WASHINGTON – John Kerry (search) quickly rebuilt his depleted campaign fund after securing the Democratic nomination last month, raising roughly $44 million and beating one of President Bush's (search) money records.
Kerry collected about $60 million from January through March, topping the previous presidential quarterly record of $50 million set by Bush last summer. Bush raised $52.9 million in the first three months of this year; Kerry surpasses that even after about $3.5 million in campaign loans are subtracted.
Kerry has a long way to go to catch up with Bush's record overall fund raising, however.
Kerry raised about $85 million from January 2003 through last month; Bush has raised more than $185 million since launching his re-election effort last May, campaign finance reports the two filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission (search) show.
Bush and Kerry are setting records with every dollar they collect. That is in part because this is the first time both major-party nominees have skipped public financing for the primary season, freeing them from the program's $45 million spending limit.
Kerry, who loaned his campaign about $6 million to keep it afloat as the new year began, surfaced from the primaries nearly broke but since has watched fund raising surge.
Kerry raised about $44 million in March alone, thanks in part to a flood of donations over the Internet as well as $1,000 and $2,000 checks from Democrats who delayed giving until after the primaries or previously gave to his Democratic rivals.
Kerry started April with about $32 million in the bank. He has spent about $53.6 million since starting his campaign, including roughly $15 million last month.
Bush's spending in March, about $50 million, is the most ever in one month by a presidential campaign. About $40 million of that financed his first wave of ads, timed to begin just after Kerry emerged from the primaries.
In all, Bush has spent at least $99 million since officially starting his re-election effort last May, much of that reaching out to prospective voters and donors. In addition to ad spending, Bush has devoted at least $19 million to mailings, voter lists and related costs and at least $800,000 to "message" phone calls.
Bush began April with millions of dollars on hand despite his spending spree. He raised $26.2 million last month and started April with $86.6 million on hand.
Bush's overall fund-raising advantage has shown on the airwaves in recent weeks. Bush has dedicated at least $50 million to ads over March and April, about four times as much as Kerry.
Outside groups that oppose Bush have helped bridge the gap. They have spent at least $28 million on ads over the two-month period.
Bush and Kerry continue raising money. Kerry is headlining fund-raisers for himself and the Democratic National Committee around the country. Bush is now appearing at events for other Republicans, but continues seeking donations over the Internet and through the mail.
Each will only have until his party's nominating convention in late summer to spend the money. Both are expected to accept full government financing for their general election campaigns.