Gephardt Bolsters Fundraising Team

Posted July 22, 2003 at 6:40pm

Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) has added veteran fundraiser Jim Cunningham to his presidential campaign in the hopes of drastically improving on his second-quarter showing in the money chase.

Cunningham, who began work on the campaign Monday, is now a finance consultant to the Gephardt effort and will work in tandem with deputy campaign manager Richard Sullivan.

Although Sullivan served as the campaign’s lead fundraiser during the first six months of the year and Gephardt finished the second quarter a disappointing fifth in overall fundraising, spokesman Erik Smith emphasized that Cunningham’s hiring does not mean Sullivan’s role would be diminished.

“This is a solution of addition, not subtraction,” Smith said. “We clearly had a disappointing quarter, and to that end Jim is coming on board to help us raise more money.”

Smith hinted that more staff changes are likely.

“One of the things that Richard and Jim are going to do is identify other areas where we may want to add staff,” Smith said. “That process is just beginning.”

The hiring of Cunningham came as the Missouri Congressman launched a scathing critique Tuesday of President Bush’s handling of post-war Iraq in a speech to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America annual convention in San Francisco. He was also scheduled to host a fundraiser last night, with ATLA members making up most of the guest list.

Gephardt, considered one of the strongest fundraisers in the nine-person presidential field, raised $3.9 million from April 1 to June 30, less than former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and Sens. John Kerry (Mass.), John Edwards (N.C.) and Joe Lieberman (Conn.).

The Missouri Democrat had raised $9.7 million total for the race, good for fourth place among all campaigns as of the end of June, and had $6.2 million on hand, also fourth among Democratic contenders.

Kerry leads in both total funds raised ($12.8 million) and cash on hand ($10.9 million).

Lieberman parted ways with finance director Shari Yost shortly after his June 30 fundraising numbers became public.

He raised roughly $5.1 million in the period but retained just $4 million on hand.

Tracey Sturman has been named to replace Yost.

Like many on Gephardt’s staff, Cunningham has ties to the Missouri Congressman’s first presidential bid in 1988.

In that race, Cunningham handled the Iowa field operation; Gephardt won that state’s caucuses but after a disastrous showing on Super Tuesday dropped out of the race in late March.

Cunningham went on to run the 1988 campaign of then-Wyoming state Sen. John Vinich (D), who lost to then-Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R) by 1,322 votes.

In 1990, he managed the race of former Louisville Mayor Harvey Sloane (D) against Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell won that contest 52 percent to 48 percent.

In 1992, he headed the Wisconsin Senate primary bid of Rep. Jim Moody (D), who was trounced by soon-to-be-Sen. Russ Feingold (D). During that campaign, Cunningham was the victim of an attempted robbery, which he foiled by refusing to give the would-be thieves his wallet and approaching them after one of the youths cocked a gun in his direction.

The following year, Cunningham joined forces with West Virginia operative Mike Plante to form Cunningham, Plante & Associates, an opposition research and fundraising firm. Plante has since left the firm, and L.A. Harris and Darin Cline have come on board as partners.

Cunningham has extensive experience raising money in Missouri, having raked in more than $10 million for the 2000 campaign of Gov. Bob Holden (D). He recently signed on state Auditor Claire McCaskill (D), who is likely to challenge Holden in the 2004 primary, as a client.

Interestingly, Gephardt campaign manager Steve Murphy handles the media consulting for Holden.

Gephardt’s chief in-state fundraiser, campaign vice chairwoman Joyce Aboussie, is also expected to play a more prominent role in the third quarter as a number of large-

dollar events are already on the schedule.

Gephardt raised $496,000 out of the Show Me State in the second quarter, his third-highest state total behind California ($718,000) and New York ($525,000), according to calculations made by the Hotline. In the first three months of the year he brought in close to $875,000 from Missouri donors.