WASHINGTON – Democrats are hoping to take a page from Republican fundraising techniques after the Republican National Committee raised a record $82 million in 2001, $23 million more than its previous non-election year record set in 1995.
The money, a reward of sorts for putting a Republican in the White House, leaves the RNC with $29 million in the bank, a propitious start for an election year.
The Democratic National Committee also collected a record-breaking $46.5 million for a non-election year, but has debts at the start of 2002 that rivals its cash intake.
The RNC has historically held a fund-raising advantage over the DNC, and now with George Bush as president, the party is continuing to build its advantage over the Democrats.
To boost DNC money, Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe said his goal is to develop a massive direct mail drive emulating the Republican's 30-year-old method for raising "hard money."
Hard money consists of donations from individuals and political action committees that are limited in size and can be spent directly on candidates.
More than two-thirds of the RNC contributions, or about $56 million, came from telephone solicitations and direct mail, spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said.
The DNC will send direct mail and e-mail solicitations to 850,000 homes in hopes of increasing its donations, McAuliffe said.
Within the next four years, the DNC will have "state-of-the-art technology, with a list of every person who lives in America, and we will be able to communicate with them with a tailored message, a targeted message," McAuliffe said.
"Today I can only send out one message to everybody. The message I send to that Pittsburgh steelworker is the same message I send to that San Francisco housewife," he said. "You need a targeted, tailored message that is interactive back and forth."
Political scientist John Green said the Democrats can catch up with the RNC in direct-mail fund-raising, but it will take a long time.
Democrats' direct-mail efforts in the past have been hurt in part by competing interests within the party, said Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.
Merging all those lists into one is difficult both technically and politically, Green said, because each caucus within the party may be raising money for its own causes, for instance labor or feminist issues, so they may not have an interest in sharing their donor lists.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.