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With Cheney on Ticket, Energy Cash Flows to GOP

August 25, 2000|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee collected almost $800,000 in unregulated soft money donations from energy companies after George W. Bush tapped Dick Cheney, chief executive of Halliburton Co., as his running mate.

Some of the companies had not given any soft money this year until Cheney joined the ticket. Cheney headed the oil services company for five years after formerly serving in Congress and as secretary of Defense; Bush also is a former oil company executive. Cheney resigned his post last week.

The $791,100 in energy contributions during the last week of July were part of the $25.2 million in soft money donations the RNC took in last month--half as much as they raised during the previous six months. The party took in 86 donations of $100,000 or more.

RNC spokesman Bill Pascoe acknowledged that Cheney's selection helped boost donations.

"It really is a reflection of very broad and obviously deep support for the ticket," Pascoe said. "Once the announcement was made, the floodgates opened."

While soft money is not subject to federal contribution limits and cannot be used to directly aid federal candidates, both parties use the funds to help pay for issue ads designed to help elect their candidates.

Besides the soft money contributions, the RNC last month raised $12.4 million under federal contribution limits, so-called hard money used to directly help candidates. Since Jan. 1, 1999, the RNC has raised almost $180 million.

The Democratic National Committee, which reports its finances quarterly, raised $108 million from Jan. 1, 1999, through June 30, 2000.

On Thursday, the DNC added $1.25 million in hard money to its coffers at two intimate fund-raising dinners at a Washington hotel. At the first, Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore and Democratic National Chairman Joe Andrew spoke to 50 Indian Americans who had paid $5,000 apiece. The second dinner featured Gore and vice presidential nominee Joseph I. Lieberman speaking to supporters of the Connecticut senator who had raised $50,000 apiece.

The RNC's biggest energy donation after Cheney joined the ticket came from Black Beauty Coal Corp. of Evansville, Ind., and its chief executive, Steven Chancellor. They gave $310,000 after Bush picked Cheney. They had not previously given any soft money during the 1999-2000 election cycle. Company executives declined to comment.

Larry Makinson, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said energy executives clearly are excited over the Bush-Cheney ticket.

"Clearly the addition of Cheney made it a pure oil ticket, so I imagine anyone in the energy sector would be enthusiastic," said Makinson, whose nonpartisan research group studies campaign finance. "I can see why they would be energized."

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