Democratic National Convention
Sunday, August 13, 2000

Gore finds fund-raising tough here

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Republicans dominate presidential fund raising in the Tristate so thoroughly that Elizabeth Dole, whose campaign was over before the primaries, raised almost as much money as Vice President Al Gore.

        Mr. Gore, who will accept the Democratic nomination at the party's convention this week in Los Angeles, has raised $437,950 in Ohio, $96,400 of which came from supporters in the Cincinnati metropolitan area, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign financing. Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican nominee, has collected more than $2 million in Ohio, $780,900 in the Tristate.

        Money is just one test of a candidate's strength, and no one expected Mr. Gore to equal Mr. Bush in the Tristate, which historically has supported Republicans. Even Mrs. Dole, who ended her campaign in part because of Mr. Bush's fund-raising success, raised $92,600 in the region.

        But an energized donor base could help Mr. Bush in what analysts envision as a tight race in Ohio, one of a handful of closely contested states that could determine the winner of the November election.

        The latest Ohio Poll, taken before Mr. Bush received a lift in public opinion at the Republican National Convention, showed Mr. Bush leading Mr. Gore 47 percent to 41 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

        Eric Rademacher, the poll's director, said Mr. Gore's mission now is to match Mr. Bush's appeal among the party faithful so both are roughly even when approaching independent voters.

        “He really doesn't have the Democratic base as energized as Bush has the Republicans,” Mr. Rademacher said. “Gore's big opportunity is going to be at the convention.”

        The main fund-raising setback for Mr. Gore in Ohio was the primary challenge of former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, who drew $434,850 from donors — nearly identical to Mr. Gore — but did not come close to taking the state on March 7, the so-called Super Tuesday of the primaries because so many delegates were at stake.

        Mr. Bradley out-raised Mr. Gore in Cleveland, a good source of Democratic donations, and in Columbus, where a fund-raising network is established around the capital. Without Mr. Bradley as a serious obstacle, Mr. Gore might have doubled his tally.

        The leading Tristate donors of “soft money” to the Democrats were Carl Lindner Jr. and his conglomerate, American Financial Group Inc., and the law firm Waite, Schneider, Bayless, Chesley & Co., according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The term soft money applies to unlimited donations to political parties for party-building activities such as advertising and event planning.

        The center, which combines contributions from corporate officers, political action committees, employees and immediate family members, reports that Mr. Lindner and American Financial Group have donated at least $270,000 to the Democrats and $575,000 to Republicans.

        Waite, Schneider has contributed at least $152,500 to the Democrats. Stanley Chesley, a prominent trial lawyer and Democratic fund-raiser, played host to Mr. Gore in his Amberley Village home in March and has welcomed President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, several times in the past.

        The Ohio delegation to the Democratic National Convention, which includes delegates, alternates, national committee members and lawmakers, has contributed $14,250 to Mr. Gore, according to records at FECInfo, an online database. Only 14 people in the 214-member delegation have given money to the likely nominee. In Kentucky, 10 people in the state's 66-member delegation have donated a total of $13,000 to Mr. Gore.

        After the political conventions, the presidential candidates each receive $67.5 million in public money for the fall campaign, and most private fund raising will shift to the political parties and congressional candidates.

        One curve in the process is that much of the heavy fund raising is over by the time most Americans pay attention to the presidential campaign.

        Deborah Cummins, an interior designer at Nottinghill Gate Interiors in Hyde Park, gave $1,000 to Mr. Gore and $250 to Mr. Bradley last year. She decided to give to both because she agrees with Mr. Gore on most issues and her husband attended Princeton University with Mr. Bradley.

        “I think this race is becoming increasingly interesting with Gore's selection for vice president,” she said of Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a moderate and the first Jew on a major party's national ticket. “It'll be interesting to see what happens.”