$oft Money Keeps Rolling In

The Democratic and Republican parties are assembling huge campaign war chests to spend this fall on advertising and other assistance for their candidates.

The Republican National Committee, which raised $50 million in unregulated soft money during the first six months of 2000, raised another $25 million in July and then set a convention fund-raising record by pulling in $10.1 million at its Philadelphia gala in early August.

While trailing the RNC, the Democratic National Committee is putting up some impressive numbers of its own.

On Thursday, Vice President Al Gore helped raise $1.25 million at two small dinners. The week before, a Barbra Streisand-headlined concert brought in $5.1 million. Another concert, featuring Jimmy Buffett, Bette Midler and Crosby, Stills and Nash, is scheduled for Radio City Music Hall next month. The Democrats are focusing their efforts on raising smaller donations that fall under federal limits, meaning that all of the money can be used to directly aid their candidates.

The money the parties raise is in addition to the $67.6 million in federal funds each of their presidential nominees have received and the millions of dollars that their congressional candidates are raking in.

Gore on Thursday first spoke to 50 Indian-Americans who had paid $5,000 apiece and dined on salad and sea bass. Then he joined his running mate, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, for a kosher dinner with 20 friends and supporters of the lawmaker. Each of the guests had agreed to raise $50,000.

"I appreciate your help and I appreciate what you said you were going to do," Gore said.

Hadassah Lieberman introduced her husband, who responded with a kiss. It drew laughs from the audience that recalled Gore's smooch with wife Tipper at the Democratic convention last week.

"I don't want you to think there is any kind of competition on this ticket but I'm not going to stop until we reach seven seconds, which is the current world record," Lieberman said.

The GOP fund-raising effort got a boost when Texas Gov. George W. Bush named former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney as his running mate. Cheney had headed the oil services firm Halliburton Co. for five years, and energy companies contributed almost $800,000 in soft money to the Republican National Committee after his selection, Federal Election Commission records show.

RNC spokesman Bill Pascoe acknowledged that Cheney's selection helped boost donations.

"It really is a reflection of very broad and obviously deep support for the ticket," Pascoe said. "Once the announcement was made, the floodgates opened."

While soft money is not subject to federal contribution limits and cannot be used to directly aid federal candidates, both parties use the funds to help pay for issue ads designed to help elect their candidates.

Besides the soft money contributions, the Republican National Committee lasmonth raised $12.4 million under federal contribution limits. Since Jan. 1, 1999, the RNC has raised almost $180 million.

The Democratic National Committee, which reports its finances quarterly, raised $108 million from Jan. 1, 1999, through June 30, 2000.

Larry Makinson, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said energy executives clearly are excited over the Bush-Cheney ticket.

"Clearly the addition of Cheney made it a pure oil ticket, so I imagine anyone in the energy sector would be enthusiastic," said Makinson, whose nonpartisan research group studies campaign finance. "I can see why they would be energized."