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Money Soars, Again

Congressional fundraising has reached dizzying new heights during the 2004 election cycle, with House and Senate candidates raising more than half a billion dollars just through the end of March, a new Federal Election Commission analysis finds.

Overall, House and Senate candidates raised $583 million during the first 15 months of the current election cycle — a 35 percent increase over the same period in the 2001-02 election cycle.

Spending on the 34 Senate contests accelerated the fastest.

Overall, some 140 Senate campaigns reported $253.5 million in receipts and $140.6 million in expenditures — a 74 percent increase in fundraising and a 123 percent increase in spending over 2002 levels. Cycle-to-cycle comparisons for Senate fundraising are difficult because some cycles include larger and more expensive states than others.

On the House side, 951 candidates raised $329.8 million through the end of March — a 15.5 percent increase over the first 15 months of the 2001-2002 cycle. They spent a total of $190.7 million, a 17 percent increase over previous cycle totals.

In the wake of new campaign finance laws that severely restricted fundraising by party committees but doubled individual contribution limits to candidates, Republican candidates — who tend to be better at raising hard money from large numbers of individuals — have been doing particularly well.

In House campaigns, receipts by GOP candidates jumped by 30 percent, including large increases for challengers and open-seat candidates. By contrast, Democratic House candidates registered only an 8 percent increase in fundraising, and most of that was confined to incumbents.

Multimillionaire Blair Hull, who lost the Democratic Senate primary in Illinois, tops the fundraising list with about $28 million in receipts, much of which came from his own bank account.

Democrat Barack Obama, who beat Hull in the primary, also finished in the top 10 list for Senate fundraising with approximately $5.7 million raised as of the end of March. Dan Hynes, another losing candidate in the Illinois primary, raised about $6.5 million in total.

Several incumbent lawmakers up for reelection made it high on the fundraising charts. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is heavily favored for re-election, raised $9.1 million in his bid for a second term, while Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) collected about $9 million in a successful bid to fight off his primary challenger, Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) raised more than $8.6 million in a tough contest against former Rep. John Thune (R-S.D.).

In the meantime, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Patty Murray (Wash.) have each raised $8.2 million and $6 million, respectively, while GOP Sen. Kit Bond (Mo.) was working with about $5.8 million in receipts at the end of March.

Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has accumulated $7 million in contributions for the contest in North Carolina to succeed Sen. John Edwards (D). His opponent, Democrat Erskine Bowles, was 18th on the list, with $4.2 million.

More than four dozen House candidates — most of them incumbents, and many of them in safe seats — have raised more than $1 million for their own races, FEC data shows.

And Congressional candidates aren’t the only ones raking in the campaign cash in the post-McCain-Feingold world.

In March, the Campaign Finance Institute issued a report in on the explosion of money in the 2004 presidential race.

The CFI analysis found that individual contributions to major party presidential candidates exploded from $184 million for the 2000 primaries to $316 million in 2004. Of this $132 million increase, $74 million — or 55 percent — came in amounts larger than $1,000. The new campaign finance law raised the amount an individual can give to a federal candidate from $1,000 to $2000.

The CFI study found that another $14 million of the increase came from the growing number of donors who gave exactly $1,000 — a total of $88 million in new large donor money in 2004.

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