WASHINGTON – National Republican Party committees reported a 4-to-1 edge over their Democratic counterparts in contributions last month, taking in $19.8 million to the Democrats' $4.96 million.
The gap reflects a long-standing GOP advantage in raising money from individual donors and shows the work ahead for Democrats as they adjust to a world without big "soft money" checks under the nation's new campaign finance law.
Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, outpaced their Democratic rivals at every party committee in February, according to campaign finance reports they filed with the Federal Election Commission this week. The reports show:
-- The National Republican Congressional Committee, which raises money for House Republicans, took in $8.1 million, compared with $1.4 million for the House Democratic committee.
-- The Senate Republicans' fund-raising committee collected $2 million, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $889,685.
-- The Republican National Committee raised nearly $9.7 million, compared with $2.6 million for the Democratic National Committee.
"Political fund raising is not a month-to-month race. It's all about being able to have the biggest impact in campaigns during the election season," NRCC spokesman Steve Schmidt said Thursday. "Right now, it's a very real question whether the Democratic national committees are going to have any kind of sizable impact."
Under the campaign finance law that took effect in November, the national party committees can only solicit contributions from individuals and political action committees in limited amounts. They can no longer collect soft money, which includes donations of any size from corporations and labor unions as well as contributions of more than $25,000 from individuals and PACs.
Democratic National Committee spokesman Guillermo Meneses said Democrats recognize they are in a new world and are investing in their fund-raising operations, including their file of prospective individual donors.
"Republicans will always have more money than we do, but we've made long-term strategic investments that were necessary for us to remain competitive," Meneses said. "I can tell you Republicans are going to need a lot of money to defend President Bush's economic record."
The NRCC dedicated the most of any committee last month to the business of raising money.
The House GOP committee reached out to potential donors with $5.2 million worth of telemarketing and $709,580 in mailings, an analysis of its report by the PoliticalMoneyLine campaign finance tracking service found.
The House Republican committee didn't list the purpose for any of its spending, a level of detail required by the FEC, which enforces the nation's campaign finance laws. The NRCC will be asked to provide it, commission spokesman Bob Biersack said.
Schmidt said he believed the NRCC was in full compliance with the commission's reporting requirements.
In all, the three national Republican committees began this month with $17.4 million on hand, compared with about $5.4 million for the Democrats. Every committee except the RNC also posted a debt.
The Democratic senatorial committee owed the most. It reported $6.2 million in debts and $285,678 in the bank.
The NRCC finished February with $2.3 million on hand and $5.3 million in debts, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported owing $5.6 million with $2.1 million in the bank.