March 10, 2004

Many Major Kerry Donors Actually Give More to Bush


Senator John Kerry is beginning his drive to compete financially against President Bush with a disadvantage: almost half of his campaign's largest sources of money have given more money to Mr. Bush, according to a new study.

Through January, 9 of Mr. Kerry's top 20 donors in the presidential race favored the incumbent Republican over the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

For example, employees at Citigroup Inc., the financial services giant, are Mr. Kerry's third-largest source of money, at more than $79,000. Yet company employees gave Mr. Bush more than twice that, $187,500, in the same period.

"It illustrates how much ground Kerry must make up to approach financial parity with the president," the study said.

As the two candidates begin their match-up, Mr. Bush has one of the largest financial leads in presidential campaign history. Unopposed in the primary season, he set a presidential fund-raising record, with $143.6 million through January, reports show. Last week, he had more than $100 million in the bank and was already broadcasting television ads as he began to wrap up his fund-raising for the year.

Mr. Kerry is coming off a tough and expensive primary season and is just beginning a drive to raise $80 million by this summer.

Mr. Kerry's top fund-raisers met in Washington on Monday to talk strategy in advance of his plans to attend money events in 20 cities through April. He was off to a strong start, raising $6 million in six days after the Super Tuesday primaries on March 2, according to the campaign.

"We are very gratified by the response we are getting at all levels," said Louis Susman, Mr. Kerry's national financial chairman and a managing director in Citigroup's Chicago office, last week.

Still, many Democratic strategists and fund-raisers say Mr. Kerry will never catch the Bush campaign and will be outspent by tens of millions of dollars in coming months. Instead, they say, the campaign will raise enough to compete, but will rely heavily on the Democratic Party and outside organizations to take up the slack.

That Mr. Kerry's top sources of money frequently give more to Mr. Bush indicates one of the challenges in running against a sitting president.

For example, the financial services industry has traditionally been an important contributor to Mr. Kerry, but has been drifting toward Mr. Bush in recent years thanks to the president's pro-business policies, such as cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes.

That could be bad news for Mr. Kerry's prospects on Wall Street, which is already giving more than four times the amount to Mr. Bush than it to Mr. Kerry. Employees at securities and investment firms gave $5.2 million, to rank them fourth on Mr. Bush's list of top contributors through January, according to the center. They gave about $1.1 million to Mr. Kerry, or third on his list.

The result is that contributors at companies like Goldman Sachs gave about $65,000 to Mr. Kerry but about $283,000 to Mr. Bush. At Morgan Stanley, they gave $40,000 to Mr. Kerry but $177,000 to Mr. Bush.

Of course, there are sources of money that gave more to Mr. Kerry, many of them law firms. Employees at Skadden, Aarps, Slate, Meagher & Flom — home to three major Kerry fund-raisers — gave him almost $106,000 to top his donor list. They gave Mr. Bush only about $65,000.

At Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, where Mr. Kerry's brother works as a lawyer, employees gave him $72,000, compared with $9,000 for Mr. Bush.
And at Harvard University, in Mr. Kerry's home state of Massachusetts, contributors gave him roughly $53,000, compared with about $8,000 for Mr. Bush.

Indeed, many Democrats expect a wave of money to flow to Mr. Kerry as Democrats gather around their presumptive nominee in coming weeks.

Some point to the fact that the 10 Democratic candidates who ran for the presidency raised a collective $178 million through the primaries — as much as Mr. Bush plans to raise.

"If you add up the universe of the money raised, you can certainly compete with the money Bush raised," Peter Knight, a veteran Democratic fund-raiser, said. "The universe is there for us to go after. You are going to see them go into overdrive."

Copyright 2004, The New York Times Company

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