More than 1,600 people have contributed money to two or more presidential candidates this year, with some handing out $1,000 checks to four or five competitors across party lines.
New York City real estate developer Lewis Rudin gave $1,000 apiece to Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush - the party front-runners - and the same amount to Democrat Bill Bradley and Republicans Dan Quayle and Elizabeth Dole.
Jerry Colangelo, owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team and Phoenix Suns basketball team, contributed $1,000 apiece to Bradley, Bush and Republican John McCain. Both Rudin and Colangelo declined to comment.
A review of campaign finance records found 1,622 people who contributed to two or more presidential candidates this year, with 122 giving to at least three.
Together, they shelled out $4.1 million, according to the study conducted by the Campaign Study Group for The Associated Press. Most gave the $1,000 legal maximum to each candidate they supported.
Political analysts say many of these donors are hedging their bets, trying to make sure whoever wins will count them as financial friends.
Bush has benefited most from the strategy. Almost two-thirds of the multiple-candidate givers - 1,055 people in all - gave to Bush. The Texas governor will report raising $50 million by the end of the month, aides said. That's more money than any presidential candidate ever has had available to seek the nomination.
"If you're giving for pragmatic reasons, a donation to George W. Bush makes a lot of sense," said Larry Makinson, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which studies campaign finance. "There are a lot of pragmatic donors out there."
Vice President Gore received money from 581 people who also supported another presidential candidate. Among those, 228 gave to Gore and Bush.
Bell Atlantic Chairman Ivan Seidenberg contributed $1,000 each to Gore, Bush and McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the telecommunications industry.
"It's our company's and our executives' view that it's early in the process, and we will contribute to a number of credible candidates to encourage a healthy dialogue among all qualified contenders," Bell Atlantic spokeswoman Susan Butta said.
Bell Atlantic is awaiting federal approval of its merger with GTE and is seeking permission to offer long-distance telephone service. The regional Bell company also has a key interest in legislation that will decide which companies will be able to carry data over long-distance telephone lines.
Magazine editor Bill Regardie gave $1,000 to Gore in April and $1,000 to Bush in June. Regardie said one friend was raising money for Gore, another for Bush.
"Both said, `I need your help. It's important to me,'" said Regardie, whose new magazine, Regardie's Power, is due out in September. "Those people have come through for me in the past."
Beides, Regardie added, no one can accuse him of playing favorites if he gives to both sides.
Haley Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who is now a Washington lobbyist and a member of Bush's steering committee, not only gave to the candidate he is supporting but to four others: Dole, McCain and two who have since withdrawn from the race, Lamar Alexander and John Kasich.
"I've given to the people who helped me when I was chairman," Barbour said. "When people are nice to you and help you do your job, you ought to show them your appreciation."
Even those who are giving to Bush may decide to hedge a little bit, Makinson said.
"If you're giving for ideological reasons, there's a whole field of people to choose from," Makinson said. "Even if you're giving just for pragmatic reasons, you may feel it judicious to cover your bets."