BOSTON – John Kerry (search) prepared Thursday for an August television ad blackout aimed at hoarding as much of his $75 million in post-convention government funding as possible through the extra month President Bush has to spend private campaign donations.
Bush's financial advantage comes from the timing of the two parties' nominating conventions. The GOP convention falls about a month after the Democratic gathering, meaning Bush will have to make his $75 million general-election government check last one month less than Kerry must.
The Federal Election Commission (search) is expected to wire $75 million in taxpayer funding to Kerry's campaign Friday. At that point, Kerry must cover all new campaigning costs through Nov. 2 with the government funds.
The Bush campaign has said repeatedly that Bush, too, plans to accept full government financing for the race after he is nominated in New York City on Sept. 2.
"We take them at their word," Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan said.
The Kerry campaign at one point toyed with holding the Boston convention as planned but delaying the nomination a month to give Kerry more time to continue his record fund raising.
That would have put the Massachusetts Democrat in uncharted territory with the FEC, which considers the general-election campaign to start around the time delegates are pledged. It provides about $15 million in government funding for the convention on the understanding a nominee will be produced there.
Kerry believes that once he accepts the public money, there is no way to undo the decision even if the Bush campaign decides to opt out, Meehan said.
Kerry can use any remaining private contributions to cover lingering primary-campaign costs, and he can continue raising donations for legal and accounting expenses through the election. He can also give leftover primary-campaign cash to the Democratic Party or parcel it out in limited amounts to Democratic candidates.
Though the $75 million will be all his campaign can spend, Kerry will benefit from roughly $16 million the Democratic National Committee can pour into the race in coordination with his campaign, unlimited sums the national and state parties can spend in support of him, and tens of millions of dollars outside anti-Bush groups will devote to voter outreach and other activities.
Both Bush and Kerry opted out of partial public financing and its $45 million spending limit for the primary election, letting them raise record sums to spend through spring and much of summer. The 2004 race marks the first time candidates from both major parties skipped primary public financing; in past elections, nominees-to-be often entered their conventions virtually broke and desperate for the government check.