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THE NATION

McCain in Labor Day race

He lags behind Obama but is cooperating with party fundraisers. He must spend donations by the end of summer.

July 21, 2008|Dan Morain | Times Staff Writer

Wall Street, gambling and energy interests have contributed generously to presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain and the GOP as they amass money for the fall campaign, according to newly filed campaign finance reports.

McCain trails his Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, in the total amount each has raised, $144 million to $339 million. In filings with the Federal Election Commission, McCain reported he raised $22.2 million in June, up from the $21 million raised in May. Obama raised $52 million last month, his aides said.

To help ensure he has sufficient money for the fall, the Arizona senator has established joint fundraising committees with the Republican National Committee and some state Republican parties. The RNC raised $25.8 million in June.

Under federal law, an individual cannot give more than $2,300 to a single candidate per election. By establishing joint fundraising committees, however, McCain can solicit donations of $100,000 or more.

Money raised by the joint fundraisers is divided among various accounts, with some going to the candidate, some to the national party and some to state committees.

"For all the folderol about transparency, it is one of the accounting games you play in presidential campaigns. It gets complex," said California Republican consultant Don Sipple, who is not involved in this year's campaign.

Obama, whose June campaign finance disclosure was not available late Sunday, has set up similar committees. The Democratic National Committee and two joint committees raised $24 million in June and had $20.3 million in the bank.

Republicans recently filed reports showing that joint fundraising committees raised $61 million in the last quarter.

Nine donors gave $100,000 or more in May and June. Geoffrey T. Boisi, a director of troubled home lender Freddie Mac, for one, gave $100,000.

Donors identifying themselves as investors or working for investment firms accounted for $9 million to the joint committees, a preliminary review by The Times shows.

Partners in the investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts gave at least $285,000 to the committees.

Partners in the New York hedge fund managed by Paul E. Singer continued to give to the Republican cause, donating at least $157,000 to McCain and various GOP committees in June.

Singer and his Elliott Associates partners and family members have given more than $670,000 to McCain and the GOP since March. Singer was one of Rudolph W. Giuliani's biggest fundraisers.

The reports were submitted to the FEC last week and provided by Congressional Quarterly's Political MoneyLine. An initial review shows McCain and the GOP committees raised at least $890,000 from oil and other energy producers.

Gambling sources accounted for at least $458,000. Nevada contributors in the last quarter included Steve Wynn and others in his Wynn Resorts, at $128,000; MGM Mirage at $127,000; and Frank Fertitta and others affiliated with Station Casinos, at $99,000.

In California, Stockton developer Alex Spanos and his family contributed at least $85,950 to McCain and the GOP committees.

Spanos owns the San Diego Chargers.

Much of the complexity in the law revolves around public campaign financing.

Unlike Obama, McCain is accepting a federal grant of $84.1 million to wage his general election campaign. In exchange, he must limit spending and stop raising money for his presidential campaign account, though he can continue raise funds for the GOP. The party can spend unlimited sums to help the nominee.

Under federal rules, McCain must spend money he raises this summer before the Republican convention in September, and that's what he's doing. He spent $27 million, including $16.2 million on TV ads and nearly $3 million on mailings.

"He is spending in the key states and is trying to give his candidacy some definition, all wise moves in the summer months," Sipple said. "A lot of people believe that presidential races are decided before Labor Day. It makes it even more important that he spend his money."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, filed a June report showing she raised $2.7 million and spent $5.4 million. Altogether, the onetime candidate amassed $242 million and spent $216 million.

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dan.morain@latimes.com

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