Kerry Dumps Soft Money

Posted March 7, 2003 at 6:22pm

In the waning days of last year’s midterm elections, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) gave hundreds of thousands of dollars from a soft-money account he controlled to Democrats in tight Senate races, and dumped more money into New Hampshire, a key battleground in the 2004 presidential race.

While Kerry spent heavily from the Citizen Soldier Fund soft-money account throughout 2002 to help boost his presidential prospects, federal disclosure reports released late last week also show that Kerry was a loyal party warrior in the days leading up to Nov. 5.

Kerry actually closed his soft-money fund on Election Day, according to his aides.

But prior to its termination, Kerry pumped $181,000 from the fund into South Dakota, where Sen. Tim Johnson (D) barely survived a tough challenge from then-Rep. John Thune (R).

And Kerry sent more than $81,000 to Georgia during a period between Oct. 17 and Election Day, although Democratic Sen. Max Cleland lost his re-election bid to Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss. Cleland, like Kerry, is a Vietnam War veteran.

Kerry donated another $120,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to the latest report filed with the IRS, which covers Oct. 17 to Nov. 25, and transferred $225,491 to his hard-money PAC, also called Citizen Soldier Fund. [IMGCAP(1)]

Overall, Kerry’s soft-money fund took in $332,000 during those three weeks and spent nearly $860,000.

The McCain-Feingold campaign finance law enacted last year bans soft-money donations and expenditures by federal candidates beginning on Nov. 6, and Democrats and Republicans alike scrambled to find ways to spend it before that deadline.

“When it comes to soft money, the rule was use or lose it,” noted David Wade, a Kerry spokesman. “We rushed to invest what soft money we had in electing Democrats.”

Wade, though, added that he would be “less than candid” in not admitting that Kerry sent a lot of soft money to 2004 battleground states like New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina.

“John Kerry is going to be the Democratic nominee for president, and the road to the nomination goes through those three states,” he said.

Kerry was not alone in this practice. The Massachusetts Democrat, along with Democratic Sens. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), all of whom are running for president, funneled more than $1 million to state and local candidates in contested states last year. Edwards and Gephardt have also closed their soft-money funds, while Lieberman never had one.

Kerry’s latest IRS report, which was first disclosed by campaign watchdog group PoliticalMoneyLine, shows Kerry donated $53,750 to state and local candidates in New Hampshire.

That total included a $39,650 donation to the New Hampshire Democratic Party, as well as $9,600 gift to the New Hampshire House Caucus.

Kerry was generous in Florida and Maine, too. Florida Democrats were showered with $80,500, while Maine Democrats received $54,500; $35,000 of that total was in one check to the Maine Democratic Party.

Kerry gave only $1,800 to Iowa Democrats late last year, although he had pumped more than $130,000 overall into the Hawkeye State throughout 2002.

The Massachusetts Democrat kicked in $6,000 to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in Maryland as well.