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The Race to the White House

California Helps Kerry Set Fundraising Records

Anti-Bush sentiment adds up to the most money a candidate has ever raised in one state.

August 11, 2004|Lisa Getter | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry has raised more money from California than any candidate has ever collected in one state in any election.

Fueled by a fierce sentiment against President Bush, California donors have given nearly $3 million more to Kerry's presidential bid than Bush has raised from his home state of Texas, traditionally his biggest source of campaign cash.

Though California has been a virtual automatic teller machine for national candidates, the amount of money poured into Kerry's campaign -- and into the liberal independent groups seeking to oust Bush in November -- is surprising even the most seasoned fundraisers in the state.

Altogether, Kerry, liberal groups and the Democratic National Committee have raised $47.5 million in California, compared with $31.9 million for Bush and the Republican National Committee.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday August 14, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 60 words Type of Material: Correction
Kerry donors -- A graphic in Wednesday's Section A about donors to Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign listed the "top California employers" contributing to Kerry. The donations were not from the companies, but from their employees. A second graphic listed the 94941 ZIP Code and its corresponding location on a map as Sausalito. It should have been Mill Valley.

"They're reaching into their pocketbooks. They're doing it again and again. I've never seen anything like it," said Michael Thorsnes, a San Diego trial attorney who had raised $2.6 million for the Kerry campaign.

Kerry had raised $23.6 million from Californians by the end of June, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks campaign finance data. That amounts to about 21% of his donations nationwide.

The president, in comparison, raised $17.6 million in California as of the end of June. Bush raised $9.2 million in 2000, the most anyone had ever collected in the Golden State before he and Kerry smashed all records this year. Both candidates opted out of the public financing system in the primaries, allowing them to raise unlimited cash.

All fundraising totals are based on contributions of $200 or more -- which, by law, must be individually reported by the campaigns. They do not include the millions the Kerry and Bush campaigns have amassed from California in small donations over the Internet or through direct mail.

"California has been a huge success for John Kerry because we have so many committed fundraising leaders," said Kerry state Finance Chairman Mark Gorenberg, a San Francisco venture capitalist.

Combined, the Kerry campaign and independent groups -- called 527s, after the tax code that regulates them -- have raised more in California than former Vice President Al Gore collected nationwide for his presidential bid four years ago.

Gore raised $5 million in California from about 7,700 donors. In this election, Kerry's money came from more than 39,600 donors in the state, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.

Neither Bush nor Kerry is spending much time campaigning or airing many ads in California, since voters there are expected to back the Democratic nominee come November. But with its wealth and population, the state remains a popular money stop. It's No. 1 in the nation for political giving.

Bush and Kerry are returning to Southern California this month -- the president is attending a fundraising dinner for the RNC on Thursday in Santa Monica, and Kerry will attend a DNC fundraiser in Los Angeles on Aug. 26.

The explosion in California fundraising is due in large part to the fact that Kerry and Bush opted not to accept public funds during their parties' primaries. Doing so lifted federal caps on fundraising.

Political observers all point to the same reason Democrats outpaced Republicans: intense anti-Bush sentiment that was deepened by the administration's policies on the environment, energy and the war in Iraq.

"We're talking real anger here," said Larry Gersten, a political scientist at San Jose State University. "That has led folks to open up their wallets in ways they'd never thought they'd do."

Bob Mullholland, the state Democratic Party political director, said Kerry's familiarity with the state also had made fundraising easy for Democrats. "Kerry fits California like a surfer," he said.

He said the senator from Massachusetts could legitimately call the state his home -- he received naval training and was stationed in Coronado and Treasure Island in 1967 and 1968.

The president raised nearly twice as much this year in the state as he did in 2000 -- mirroring his success nationwide. Part of that can be attributed to a new federal law doubling contribution limits for donors -- to $2,000 per person this cycle.

"John Kerry might have Hollywood contributors in his pocket, but we believe Californians as a whole will support the president's policies, which have put more money in the pockets of everyday Americans and created 1.5 million new jobs since August alone," said Bush campaign representative Tracey Schmitt.

The president had 44 California fundraisers who collected at least $100,000 each in individual donations.

The Republican National Committee has collected more donations throughout the state than the Democratic National Committee -- $14.3 million for the RNC compared to $7.9 million for the DNC, according to figures provided by Morris.

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