend whatever it takes."
Dole's available cash dwindled to 850,000 dollars this month and she admitted she had no prospects for raising enough more to beat the odds, which she put at 80-1 against the two top money raisers.
On the Democratic side, Vice President Al Gore has an impressive fundraising record and garnered 24 million dollars this year, but has spent heavily.
The surge of his only rival, Bill Bradley, has has been credited mostly to his surprising ability to raise nearly 20 million dollars by the end of September.
Simiatin, an American University professor, predicted that Bush will raise a total 250 million dollars for his White House bid and Gore will follow with about 200 million dollars.
And most of that will go to the air waves, according to analyst Karlyn Bowman.
"In order to get your message across you have to buy a lot of television time which is extremely expensive," she said.
In 1996, US President Bill Clinton spent nearly 60 million dollars on electronic media ads for his re-election bid. His challenger, Bob Dole, paid out some 54 million dollars.
Advisors, pollsters, travel and organizing armies of volunteers for campaign events are also big money guzzlers, but Bowman says contributions have another important function.
"An ability to raise money early on suggests to the party hierarchy that you're a serious candidate and that then encourages the party to provide a lot of resources for the campaign," said the American Enterprise Institute expert.
Dole's pullout comes the day after a the defeat of a campaign finance reform bill despite the public outcry over money and politics.
The bill that would have banned "soft money," or private donations to political parties that are not subject to spending limits. Individuals can donate only up to 1,000 dollars in "hard money," an attempt to thwart influence-buying.
Experts predict that parties will rake in some 525 million dollars in soft money in the 2000 elections, more than double their earnings in 1996.
Simiatin attributed the jump to more sophisticated fundraising strategies, particularly for soft money and said "the Republicans are much better at it than the Democrats are."
The bill shot down Tuesday was co-sponsored by Republican John McCain who is running second behind Bush, but was defeated by his party members in the Senate who blocked a final vote on it for the forth year in a row.
"There's not a lot of interest in campaign finance reform right now," said Simiatin.