In funds race, Gore, Bradley neck-and-neck

By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff, 10/01/99

ASHINGTON - In a sign of Bill Bradley's surging strength in the Democratic presidential race, the former New Jersey senator reported yesterday that he raised more money in the last quarter than Vice President Al Gore, leaving both candidates nearly tied in the financial race with about $10 million each in cash on hand.

On the Republican side, Governor George W. Bush of Texas continued to have remarkable financial strength, having raised $56 million - more than any presidential candidate in history. Aside from publisher Steve Forbes, who is financing much of his campaign with his own money, Bush's closest competitor is Senator John McCain of Arizona, who has raised $9.3 million.

Bradley and Gore are thus neck-and-neck in the all-important ''money primary,'' which is being waged more furiously than ever because of next year's compressed voting schedule. The figures show why the vice president announced on Wednesday that he is moving his headquarters to Nashville and cutting his staff.

''The people who write checks for $1,000 to the campaigns are among those most interested in shifts in the polls, and they are beginning to vote with their pocketbook,'' said Larry Makinson, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money and politics.

The long-term significance of the report, meanwhile, is that Bush - if he becomes the GOP nominee - could be flush with cash for several months while his Democratic opponent would be nearly broke. That is because Bush, unlike the two Democrats, is not abiding by a spending cap.

Gore's campaign has been spending heavily even as the candidate drops in the polls. Gore now is hoping for free media exposure provided by debates, which might reinvigorate his fund-raising.

Bradley raised about $6.7 million between July and September, compared with $6.5 million for Gore, according to reports filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission. In that quarter, Bradley spent $4.2 million, while Gore spent around $6 million. Politically during that period, Bradley climbed to a statistical tie with Gore in New Hampshire polls and benefited from a flood of publicity, including the cover of this week's Time magazine.

All told, Bradley has raised $18.4 million this year, while Gore has brought in $24 million, despite the early belief that the vice president could use his party connections to bring in far more money than the former New Jersey senator. But with Gore spending heavily and with Bradley conserving his resources, the two are nearly even with cash on hand, with Gore reporting $9.5 million to $10 million, and Bradley saying he has $10 million.

''It shows that in terms of fund-raising, Bradley has clearly been the candidate who exceeded expectations,'' said Anthony Corrado, a government professor at Maine's Colby College who studies campaign finance.

The amount of money raised by a candidate often is seen as a crucial test of support, so yesterday's results are bound to increase Bradley's stock, helping him persuade more people to support his campaign. Gore, meanwhile, is likely to use the Bradley surge to rally supporters who may have been holding back contributions.

The Republican financial reports again demonstrated Bush's strength and the weaknesses of most other GOP candidates. Bush has broken fund-raising records after rejecting federal matching funds, taking in $19 million in the last quarter alone.

The Bush campaign treasury was bolstered by five-figure donations in the last quarter from big companies like First Energy Corp. of Ohio, and the national accounting firm of Ernst & Young. Employees in former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach's commercial real estate firm gave more than $5,000 and other notable donors included anti-affirmative action activist Ward Connerly, members of Colorado's Coors beer family and a dozen or more Washington lawyer-lobbyists.

The Bush campaign, which has been regularly updating its donor list on the Internet, yesterday released an appendix to its list of fund-raising ''pioneers'' -- individuals who promised to raise at least $100,000 for the Texas governor this year. It included Staubach and, from Massachusetts, Martha Chayet of Manchester, Chris Jenny of Wayland, and former Governor William F. Weld.

The only candidate likely to come close to Bush's financial strength is Forbes. According to yesterday's report, Forbes raised $1.4 million in the last quarter, bringing his total to $4.2 million. But that does not include the $9.5 million that Forbes contributed to his effort the last quarter, or the $6.6 million he gave to his campaign in the prior two quarters. If Forbes's own contributions are counted, he has raised $20.3 million, and he says he has the personal resources to compete with Bush.

Federal law allows a candidate to contribute unlimited funds to his or her own campaign, while other individuals may give no more than $1,000 per election cycle.

Other Republicans gave the following reports yesterday: McCain raised $3 million during the quarter, bringing his total to $9.3 million; Gary Bauer raised $2 million during the last quarter, bringing his total this year to $5.4 million; and Elizabeth Dole raised $1.5 million, for a year-to-date total of $5 million.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, making his first financial report, has raised $1.2 million, while talk show host Alan Keyes brought in $500,000 during the quarter for a total of $2.4 million. Patrick J. Buchanan, who is considering dropping out of the GOP and seeking the Reform Party nomination, has raised $4 million so far.

Former Vice President Dan Quayle, who dropped out of the race on Monday because of financial problems, did not release a report yesterday.

If Bush's financial strength helps him win the nomination after an early round of primaries, he could still have tens of millions of dollars to spend in preparation for the general election. That is likely to be far more money than is available to the Democratic nominee, because both Democratic candidates are taking matching funds and have agreed to spending limits.

John Aloysius Farrell of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.