Nevada Senate race passes $5 million in money raised

With four months still to go, Nevada's U.S. Senate race has topped the $5 million mark.

Republican John Ensign has raised $3.4 million so far and Democrat Ed Bernstein has raised $1.75 million, including $888,000 of his own money. Bernstein personally matches every dollar he raises.

Without the ability to write hefty checks, Bernstein would have raised just $236,648 in the past three months, compared to Ensign's $869,455.

New FEC reports also show Ensign with $1.7 million in cash on hand to Bernstein's $1 million.

Ensign's race against U.S. Sen. Harry Reid in 1998 generated $7 million between the two candidates.

The most recent Las Vegas Review-Journal poll shows Ensign leading Bernstein by 20 percentage points, but Bernstein said that's not what is hurting him in fund-raising.

''What's hurting me in fund-raising is I'm not taking special-interest money,'' he said. He defined such contributions as coming from ''big industries that are trying to control the elective process.''

Attorneys are Bernstein's biggest contributors, but he doesn't believe they fall under that definition. Nor does he believe labor unions representing government employees, electrical workers, teachers, ironworkers and others qualify as special interests.

The $182,000 Ensign raised this quarter from political action committees came from groups representing, among others, petroleum companies, anesthesiologists, Pepsi Co., the trucking industry, investment managers, Sprint Corp., health care businesses, mining, Prudential Securities, orthodontists, propane gas, the insurance industry, the hotel and motel industry, Quaker Oats, chiropractors, and Wells Fargo bank.

Under Bernstein's definition, gambling is a special interest. The attorney has received only $24,250 in gambling contributions while Ensign's casino-related money, including the $40,000 he raised in this quarter, exceeds $300,000.

The Center for Responsive Government has analyzed Ensign's and Bernstein's 1999 and 2000 contributions through March 31, reporting that Ensign's top contributors include gambling, health professionals, real estate and the insurance industry.

Along with attorneys, Bernstein's biggest contributions come from health professionals, retirees, real estate and trade unions. About 85 attorneys from Las Vegas and out-of-state contributed $54,300.

So far this year, Bernstein has spent just over $714,000 to Ensign's expenditures of more than $1.36 million.

Bernstein's current report is scattered with names from Hollywood. He reported contributions from top-ranking CBS official Steve Tisch and ''In Living Color'' television actor Tommy Davidson.

Ensign's report shows support from people who haven't backed the veterinarian and two-term congressman in the past.

Ensign campaign manager Mike Slanker said his analysis showed that out of 7,282 contributors, 4,649 were donors who didn't give to him in 1998.

With a goal of raising $5 million for this election, Slanker said there's a bigger effort to find new supporters. Some are being contacted through telemarketing, a technique Ensign didn't use in 1998, and more events are being held.


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