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Post-BCRA Senate Fundraising Up 72 Percent

Fundraising by Senate candidates jumped 72 percent during 2003, as compared to the first half of the 2001-02 campaign cycle, according to a Federal Election Commission analysis of campaign finance records.

The watchdog agency noted, however, that comparisons between election cycles can be problematic with regard to Senate campaigns, because different states hold Senate elections each cycle and several smaller-population states had races in 2002.

Nonetheless, the 2003 increase in Senate fundraising contributed to an overall spike in Congressional campaign fundraising during a cycle in which candidates find themselves adapting to changes to federal election law, including a ban on soft money and a doubling of hard-money individual contribution limits to $2,000 per candidate, per election.

While Senate candidates raised $166.7 million through the end of 2003, Congressional campaign fundraising as a whole spiked by 32.2 percent to $390.1 million, the FEC analysis stated.

House candidates, meanwhile, raised a total of $223.4 million in 2003 — a 12 percent jump over 2001’s total of $202.2 million — and ended the year with a cash-on-hand total of $221.4 million.

The new FEC analysis indicates that candidates seem to have adapted to the new hard-money limits: While contributions from individuals are typically the largest source of funds for House and Senate candidates, the FEC noted that the $237.6 million raised from individuals was 40 percent higher than in 2001 and accounted for 61 percent of all fundraising for the year.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) raised more money than any other Senator from individual contributors, pulling in $6.7 million of his $8.1 million total from individuals.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) was a close second, pulling in nearly $5.3 million of his $6.6 million total from people, not political action or other committees; and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was third, with $4.4 million of her $5.9 million total coming from individuals.

Contributions from PACs and other candidate committees, which are operating under the same limits as they did before the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act went into effect in November 2002, rose 11 percent but represented only 26 percent of all the money candidates raised, down from 31 percent in 2001.

Eight sitting Senators raised more than $1 million from PACs and other candidate committees through the end of 2003: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), with nearly $1.4 million; Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), $1.3 million; Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), with almost $1.3 million; Richard Burr (R-N.C.), with approximately $1.2 million; Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), with about $1.1 million; and Specter and Kit Bond (R-Mo.), both with just more than $1 million.

Schumer might have topped the list for contributions from individuals, but he ranked 21st in PAC contributions, which total $590,500.

Topping the Senate fundraising charts is a nonincumbent — multimillionaire Democrat Blair Hull, who is gunning for retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald’s (R-Ill.) seat. While Hull raised $11.8 million for his bid through the end of 2003 — much of that coming from his own bank account — he recently said he has self-financed to the tune of $24 million so far this election cycle.

Twenty-five House candidates, meanwhile, had raised more than $1 million for their campaigns as of Dec. 31, 2003.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) topped that list with more than $2 million in receipts.

Coming in close behind were Reps. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), with $1.9 million; Mark Foley (R-Fla.), with $1.8 million; and Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), with $1.6 million. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) rounded out the top five with $1.5 million in receipts.

Lantos and Menendez raised the largest amount — each pulled in about $1.5 million — from individual contributors. Hastert and Foley were close behind, each with close to $1.3 million in receipts from individuals.

By the end of 2003, Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) was sitting on the biggest war chest, according to cash-on-hand rankings that placed him first with $2.8 million.

Foley and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) were second and third, with $2.6 million and $2.3 million, respectively. Menendez had nearly $2.3 million on hand, and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) rounded out the top five with close to $2.1 million at the end of last year.

While Congressional candidates were reaping the benefits of the hard-money limit increases, other FEC news released Wednesday showed that soft money is still giving some in the campaign finance community a headache.

The Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee and Federal National Mortgage Association paid a total of $132,000 in civil penalties because the two committees improperly deposited soft-money donations from Fannie Mae.

The FEC found that both the RNC and the NRSC were improperly depositing large contributions from Fannie Mae, and the Home Loan Mortgage Corp., into general and other accounts, as opposed to the specific building fund accounts for which they were intended.

The RNC paid the bulk of the fine — it received a $98,000 civil penalty — whereas the NRSC was assessed a $24,000 penalty, and Fannie Mae got hit with a $10,000 fine.

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