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Gore Steers $6M to ’04 Campaign

Former Vice President Al Gore will donate $6 million to the three Democratic campaign committees from a federal compliance account left over from his 2000 presidential effort.

The Democratic National Committee will receive the bulk of the funds — $4 million — while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will get $1 million apiece.

Gore’s decision to part with the funds will be a shot in the arm for Democrats, who have seen their financial imbalance with Republicans only grow since the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act banned the committees from using soft money.

“The outcome of this election is extremely important for the future of our country and for all that America stands for,” Gore said in a news release.

The money comes from Gore’s General Election Legal and Accounting Compliance (GELAC) fund, which was opened during the 2000 election to defray legal costs for the expenditure of $70 million in public funding that both Gore and President Bush received for the general election. At the end of March he had $6.6 million in the account.

DCCC Chairman Robert Matsui (Calif.) told his Caucus of the financial windfall Wednesday morning after speaking with Gore by phone earlier in the day; DSCC Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) received a call from Gore Tuesday night and began informing Senators on Wednesday.

“Do you know how many calls you have to make to raise $1 million?” said Corzine when asked about the importance of the donations. “It is exceptionally helpful and speaks to his respect for where all of us are in terms of taking back the Senate, the House and the presidency.”

Matsui said the news prompted a standing ovation by the House Democratic Caucus, and he predicted the $1 million cash infusion “will give us at least two additional Democratic seats” in the fall.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) added that Gore’s contribution “will boost our efforts around the country to raise money, energize voters and win races.”

All three Democratic Party committees trail their Republican counterparts in fundraising, a point Republicans were quick to make.

RNC spokeswoman Christine Iverson said that the “Democrat party has traditionally been supported by a very small group of very rich people.

“Campaign finance reform turned off their multimillion-dollar spigot and as a result I am sure they are extremely grateful for his contribution,” she added.

The DNC had $27.5 million in the bank at the end of March to the Republican National Committee’s $54 million. The National Republican Senatorial Committee had nearly $10 million more on hand than its Democratic counterparts through March.

On the House side, the National Republican Congressional Committee had $16 million in the bank at the end of March to the DCCC’s $12 million.

DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe sought to put a positive spin on the financial state of play Wednesday.

“The Democratic Party is in the best shape it’s ever been at this point in a general election,” he said in a news release. “With that money — combined with today’s financial lift from Al Gore — we will help all of our Democratic candidates and our nominee, John Kerry.”

Gore’s decision to essentially zero-out his GELAC account puts an end to several years of speculation about the future of his stockpile.

The money left in the account is considered excess campaign funds by the Federal Election Commission and therefore could be donated to charity, used to pay past campaign debts incurred by Gore or be transferred in unlimited amounts to state or national party committees.

Since the start of 2001, Gore had transferred $1.9 million to his presidential account for “wind-down expenses.”

He also gave the Tennessee Democratic Party $450,000 last summer, the only contribution to anyone other than himself that Gore had made from the account. The former vice president said Wednesday he will give an additional $250,000 to his home state party.

He rejected a request in late 2003 from Matsui for a portion of the funds, saying he was focused on the presidential campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), whom he endorsed in the primary process.

“He said he hadn’t made any decision yet but wanted to be helpful,” Matsui said.

Despite his past entreaties, Matsui said he was “speechless” when Gore told him about the donation.

“It wasn’t out of the blue but it wasn’t anything we had anticipated, and certainly not on that scale,” he added.

Corzine said he had never asked Gore for a contribution from his GELAC account.

“He didn’t have to be solicited, he did it on his own,” said the New Jersey Senator. “Given the vice president’s history, this is absolutely generous beyond belief.”

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