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The Boston Globe OnlineBoston.com Boston Globe Online / Nation | World
Rich candidates find it's easier to give than receive

By Associated Press, 04/25/98

ASHINGTON - Illinois state Senator Peter Fitzgerald used $4.1 million of his own money this year in winning his state's GOP Senate nomination - more than four times the money that incumbent Democrat Carol Moseley-Braun raised during the same period.

And he's hardly alone. More and more, wealthy Senate challengers are taking out their own checkbooks to build bigger campaign funds than their rivals.

While these candidates often must go through primaries before they can take on incumbent senators, their personal bank accounts catapult them to front-runner status in their own parties and assure them of being formidable challengers should they gain the nomination.

''The biggest problem challengers face is raising that initial money to finance a campaign,'' said campaign finance expert Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. ''Wealthy candidates can provide that seed money out of their own pockets and immediately gain media attention and the general perception that they may be viable.''

A dramatic example is California businessman Darrell Issa, who is challenging state Treasurer Matt Fong for the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer this fall.

Issa so far has lent his campaign committee $9.8 million, including $4 million between Jan. 1 and March 31. Boxer raised $1.5 million during the first three months of the year and Fong raised $832,169.

Including the $4.1 million loan this year, Fitzgerald of Illinois has bankrolled his campaign to the tune of $7 million so far.

Other states where wealthy Senate candidates are paying their own way include Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

While individual contributors to a candidate can give no more than $1,000 per election, candidates can spend as much of their own money as they want.

''It's a lot easier for the party to run the race if they find one candidate who can write a check for $10 million rather than having to raise $10 million at $1,000 a check,'' said Democratic consultant Glenn Totten.

While no one has yet approached the $28.4 million that California Republican Michael Huffington spent on his unsuccessful 1994 Senate race against Democrat Dianne Feinstein, candidates increasingly are willing to spend their own money.

In 1988, Senate candidates donated $9.8 million to their own campaigns, 5.4 percent of the $179.6 million in campaign receipts, according to the Federal Election Commission. In 1996, Senate candidates financed their campaigns to the tune of $27.8 million, or 12.7 percent of the $219.6 million in overall receipts.

Deep pockets don't guarantee victory. In Virginia, Democratic Senate nominee Mark Warner spent more than $10 million of his own money in 1994 but lost to Republican Senator John Warner.

In the same year, however, Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska businessman, spent $1 million of his own and upset Democratic Governor Ben Nelson for an open Senate seat.

''Because there has been some success of candidates with money, it's encouraging candidates who can spend their own money to get into the race,'' said Republican political consultant Eddie Mahe.

By writing their own checks, two Democrats piled up more money during the first three months of 1998 than the Republican incumbents they may face in November. They were lawyer John Edwards, seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose Senator Lauch Faircloth in North Carolina, and cookie magnate Michael Coles, who is challenging Senator Paul Coverdell of Georgia.

Coles spent $2.4 million of his own money in an unsuccessful challenge to House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1996.

This story ran on page A09 of the Boston Globe on 04/25/98.
© Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.

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