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Record Fund Raising for Bush, Kerry Camps

Expenses ranging from TV ads to a mariachi band pushed President Bush's re-election spending to $126 million last month, but record fund raising left him with millions in his campaign fund. Democratic rival John Kerry (search) has spent roughly $89 million.

Bush started May with nearly $72 million in the bank after using up nearly $31 million in April, a campaign finance report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission (search) showed. Bush's spending declined from March, when he spent roughly $50 million on his first wave of campaign ads.

Kerry finished April with $28 million on hand after pouring millions into his first major ad buys since locking up the Democratic nomination, according to his campaign report to the FEC. The Massachusetts senator has raised more than $117 million, just over half what Bush has collected. Still, it is a Democratic record.

Bush spent roughly $21 million on ads in April, his biggest expense last month. Other major campaign costs included more than $4 million on mailings; about $1.6 million on staff salaries, consultants and related costs; and $555,000 on phone banks.

Illustrating Bush's wide range of expenses, his April spending included $100 to hire the Albuquerque-based Mariachi Tierra Encantada band to provide entertainment at a campaign event, and $82,000 to reserve the Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga., for a dinner to thank his biggest fund-raisers and urge them to help other Republicans.

This month, Bush has raised at least $3 million, bringing him to a record $204 million or more. In all, the re-election effort has received money from at least 1 million donors since Bush began raising money last May.

More than one-fourth of Bush's money has come from just four states. Donors in his home state of Texas have chipped in the most — roughly $19 million — followed by Californians with $16 million; contributors in Florida, where brother Jeb Bush is governor, about $14 million; and New Yorkers, about $10 million.

Bush's primary-season money, already going at a record clip, must stretch about a month longer than Kerry's. Kerry will get some $75 million in full government financing for the general-election phase of the campaign at the Democratic National Convention (search) in Boston in late July.

Bush must make his campaign fortune last until early September, when he is officially nominated at the Republican National Convention (search) in New York and receives his general-election financing from the government.

To sustain his spending at last month's rate through the summer, Bush would need to raise at least $50 million more. It's very possible at his current fund-raising rate. Just last month, he took in about $15 million, with roughly two-thirds of that in donations of under $1,000 coming in through the mail or over the Internet.

Bush has stopped holding fund-raisers for himself and is focused on raising money for the party and other GOP candidates.

Kerry, meanwhile, will have to make his $75 million government check last a month longer than Bush. Because the Republican convention is timed later than the Democratic gathering, Bush will have about a month more to raise money from private contributors than Kerry.

Kerry raised $31 million last month. His total of $117 million through April includes a loan of roughly $6 million.

Online fund-raising has been a big part of Kerry's financial surge since he won the Democratic primaries. This year, his campaign has taken in more than $35 million over the Internet. Kerry has raised more than $22 million through mail solicitations.

Both Bush and Kerry opted out of public financing for the primary phase of the campaign, allowing them to spend unlimited amounts through the spring and summer until their party nominating conventions.

National party committees also filed fund-raising reports Thursday. Among them:

— The Republican National Committee reported raising $179 million from January 2003 through last month. It spent $120 million and started May with $64 million on hand.

— The Democratic National Committee raised $91 million during the period, spent $50 million and finished April with $42 million in the bank.

— The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, raising money for House races, collected at least $42 million this election cycle and spent $31.7 million, with $11 million on hand as the month began.

— The National Republican Congressional Committee raised $101 million, spent $85 million and had $18 million left.