Republican Money Machine Cranking

Pulling far ahead of its Democratic counterpart, the Republican National Committee has raised a record $31.7 million this year, most of it as unregulated "hard money."

From January to March, the RNC made $26 million — more than $8 out of every $10 — in hard money from donations that are limited in size but can be spent without restrictions.

The Democratic National Committee raised about $26 million during the same period, and only $8 million was in hard money.

Under a campaign finance law signed by President Bush last week, the parties can continue to raise and spend "soft money" until this November's mid-term election, but no soft money — fistfuls of cash given in lump sums from several interest groups for party building activities — may be raised by the national parties after the fall election.

Two "soft money" donations to pay for the DNC's new party headquarters came in the form of checks for $7 million and $5 million respectively from two Hollywood executives.

The DNC's $8 million in hard money came from direct mail fund raising, a record first-quarter total from that source, Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe wrote in a letter to party leaders that was released Thursday.

The DNC finished the quarter with $23 million on hand and roughly $9 million in debts. The RNC has $38.8 million on hand and no debts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.