Fund-raising champion Bush lags online

By Jonathan D. Salant, Associated Press, 02/04/00

Internet fund raising graphic

* McCain trying to turn primary win into cash


WASHINGTON -- George W. Bush, whose presidential campaign is shattering fund-raising records, is dead last when it comes to donations over the Internet. GOP rival John McCain and Democrats Al Gore and Bill Bradley have gathered significantly more money on the Web.

Indeed, McCain raised twice as much money through his Web site in the first day after winning the New Hampshire primary than Bush has raised online for his entire campaign.

"The Internet is the great equalizer," McCain campaign spokeswoman Nancy Ives said. "It's turned politics on its head."

McCain has raised more than $2.5 million online since the start of the campaign, with about half that coming since his New Hampshire victory Tuesday. Former Sen. Bill Bradley has raised more than $1.6 million and Vice President Gore around $1.1 million.

Bush, on the other hand, has raised just $340,000, although he has shattered all campaign fund-raising records by hauling in $68 million overall. Half Bush's online money has come after the start of the year; the Texas governor sent out two fund-raising e-mails since Jan. 1, complete with a link to the donor part of his Web site.

"While most other candidates are receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, my campaign depends entirely upon contributions from supporters like you," Bush wrote in his latest letter. "Your financial assistance will help me keep my ads on the air, the mailings sailing out the door and the phone banks cranking."

What the Internet has done is to allow McCain to turn his victory in New Hampshire into instant cash without having to spend any scarce funds on direct mail or other fund-raising efforts.

"In the past, candidates had to send letters out, either in advance of the primary hoping they would do well or engaging in manic fund raising right after the primary," said Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. "Even then, you didn't have the money until seven to 10 days after the primary. By the time the checks start coming in, and they clear the bank, it usually wasn't until the next week that you had any money."

Because online users donate by credit card, the campaigns can get the money at once. And most of the money will be doubled up by the government, which matches the first $250 of each individual contribution to candidates who agree to spending limits.

Bush is not accepting federal funds, but McCain, Gore and Bradley are. Since most of the money raised over the Internet comes as small contributions, those donations will be matched dollar for dollar. So McCain's total online haul after the New Hampshire primary will be more than $2 million when the federal funds are factored in.

Putting it another way, McCain had about $7.7 million to spend at the beginning of January, including his federal matching funds. Just after New Hampshire, he took in another $2 million.

And since many of those new donors have given less than the maximum contribution of $1,000, McCain can go back to them for additional funds.

"What the Internet has done is provided candidates with a means of harnessing the outpouring of support that can come after a big election victory," Corrado said. "If he wins South Carolina, these are donors he can now go back to for Michigan and keep that financial momentum going."