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Spending Their Dough

With huge chunks of federal money awaiting them as they prepare to accept their parties' presidential nominations, both George W. Bush and Al Gore are draining their campaign treasuries.

After the conventions, neither Bush nor Gore will be permitted to raise or spend private money, except to pay legal and accounting costs.

Instead, each will receive $67.6 million in taxpayer funds to finance their fall campaigns. Because they are accepting the federal funds, they cannot spend money raised for the primaries on the general election.

Bush had $7.1 million on hand as of May 31, and Gore had $9.6 million. Both can continue spending it through the conventions. Republicans meet July 31-Aug. 3 in Philadelphia, and the Democrats from Aug. 14-17 in Los Angeles.

Most of this remaining money will be spent on staff, travel and expenses associated with the upcoming national party conventions. Bush also is developing a last-minute TV advertising campaign.

Bush, the Texas governor who smashed all fund-raising records by collecting more than $90 million from more than 300,000 individuals in all 50 states, raised another $4.8 million in June. More than one-fourth of Bush's record-setting spending total of $83 million through May 31 has gone for advertising.

His tab for July will be far less, however, since the campaign is winding down its fund-raising operation. Bush, who declined federal matching funds for the primary campaign, can spend as much as he can raise through the convention. He is the first candidate since post-Watergate reforms were enacted for the 1976 election to win his party's nomination after declining to limit spending in exchange for federal funds.

Gore, on the other hand, accepted federal funds and thus was limited to spending $40.5 million through the convention, plus legal and accounting costs. He went through much of his money early in response to a strong challenge from former Sen. Bill Bradley.

The vice president's early spending raised concerns that he would reach the spending ceiling months before the convention, but after shifting his campaign headquarters from Washington to Nashville, Tenn., cutting staff and defeating Bradley, Gore managed to hold the line.

"Gore did a very good job of husbanding his money," said Herbert Alexander, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Southern California. "There was a good deal of talk that he would run out, but he's kept his expenditures as low as possible in order to stay within the limits."

Gore spokesman Douglas Hattaway said the campaign has plenty of money.

"We're on a very sound financial footing to get out our message and have a good convention," he said.

And after the convention, money woes will be a thing of the past.

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