Kerry Transfers Surplus Money

Posted September 21, 2004 at 6:47pm

As it ended the primary season with an extra $48 million, the Kerry-Edwards ticket in August already had begun a massive eight-figure money transfer to national Democratic party committees and to state parties in presidential battlegrounds.

The Kerry-Edwards team decided to dump $2 million into eight different states’ Democratic Party committees last month — a sum that officials call a mere down payment on money that will pour into the Democratic National Committee and battleground states in the weeks ahead.

“We’ll be focusing on the DNC and the state parties,” said Michael Meehan, spokesman for the Kerry campaign.

In addition, the Kerry-Edwards campaign made good on its pledge to deliver $3 million to both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Checks for that amount were cut on Aug. 31, according to the Kerry campaign’s filings Monday with the Federal Election Commission.

The campaign ended the month with $48.1 million in extra cash on hand.

The Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign, for its part, ended August with $36.9 million left in its account. Bush-Cheney, however, had not yet begun its expected money drop into coffers of the Republican National Committee and key state party committees.

Bush-Cheney officials have pledged to give $1 million to both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. That money is likely to be delivered this month and should show up in FEC reports filed next month.

The excess campaign cash from Kerry’s team will provide critical funds for Democratic Party committees at the national and state level. These entities traditionally have been outraised by their GOP counterparts, so by giving an extra dose of cash for get-out-the-vote efforts and other political operations, the Kerry camp hopes to close the gap that Bush opened up after the Republican National Convention.

While the DCCC and DSCC likely have seen their final donations in left-over presidential funds this cycle, a couple of state parties with critical House and Senate contests received six-figure checks from Kerry in August. A few more Congressional battleground states can expect even bigger checks soon.

The money from Kerry comes from the account he used to raise funds for the primary campaign. He cannot legally touch these funds to directly promote his own campaign now that he has accepted $75 million in public funds for his general-election battle against Bush.

Bush also has accepted federal funds and is thus forbidden from using left-over primary money directly on his campaign.

All told, Kerry raised more than $245 million for the primary campaign. Total receipts exceeded $248 million once interest and dividends were factored in.

Money raised in the final days of the Democratic National Convention kept getting placed into the primary account, with campaign officials given up to 10 days to deposit it. Meehan said that about $5 million to $6 million of the $14.7 million in receipts in August came from those funds, while the rest had been transferred into the account from a joint-fundraising committee that the campaign had set up with the DNC.

The presidential campaign began its drop of left-over cash in August by giving between $100,000 and $400,000 to eight different state party committees: Delaware, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Washington and West Virginia.

Missouri and Washington — the most critical of states to the Kerry camp of those eight — received $400,000. Senate Democrats will be happy to see six-figure checks pouring into Washington, where Sen. Patty Murray (D) is in a potentially difficult race against Rep. George Nethercutt (R); North Carolina, where Erskine Bowles (D) is battling Rep. Richard Burr (R); and Missouri, where state Treasurer Nancy Farmer is trying to oust Sen. Kit Bond (R).

The DNC has yet to receive any excess cash from Kerry’s primary campaign, but Meehan said that it’s only a matter of time before such a transfer takes place. In addition to the Congressional committees and the state parties, he said, “I think we’ll focus on the national party.”

Meehan declined to specify which state parties would be getting big checks in the weeks ahead, but he acknowledged that a few likely targets will overlap with the Senatorial battlegrounds: Florida, where Betty Castor (D) is facing former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez (R), and Colorado, where state Attorney General Ken Salazar (D) is up against beer magnate Peter Coors (R).

Bush-Cheney ’04 ended the month of August having raised $259 million, or more than $260 million with interest and dividends. There will likely be some uptick in receipts for the primary account in September, since Bush did not officially accept the GOP nomination until Sept. 2 and his campaign was allowed to keep posting checks received on that day until 10 days after the acceptance speech.

All in all, both presidential campaigns shattered Democratic and Republican records for money raised, as well as left-over funds at the end of the primary cycle — almost $85 million combined between the two camps.