Pro-Demo ‘soft-money’ groups outpaced GOP rivals
WASHINGTON – Whatever the reasons John Kerry and the Democrats lost the race for the White House, lack of money wasn’t one.
Tax-exempt pro-Democratic groups raising big checks for this year’s election collected almost twice as much money as their Republican rivals in the presidential race, a study shows. The financial advantage comes in addition to record fund raising by Kerry and the Democratic Party.
In all, the nonparty political groups, known as 527s because of the tax code section that covers them, raised about $534 million and spent roughly $544 million in the 2003-04 election cycle, the analysis by the nonpartisan Political Money Line campaign finance tracking service found.
The prolific fund raising is a sign that such groups, many of which debuted in the 2004 election season, will have no problem surviving the competition for contributions, Kent Cooper, co-founder of Political Money Line, said Sunday. Fund-raising drives over Web sites and through e-mail helped several become political players very quickly, he said.
“I think it shows you that with the Internet, anyway, your lines of communication can be large pipelines for quick money,” Cooper said.
The presidential race drew most of their attention. Groups supporting John Kerry or opposing President Bush raised $266 million. Those opposing Kerry or backing Bush collected $144 million, Political Money Line found. The study was based on a review of the organizations’ post-election campaign finance reports to the Internal Revenue Service.
Leading groups such as the Media Fund and America Coming Together, jump-started by multimillion-dollar donations from wealthy businessmen such as George Soros, focused on advertising and get-out-the-vote operations, expensive activities the national Democratic Party could no longer raise six- and seven-figure donations to finance..”
Republicans, relying in part on their long-standing advantage over Democrats in collecting donations in modest amounts such as $10 or $20 as well as checks up to the new individual donor of $25,000 per year, initially held off on formation of their own 527 groups.
Instead, they argued that the pro-Democratic organizations violated the new law’s broad ban on the use of soft money. The Federal Election Commission failed to curb the groups’ activities, however, and GOP activists decided last spring to go ahead with their own outside groups.