Bush Took in $130.8 Million in Political Contributions in 2003Pioneer and Ranger Network Grows
New York Times, January 8, 2004
By RICHARD W. STEVENSON and GLEN JUSTICE
WASHINGTON— President Bush's re-election campaign said on Wednesday that it took in $47 million in contributions in the last three months of 2003, bringing the year's total to $130.8 million and extending the president's financial edge over the Democrats seeking to challenge him.
The campaign said it had spent $31 million, leaving it with $99 million in the bank as it prepares to unleash an advertising campaign in the next month or two to hit back at the Democrats and promote Mr. Bush's accomplishments and agenda.
The fourth-quarter total of $47 million was just short of the $49.5 million the campaign took in during the previous three months and was well above the amount raised by all the Democratic candidates from October through December. Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, raised at least $15 million in the fourth quarter, and Gen. Wesley K. Clark raised at least $10 million. The other Democrats raised far less.
The Democrats have all been spending the money almost as fast as they raise it as they battle one another for their party's nomination. Whoever emerges as the presumptive Democratic nominee will have to scramble for cash to carry him through the spring and summer. After the Democratic convention in late July, the nominee will receive about $75 million in public financing to pay for the general election campaign.
Mr. Bush intends to continue raising money for the next few months — he will attend fund-raisers on Thursday in Tennessee and Florida — and seems likely to exceed his campaign's stated goal of $170 million by the end of March. He would have to spend that money by the Republican convention at end of August, when he, like his Democratic challenger, will receive $75 million in federal money for the rest of the campaign.
Mr. Bush's fund-raising was helped by two developments over the past several months: the improvement in the economy and the capture last month of Saddam Hussein, breaking a long spell of bad news from Iraq.
Mr. Bush's network of fund-raisers, which enlists supporters to solicit a specific level of donations, is the most sophisticated and successful in presidential history, campaign finance experts say.
The network is ideally suited to raise vast sums of money under the new campaign finance law, which places a premium on large numbers of $2,000 contributions from individuals as it banned unlimited soft money checks to the political parties. About two-thirds of the $130.8 million raised by the Bush campaign has come from $2,000 donors.
As of Nov. 30, Mr. Bush had 350 top-level volunteer fund-raisers — Pioneers, who agree to raise at least $100,000 from friends, colleagues, neighbors and anyone else in their phone books, and Rangers, who agree to raise $200,000. That is an increase of more than 100 people over the 2000 Bush campaign.
"They've created new networks, and it's given them better results," said one Pioneer based in Washington. "One thing they don't do is just round up all the usual suspects."
There are now Pioneers and Rangers in 43 states and Washington, D.C., records show. Texas has the most, at 43, followed by Florida at 35, California at 34 and New York at 27, according to Texans for Public Justice, a group that tracks campaign finance.
Representing all segments of industry, these fund-raisers have gathered at least $48.4 million since Mr. Bush began raising money in May. Mail and phone solicitations brought in $27 million more and the Internet brought in about $3 million, according to the campaign.
Fund-raisers paint a picture of an organized operation that encourages friendly competition and makes top campaign officials accessible to those raising money out in the field.
"He's been easier to raise money for than many," said former Senator Rudy Boschwitz, a Ranger from Minnesota. "He's extremely well organized. He has the same people running the show that he had in 2000, and the group has coalesced."
Mr. Bush even started a new class of fund-raisers last year, Mavericks, who raise at least $50,000 and are under 40 years old. So far, at least 10 people have raised enough to earn the title and 17 others hold it in addition to Ranger or Pioneer.