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Kemp Revamps Campaign Amid Staff Woes, Debt

May 14, 1987|JACK NELSON | Times Washington Bureau Chief

WASHINGTON — Serious personnel and financial problems have forced Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) to reorganize his Iowa campaign and order his national presidential campaign committee to cut back on expenditures.

Moreover, two Kemp campaign sources, including a major fund-raiser and financial supporter, say major contributors have complained to Kemp that his campaign is being ineptly run by Charlie Black, its chief executive officer.

Although Kemp has raised $1.7 million in the last four months, his campaign has gone into debt in the month since he officially announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

In an interview Wednesday, Kemp conceded that he had run into organizational problems in Iowa and that he had felt compelled to order his national committee to "trim back as much as possible" because his campaign had already run into debt. But the reorganizational moves in Iowa and the economic measures he has ordered should solve both problems, he said.

Kemp, running third in the polls behind Vice President George Bush and Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) in the GOP race, insisted that he was "not heavily in debt." Campaign spokesman John Buckley said the debt totals only about $150,000.

But two other Kemp campaign sources, both of whom declined to be identified, said the debt exceeds $500,000. Last week, they said, the campaign owed $567,000 and had only $44,000 on hand. In addition, they said, Kemp's 1986 campaign for reelection to Congress still is in the red by $117,000.

Disaster Predicted

One of the sources, who said he and other major contributors had complained to Kemp about Black's management of the campaign, predicted disaster unless there is a major shake-up at the top.

Black was unavailable for comment. But Buckley, after checking with Kemp, said the congressman "has total confidence in Charlie Black and there is no major shake-up being planned.

"If contributors want to say something like that, they're welcome to their opinion, but they don't run the campaign."

Bush and Dole, meanwhile, are continuing to raise huge amounts of campaign funds. The vice president's campaign reports that he has raised $5.5 million and has qualified for about $2.5 million in matching federal funds that will be available in January.

Fred Bush, deputy finance chairman of the Bush campaign and no relation to the candidate, said the vice president expects to raise $750,000 at a New York fund-raiser next week and another $1 million from fund-raisers June 3 in Los Angeles and June 4 in San Diego. By the end of June, he predicted, the Bush campaign will have raised $11 million in contributions and federal matching funds.

The Bush campaign reports that it has "in excess of $2 million" on hand. Bill Lacey, manager of the Dole campaign, reports that it has $2 million on hand and projects that it will have raised $6 million in contributions and matching funds by the end of June.

Until recently, polls have shown Bush far out front in the GOP presidential race, but a poll by the Los Angeles Times published last Sunday showed Bush and Dole in a dead heat with 27% each, and Kemp running third with 12%.

Orders to Economize

Kemp told The Times that he ordered officials of his national campaign to economize because he and his wife are determined to keep it from going deeply into debt. "I told (Chairman) Ed Rollins and Charlie Black that we don't want to go into debt," Kemp said.

Campaigning in debt can quickly turn into "a black hole," he said.

Kemp also reportedly has been concerned about the experience of Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) of running up huge debts in his 1984 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Explaining his campaign debt, Kemp said: "We've carried a big administrative burden and are trying to cut back on expenses." But he and Buckley said the campaign has no plans for trimming its staff of 43 full-time employees.

"We've got to raise more money--that's a big challenge," said Kemp, who hopes to raise between $5 million and $6 million by next January.

Kemp, whose aides believe that he needs to make a strong third-place showing in Iowa to remain a serious contender for the nomination, has just named Penny Brown, a top political operative of Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), to help head up his Iowa campaign.

Kemp also removed John Maxwell as state campaign director and removed Jeff Jepsen, son of former Sen. Roger W. Jepsen (R-Iowa) as Midwest regional field director.

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