Some Surprises in Democratic Presidential Money Race

Dick Gephardt (search) sought to reassure party leaders Tuesday that he's still a serious presidential contender despite his fifth-place showing in the Democratic race for cash. Early fund-raising leader John Edwards (search) saw his donations slow as he headed into the summer.

President Bush (search) led the 2004 field with $34.4 million and took the unprecedented step of identifying all his major fund-raisers.

Gephardt, the former House minority leader, raised $3.87 million in the second fund-raising quarter, about $1 million less than his campaign had hoped. That put him behind John Kerry (search), Edwards, Howard Dean (search) and Joe Lieberman (search) in money raised so far this year.

The Missouri congressman contacted key party officials to stave off possible defections and wooed one of the largest uncommitted unions, the 1.4 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

In the cash race, Gephardt fell behind despite endorsements from several labor unions; strong showings in polls nationally and in Iowa, where party caucuses begin the campaign season in January; and his experience raising money for his 1988 presidential bid and for House Democrats.

"They have a real problem in their whole fund-raising apparatus," said Tony Coelho, Al Gore's campaign chairman in 2000. "With the endorsements they have and the poll numbers they have, they should not be having the trouble they're having raising money. Don't forget, in 1988, this is what knocked him out of the race too: ... money."

Coelho said Gephardt still has time to prove himself by Oct. 1, the start of the fourth and final fund-raising quarter before the primaries begin. "By then you better have your money situation worked out," he said.

Gephardt aides pledged to retool their fund-raising tactics as part of a broader reassessment of his campaign strategies. Gephardt raised $3.5 million from January to March and transferred $2.4 million from his House campaign, giving him a total $9.8 million for the year, with $6.3 million in the bank.

In contrast, Kerry raised $13 million over the same period, with about $10.9 million in cash on hand. In addition, Kerry transferred $2.6 million from his Senate campaign after last fall's election.

"We thought we raised more and we should have raised more and we're going to raise more," Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy said. "We've got a good financial organization. We're going to plug some holes and raise the $10 million we need to get through the rest of the year."

Gephardt was talking to party leaders and constituency groups, urging them not to give up on his campaign. One meeting was with Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has not endorsed a candidate.

After leading in the first quarter with $7.4 million raised, Edwards, a North Carolina senator, collected $4.5 million in the second quarter for a total $11.9 million raised so far this year. He had $8 million on hand.

Edwards' second-quarter total was about $500,000 less than the campaign had expected. A campaign official attributed to the difference to checks from June fund-raisers that were dated July 1, requiring the campaign to wait until the third quarter to count them, and errors by a vendor who triple-counted several credit-card donations.

Edwards spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said the campaign was proud of its second-quarter showing and knew all along it would raise less than it did last winter.

"We wanted to hit a big number in the first quarter to show our campaign is viable," Palmieri said.

Bush raised $34.4 million between mid-May, when he announced his re-election effort, and the end of June. The campaign spent about $2.4 million in the second quarter and started July with $32.6 million on hand, campaign manager Ken Mehlman said. It had 105,000 donors, he said.

Bush's fund raising included $780,000 from political action committees, party committees and other candidates. In addition, Bush transferred $671,000 left from his 2000 campaign and legal compliance fund, giving his re-election campaign total receipts of $35.1 million, his campaign finance report showed.

Going beyond Federal Election Commission disclosure requirements, the campaign provided a searchable database on its Web site that lists every donor who gave more than $1.

The site also lists Bush's "pioneers," volunteers who have raised at least $100,000, and "rangers," those who collected $200,000 or more. At least 18 have raised enough to be rangers; there are at least 50 pioneers.

The disclosure drew praise from Larry Noble, head of the Center for Responsive Politics campaign-finance watchdog group.

"I think the public needs to know who it is who's raising $100,000 and $200,000 in contributions," Noble said, although he said he still wonders what those collecting large sums for Bush might expect in return.

The rangers include Stan O'Neal, chief executive of Merrill Lynch & Co.; Carl Lindner, chief executive of American Financial Group, a financial holding company; Eric Tanenblatt, chief of staff to Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue; and Christopher Egan, manager of Massachusetts-based Carruth Capital, a real estate investment and development company.

Bush, the sole Republican candidate, is aiming to raise a record $150 million or more for next year's primaries. Many observers think he could reach $200 million.

The presidential campaigns detailed their finances in reports Tuesday to the FEC.

Former Vermont Gov. Dean pulled into third place in Democratic money after raising $7.6 million in the second quarter, much of it over the Internet. He collected $10.1 million so far this year and had $6.4 million on hand.

Lieberman, a Connecticut senator and Gore's running mate in 2000, was reorganizing his fund-raising team after raising $5.1 million this quarter, putting him in fourth place. Lieberman raised $8.1 million this year and began July with about $4 million on hand.