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Fund Raising for Clinton Holds Steady : Politics: Tabloid's allegations are showing little effect on donations. The candidate has collected more money than his rivals.

February 01, 1992|RONALD BROWNSTEIN | TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

HOUSTON — Leslie Danziger was in Texas on a business trip Tuesday when she ran across a notice in her hotel lobby announcing that Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was holding a fund-raising dinner there that night for his Democratic presidential campaign.

Danziger, the chief executive officer of a high-technology company in Tucson, said she went back to her room, got on the phone, and after a few calls, tracked down local Clinton campaign officials for details about the event. That evening, she went downstairs with her husband, and they each wrote $1,000 checks to the Clinton campaign.

"I feel it is critical at this point in time for those of us who support him and have been laying back to come forward," she said as she stood in the crowd at the fund-raiser. "We've got to stop this in the political process; we've got to make it possible for good people to come forward without having their entire personal life destroyed."

Money is the mercury of politics--the most sensitive measure of a campaign's temperature. And there are no signs yet that Clinton's money-gathering has been seriously chilled by the unsubstantiated allegations of marital infidelity recently directed at him.

"Obviously, there are some people who want to talk about the issue," said Gordon Giffin, a Democratic fund-raiser in Atlanta who is collecting money for Clinton. "But I have not incurred a single situation where anyone has said to me that because of the (adultery allegations): 'I don't want to participate.' "

Since last Sunday's appearance with his wife on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" to discuss the adultery allegations, Clinton has held eight fund-raisers across the South and in New Jersey. Rahm Emanuel, the campaign's national finance director, says Clinton raised over $140,000 in Mississippi and Louisiana on Monday, over $195,000 in Texas on Tuesday and $165,000 in New Jersey on Wednesday night.

Results for individual fund-raising events are virtually impossible to verify. But each of those functions were sufficiently well-attended to leave the impression that if donors are trying to run away from Clinton's campaign, they may need a new compass.

"That's a very good crowd for a Democrat in Houston," said City Councilman Vince Ryan as Clinton spoke to donors at the Warwick Hotel last Tuesday. But Ryan cautioned: "A lot will depend on whether in the next few days and weeks, these allegations have any truth to them. The worst thing that can happen to a candidate is for the American people to think he's lying to them."

If the turbulence has had any major effect on Clinton's fund raising, it may have been in stemming the rush of dollars into his treasury. As Clinton surged in the polls in New Hampshire--site of the nation's first primary--he attracted growing interest from donors eager to jump on his train before it pulled out of the station. Now, some are hesitating in order to make sure it does not stall.

"People were calling saying: 'I've got to get in with Bill Clinton,' " said Patricia Duff Medavoy, who is raising money for the Arkansas governor in Hollywood. "Now you get the feeling that people are a little bit frozen. They want to wait it out and see what happens."

Even so, the bottom line for Clinton still looks strong--especially when compared with his competitors. Despite the recent controversy, Clinton raised $1.6 million in January, his campaign announced Friday.

Those figures are down from December, when Clinton raised $2.4 million. But January is traditionally a slower fund-raising period, and Clinton has devoted less time lately to seeking money so that he could concentrate on quarrying for votes in New Hampshire.

Most important for Clinton, his fund raising still appears to be outpacing his rivals. Though one source said Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey had seen his contributions pick up over the past week, officials in the campaigns of both Kerrey and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin say they are likely to report total January receipts significantly below Clinton's figure. Sources say Kerrey is expected to list about $1 million raised in January, while Harkin may be closer to $600,000.

The candidates are not required to release figures on their total January take until later this month. But a good indication of their relative positions will come on Monday, when they submit requests to the Federal Election Commission for matching funds on some of money they raised last month.

On Friday, Clinton's campaign announced that during January he had raised roughly $650,000 in contributions of $250 or less--money that is eligible for federal matching funds. By contrast, sources in Kerrey's campaign said they would be requesting about $400,000 in matching funds.

Also on Friday, the campaigns submitted reports to the FEC showing their total receipts through the end of December, 1991. Those figures showed that Clinton had established a significant financial advantage over his competitors by raising almost $3.3 million and ending the year with $1.88 million in cash on hand.

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