Presidential hopefuls’ war chests grow larger

WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry raised just over $99 million in a three-month period, including $36.5 million in June, and has nearly matched President Bush in campaign spending since the primaries ended.

Both candidates have collected unprecedented sums, due in part to their decision to skip public financing and its spending limit. The Democrat and Republican also have spent more than $220 million on the presidential race in the last four months.

Kerry announced Tuesday that he raised a Democratic record of more than $185 million from January 2003 through last month. Internet fundraising played a major role, accounting for about a third of his donations last month.

The Massachusetts senator started July with about $36 million on hand after spending roughly $28 million in June. Kerry spent about $110 million from his Super Tuesday sweep through June as he and Bush hit the airwaves with ads; overall, Kerry has spent at least $149 million on his White House bid.

Bush spent roughly $164 million on his re-election effort through June, including about $12 million last month and $114 million from March through June. Bush started July with $64 million in the bank, according to a finance report he filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission.

The Republican incumbent took in about $13 million last month, pushing his record fund raising to around $230 million.

Bush’s biggest expenses included ads, which accounted for roughly $3 million last month and at least $84 million overall; mail-related costs such as printing, postage and mailing lists, about $4 million in June and $32 million overall; and staff pay, consultants and related personnel costs, about $2 million in June and roughly $15 million total.

When Bush and Kerry accept $75 million apiece in public money for the fall campaign, as they are expected to after their party conventions, it will be the only money they can spend on the presidential race. But that doesn’t mean they will be on their own financially.

The Democratic and Republican parties each can spend roughly $16 million in coordination with their presidential nominees and unlimited amounts independent of the campaigns.

For Democrats, the spending blitz starts after Kerry accepts the party’s presidential nomination in Boston July 29. It begins for Republicans after the convention in New York Aug. 30-Sept. 2.

The Republican National Committee has raised at least $217 million this election cycle and started July with $78 million on hand; the Democratic National Committee has collected about $125 million and began the month with roughly $63 million in the bank. Both hope to raise millions more before Election Day.

Hoping to stretch their government checks, Bush and Kerry have helped raise tens of millions for their parties over the last several weeks, with the help of their running mates.

Vice President Dick Cheney has raised more than $2 million this year for the RNC, including $250,000 in Pennsylvania last week. Democrat John Edwards has DNC fund-raisers in New York City and his home state of North Carolina this week.