Does Bush Have Financial Advantage Over Kerry?

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, July 30, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: It's all about the money now that John Kerry's (search) a nominee, he gets $75 million wired straight from the Federal Election Commission (search), but that's all his campaign is allowed to spend between now and Election Day. President Bush can keep raising and spending whatever he wants for the next five weeks until he is officially the Republican nominee.

Joining me now from Washington to talk about campaign cash: Larry Noble for the Center for Responsive Politics (search). Larry, the big question: does the Bush campaign — just the way this all works out — have a financial advantage here?

LARRY NOBLE, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: Yes. The Bush campaign has a clear financial advantage. They have five more weeks where they can spend their primary money — and Bush has collected over $230 million — for his primary. And as of today, John Kerry has to start spending down to $75 million that he's getting for public funding for the General Election Campaign.

So, Bush has an advantage.

GIBSON: Right. But, Kerry was raising startling amounts of money up until the point that he accepted the nomination last night. Where does that money go? It gets used somewhere in his behalf, doesn't it?

NOBLE: Right. And he has been raising startling amounts of money. He was raising about $1 million a day. Whatever he has left over from the primaries — and he's going to have a substantial amount left over — he's going to transfer to the Democratic Party; he's going to transfer it the Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Congressional Committee to help the senatorial and congressional candidates.

He's also going to transfer it to the DNC to help his own campaign. They can spend another $15 million coordinated with his campaign for the general election. Plus, that we suspect he's going to do is transfer some of that money to be spent on what's called, independent expenditures. And those are expenditure that the DNC will make that they will say are independent of the Kerry campaign and they're not limited in the amount of money they can spend on those.

GIBSON: All right. But this is not like the 527s that can't spend money that says, "Vote for John Kerry" but you can attack George Bush or push an idea or an issue.

What are the rules that the DNC — once the DNC has Kerry's money transferred to them, are there any rules about how they can spend it like the 527?

NOBLE: Yes. There are rules.

First of all, all the money that's being transferred is what we call hard money. It was raised under the limits and prohibitions of the law. The $15 million they spend can be spent in total coordination with the Kerry campaign. They can sit down and draw up the plans exactly how they're going to do it with the campaign. But they can only spend about $15 million on that.

If they're going to do this independent spending, then they cannot have any contact with the campaign about the spending, they cannot talk to them about strategy; they're going to have actually set up a brick wall between their independent group and the party committee.

And even then there's some question about whether or not they can, in fact, take money transferred from the Kerry campaign to spend independently on his behalf. So, there's some gray area there.

GIBSON: All right. But, meanwhile, for the next five or six weeks, until President Bush is actually re-nominated, his pre-nomination spending spree goes on with no constraint, right?

NOBLE: That's right. Because he did not take public funding, he can spend all of the money that he's collected. And as I said, he's collected over $230 million, he has got a good portion of that left, and I think you're going to be seeing him spend a lot of that money between now and the Republican Convention.

GIBSON: All right. But as of Labor Day, they're both dealing with the same amount of money on an even playing field? Right or wrong?

NOBLE: Right. As of Labor Day, they both will have — Kerry will have what's left of his $75 million, Bush will have $75 million. Now, what Kerry does have, and you alluded to this, what Kerry does have also are these so-called 527 organizations out there who are trying to fill in some of that gap.

GIBSON: All right. Larry Noble of the Center for Responsive Politics. Larry, thanks a lot, appreciate it.

NOBLE: My pleasure.

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