Of presidential bidders, Forbes top spender

By Jonathan D. Salant, Associated Press, 07/21/99

ASHINGTON - Relying heavily on his own wealth, publisher Steve Forbes's campaign has spent $8.2 million so far, more money than any other presidential candidate.

The spending includes the salaries of five veteran political aides who each make more than $100,000 a year, and $2.7 million worth of TV, radio, and newspaper advertisements in Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, and California.

Vice President Al Gore was close behind at $8.1 million, and Texas Governor George W. Bush spent $7.2 million.

Bush spent just $38,000 on media in the first six months of this year, but he shelled out $712,177 to charter airplanes to travel around the country. Gore spent $187,634 to reimburse the federal government for travel aboard Air Force Two, the vice presidential jet, and almost $600,000 on campaign staff salaries.

With the 2000 presidential campaign well underway, the financial disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission last week offer a glimpse of how the various contenders are spending the money they have raised.

Forbes, who spent $37.5 million of his own money for his 1996 run for the Republican presidential nomination, has personally given $6.6 million of the $9.5 million raised by his campaign so far this year.

''Since I'm an independent outsider, I need to spend more to level the playing field,'' Forbes said yesterday during a picnic in New Castle, N.H.

Around a third of Forbes's money went for his advertising blitz, emphasizing such issues as tax reform and Social Security.

On the other hand, Bush's campaign has attempted to hold down its spending. The campaign spent just $1.2 million to raise $37 million, taking in $31 for every $1 spent on fund-raising. That has helped Bush to build a campaign bank account balance of $30 million while four of his fellow Republicans, including Forbes, are in the red.

On the Democratic side, Gore took in $17.5 million through June 30. He spent $8.1 million, including $2.9 million on fund-raising, meaning that he took in $6 for every $1 he spent to raise money. Gore spent $1.3 million on fund-raising events alone between April and June - more than Bush spent on all fund-raising. Gore also spent $228,664 on polling and $82,915 on media consulting.

Gore's Democratic challenger, former Senator Bill Bradley, spent $4.3 million during the same six-month period, including $798,286 on fund-raising. Having raised $11.7 million, it meant that he took in more than $14 for every $1 he spent on fund-raising.