WASHINGTON – When President Bush and John Kerry (search) accept $75 million apiece in public money for the fall campaign, as they are expected to after they are nominated at the political conventions, it will be the only money they can spend on the presidential race from that point on. But it doesn't mean they will be on their own financially.
The Democratic and Republican parties can each spend roughly $16 million in coordination with their presidential nominees, and can pour in unlimited amounts on spending that is independent of the campaigns.
For Democrats, the spending blitz starts after Kerry accepts the party's presidential nomination in Boston on July 29. It begins for Republicans after the convention in New York in early September.
The Republican National Committee (search) started July with $78 million in the bank, and the Democratic National Committee had roughly $63 million on hand. Each plans to rake in millions more before Election Day.
With an eye on making their government checks stretch as far as possible, Bush and Kerry have helped raise tens of millions for their parties over the past several weeks. Their running mates are also lending a hand.
Vice President Dick Cheney (search) has raised more than $2 million this year for the RNC, including $250,000 in Pennsylvania last week. Kerry running mate John Edwards' (search) schedule this week puts him at Democratic fund-raisers in New York City and his home state of North Carolina.
The fund-raising help the parties get from their presidential candidates is more important than ever this election, the first under a new campaign law that banned the national parties from accepting corporate, union and unlimited donations.
The national parties now must rely on "hard money" donations from individuals, capped at $25,000 per year. Both have started new fund-raising programs to try to take in record amounts of that type of donation.
Each of the RNC's new "super rangers" fund-raising group must raise at least $300,000 by mid-August. The DNC's "trustees" pledge to raise at least $250,000 each by November.
The parties can spend unlimited amounts in support of their nominees thanks to a Supreme Court ruling last year that struck down new restrictions. The court overturned a provision of a 2002 campaign finance law that would have forced the parties to choose between coordinated and independent expenditures in the presidential race.
As long as the ads are paid for with hard money, the parties can call for the election or defeat of Bush or Kerry. In the past, when the ads were paid for with corporate, union and unlimited donations, they couldn't urge viewers to vote for or against a presidential candidate.
Only the two national committees can coordinate spending with Bush and Kerry. State parties, like the DNC and RNC, can spend unlimited amounts of hard money in support of the candidates as long as it is done independently of their campaigns.