Record spending of $63 million leaves Bush behind Gore in cash on hand

By Jonathan D. Salant, Associated Press, 03/20/00

WASHINGTON -- His record-shattering treasury drained by a $2 million-a-week advertising binge, George W. Bush for the first time trails Democratic rival Al Gore in available cash to spend pursuing the White House over the next five months, records showed Monday.

The Texas governor's latest spending report shows he began March with just $7.5 million -- a tenth of the $73.9 million war chest he amassed while vanquishing a tougher-than-expected challenge from John McCain for the Republican presidential nomination.

In contrast, Gore's spending slowed over the last two months along with the threat from his now-ousted challenger Bill Bradley, leaving the vice president with $10 million in the bank to begin the month, campaign aides said.

Bush already has begun to hit the fund-raising trail in pursuit of $10 million in fresh funds -- a marked reversal that now forces him to catch up in a money chase he once dominated.

The Texas governor cited the "hard-fought primary" in releasing a report that detailed the sudden reversal of fortunes. His aides said he already has raised $225,000 this month since capturing the GOP nomination on March 14.

"America is ready for a fresh start after eight years of partisanship, division and gridlock under Clinton-Gore. America is ready for a president who will bring people together to reform education, save Social Security, strengthen our military and lower taxes," Bush said.

Both men face challenges as they try to conserve money for national advertising and targeting of key electoral states over the next five months. Late this summer they'll each receive $67.6 million in federal funds for their fall campaigns.

Experts say Bush has raised so much money for primaries that he has tapped most of the traditional GOP donor base, while Gore is facing a $40.5 million spending limit he agreed to when he accepted federal funds for his primary campaign. Bush declined federal financing for the primaries, freeing him from the limits.

With some additional fund raising, Gore expects to have about $14 million to spend through his party's nominating convention. If Bush reaches his goal, he'd have about $17 million to spend before the convention.

"It won't be as much as an advantage as Bush hoped for at the start of the process," said Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College in Maine who studies political financing.

The February spending report details where much of Bush's historic treasury went.

A computer analysis showed he spent $13.2 million last month -- $7.6 million of it on advertising in nine states with early primaries such as California, New York, South Carolina and Michigan. He won three of the four, ultimately forcing McCain from the race.

Bush also spent $1.9 million on direct mail and postage, $236,000 on telemarketing, and $72,500 on polling.

The spending brought his total at the start of March to $63.3 million. And he still had another $3.1 million in unpaid bills -- including $874,921 for telemarketing and $1.1 million for direct mail -- leaving him about $7.5 million in the bank

In comparison, Gore reported $4.1 million in unspent money at the end of February plus another $7 million in unspent federal funds owed his campaign. He spent $6.1 million last month, bringing his overall spending total to $33 million, and raised $2.1 million, bringing his fund-raising total to $37.2 million. Gore also reported debts of $1 million.

Aides said Gore was on pace to raise $400,000 this week at fund-raisers in New York and New Jersey.

While much attention is on Bush's prolific spending, Corrado noted the Texas governor needed to force more than a half-dozen Republican challengers out of the race, including a free spending millionaire, Steve Forbes, and McCain, a self-styled maverick who caught on late with the public.

"That success in fund raising in 1999 essentially moved this to a three-person race before any votes had been counted and ensured that Forbes' financial wealth would not be an advantage versus Bush," Corrado said.

"You could say the early fund raising allowed Bush to achieve the strategic objectives he sought, which was to use money to get everyone else out of the race and to be able to outspend those who were left standing."