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Kerry, DNC Break New Ground by Opening JFC

Sen. John Kerry and the Democratic National Committee have formed a joint fundraising venture designed to maximize donors’ ability to write a single check to benefit the Massachusetts Senator’s presidential campaign as well as the national party.

The committee — Kerry Victory 2004 — was established March 22 and is the first such undertaking for a Democratic presidential candidate and the DNC. The agreement enables a donor to contribute simultaneously to Kerry and the national committee.

“Since we are working closely with the DNC on all of this, they thought it would be a good idea to set one up,” said deputy campaign manager Steve Elmendorf.

The formation of the new organization coincides with the DNC’s attempt to “piggyback” its fundraisers onto already scheduled Kerry events.

“To the extent that we can, we are trying to match DNC fundraisers with Kerry’s existing fundraising schedule,” said DNC spokesman Jano Cabrera. “When he holds an event, we are trying to make sure there is a DNC event he can go to afterward.”

Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, any time two federal committees raise money together, they must create a JCF for the proceeds.

Kerry has just begun a six-week, 20-city fundraising effort that his campaign hopes will net $20 million. A number of DNC events featuring Kerry are also scheduled during this money push.

President Bush’s campaign has not yet established any joint fundraising agreements with the Republican National Committee.

Under a joint fundraising agreement, the first $2,000 of any check written to Kerry Victory 2004 goes directly to the Senator’s presidential campaign committee with the remainder of the money going to the DNC.

The goal is “simplicity for the donors,” said Elmendorf.

Another side benefit is that the Kerry campaign and the DNC can split overhead costs for JFC events.

Individual contributors are limited to $95,000 in donations per election cycle with $37,500 of that allocated to individual candidates and $57,500 to political action committees and parties.

The Kerry campaign announced Friday that it had raised more than $50 million from Jan. 1 to March 31, more than half of which came in contributions over the Internet.

The DNC raised $27 million and had $25 million left to spend at the end of March.

While these numbers are impressive, they pale in comparison to the fundraising of the Bush campaign and the RNC.

Bush has already raised more than $180 million for his primary campaign, including better than $50 million in the first three months of 2004.

The RNC had $54 million left to spend at the end of March.

Joint fundraising committees became big business over the past few cycles for the parties’ Senate committees.

In 2002, the final cycle before unlimited soft-money donations were banned, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had 17 such agreements with candidates; their Republican counterparts had eight.

A donor could write a $100,000 check to one of these committees, with the first $2,000 going directly to the candidate as a hard-money contribution and the remaining $98,000 funneled to the Senate committee as a soft-money donation.

While the popularity of these agreements has waned as the ability to harvest huge contributions in a single check has been eliminated, both Senate campaign committees are still actively utilizing them.

The DSCC has been far more active, raising $900,000 for itself through 13 joint fundraising agreements in 2003; the National Republican Senatorial Committee had only one active JFC last year — with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).

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