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Soft-Money Record: Democrats Take in $12 Million (2 Gifts)
New York Times ^ | 3/22/02 | DON VAN NATTA Jr.

Posted on 03/22/2002 7:42:44 AM PST by abner

By DON VAN NATTA Jr.

WASHINGTON, March 21 — A day after the Senate voted to abolish the enormous campaign contributions known as soft money, Democratic Party officials said today that they recently received a $7 million check, the largest known donation in the history of American politics.

The check was written last month by Haim Saban, the billionaire chairman of Saban Capital Group and the creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other children's entertainment programming.

Mr. Saban said he gave $7 million specifically for the construction of the Democratic National Committee's high-tech headquarters here. The building will cost $32 million, a sum that will be paid entirely with soft money donations that will be illegal after Nov. 6.

The Democrats also recently received a $5 million check from another Hollywood executive, Steve Bing, party officials said today.

Democratic officials and Congressional leaders said the planned headquarters, equipped with television and radio studios, computer systems and a phone bank, is needed if the party is to have any chance of competing with Republicans to raise the small donations permitted under the new campaign finance law.

"We don't have a future if we don't do this," Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri said today.

The contributions shatter the previous record of $1.7 million given to the Republican National Committee in 1996 by the Amway Corporation to help pay for a television studio.

Aspects of the Democrats' headquarters fund-raising plan were reported this week in The Los Angeles Times and The New York Post.

The Senate on Wednesday passed a sweeping overhaul of the nation's campaign finance system that would outlaw the unlimited contributions known as soft money. If President Bush signs the bill into law, as he has promised to do, soft money donations will be outlawed on Nov. 6.

Each party is racing to raise as much soft money as possible before the law takes effect. The Democrats started to raise soft money for their new building more than a year ago when the bill's prospects seemed far less certain, officials said.

Scott Harshbarger, the president of Common Cause, said of the Democrats' record-setting donations, "This is a shocking fire sale."

Mr. Saban said today that he was moved to write the $7 million check after Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, described the enormous gulf separating the Democrats from Republicans in almost every financial category. Mr. McAuliffe said the Republicans' small-donor list is 40 times larger than the Democrats'; the average age of Republican small donors is 48 while the Democrats' average age is 68.

Mr. McAuliffe argued that the Democrats suffer from outdated computers and underfinanced mail and telephone solicitation programs. His presentation to wealthy donors also included a six-minute videotape showing the numerous technical advantages that the Republicans have built over the Democrats in the past two decades. Mr. McAuliffe called it his "scare video."

"When you look at Terry's presentation, you kind of go — `How can it be that we have two main parties in this country, and one is functioning in the 21st century and the other is functioning in the stone age?' " Mr. Saban said.

He said Mr. McAuliffe told him, "I need your help, and I need your help big."

The amount of the check was Mr. Saban's idea. "We have two numbers in the Jewish belief that are lucky numbers — one is 18, and the other is 7. I thought 18 was kind of too high so I went with 7," said Mr. Saban, who is the chairman of the party's capital expenditure campaign and has contributed millions to Democratic causes in the past. "I just felt compelled to do what I can."

The Democrats have also received more than a half dozen checks of $1 million each from several other donors, including Fred Baron, a Texas lawyer, and Fred Eychaner, a Chicago businessman, as well as $1 million checks from the Communications Workers of America and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

In all, about two dozen wealthy people and organizations will pay for the Democratic headquarters, party fund-raisers said.

"The size of these contributions is ridiculous," said Fred Wertheimer, director of Democracy 21 and a longtime campaigner for revised political finance laws. "It's an extraordinary amount of money from a relatively few donors that helps explain very clearly why this system is being ended."

Seventeen years ago, the Democratic Party received the first $1 million check in political history from Joan B. Kroc, the owner of the San Diego Padres and the widow of Ray Kroc, the McDonald's chairman.

Since then, Democrats have relied on soft money donations to reduce the enormous advantage held by Republicans in the race for small donations. In 2000, the Republicans raised $204 million in small donations, while the Democrats managed to raise only $60 million.

Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the majority leader, said in an interview tonight that while Democrats fought hard to change the rules, the party had an obligation to continue to aggressively raise soft money until the rules change. "We are not going to tie one arm behind our backs for the balance of time that the current rules are in existence," Mr. Daschle said. "No one worked harder than me to change the rules. But no one is going to work harder than me to stay competitive."

Maureen White, the Democrats' finance chairwoman, said party officials came to "a painful realization" that they had not invested in the infrastructure during President Bill Clinton's two terms because the party relied heavily on his communication and fund-raising skills.

"The Republicans have always out-raised us two to one, and we could go dollar to dollar for them in campaigns, but they would always have cash left over to invest in their infrastructure," Ms. White said.

Under the just-passed campaign finance bill, the maximum amount of money a donor can give to a political party will be $25,000 in a single election cycle. The maximum an individual can give to a candidate will be $2,000. The soft money being raised now — including Mr. Saban's $7 million — must be spent by Nov. 6. That means the Democratic National Committee will probably pay for the entire building up front, said Joseph Sandler, the party's general counsel.

"The irony of this whole thing is that in order for this new building to work, the Democrats are going to have to meet a whole new crowd of people," said Larry Makinson, a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics. "They are going to have to say goodbye to the people who built the building and get donors who write $100, $150 and $200 checks. The Democrats frankly have gotten pretty fat and lazy by collecting checks for $1 million at a time."

Mr. McAuliffe acknowledged this problem, among others. The party's computer system was so antiquated that Mr. McAuliffe said he could not access donor information from his desktop computer in his first week as chairman in February 2001. The committee was saddled with an institutional debt of $10 million, he said.

Mr. McAuliffe has put together a computerized presentation that highlights the wide gaps with the Republicans in crucial areas, like technology, voter outreach and grass-roots campaigns. He has shown it to scores of wealthy donors. Mr. McAuliffe showed The New York Times the presentation today. It is a five-alarm plea for assistance.

One section deals with the Republicans' savvy use of "free media" — Web site message boards, talk radio shows and online news polls — to shape public opinion. "This message gap," Mr. McAuliffe said, "this is what scares everybody."

The new building is slated for 501 Fourth Street S.W. here, just a few blocks from the current headquarters. Groundbreaking is set for May, and the building is scheduled to be completed by December 2003.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption
KEYWORDS:
These people are soooo principled.

I did a search of this, and didn't find it posted.

1 posted on 03/22/2002 7:42:45 AM PST by abner
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To: diotima; ReaganGirl; Bob J; dittomom; Seeking the Truth; Nick Danger;
Ping!
2 posted on 03/22/2002 7:43:45 AM PST by abner
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To: abner
.. a sum that will be paid entirely with soft money donations that will be illegal after Nov. 6.

LOL, it's already a law!
3 posted on 03/22/2002 7:45:17 AM PST by Registered
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To: Registered
I think they stuck in a condition that says the new law won't take effect until Nov 6.
4 posted on 03/22/2002 7:46:52 AM PST by abner
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To: abner
Posted here
5 posted on 03/22/2002 7:48:49 AM PST by GraniteStateConservative
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To: The Shrew; Ms.Antifeminazi; LurkerNoMore!; MinuteGal; Interesting Times; Skeet; Badjoe
Ping..
6 posted on 03/22/2002 7:48:57 AM PST by abner
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To: GraniteStateConservative; Admin Moderator
Thanks. It didn't show up on the search.
7 posted on 03/22/2002 7:49:48 AM PST by abner
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To: abner; Registered; Molly Pitcher; Freedom'sWorthIt; Cyber Liberty; DJ88
Well ain't that rich! ;o)

We need to come up with a clever name for the DNC's new heaadquarters...first thing that comes to mind is...

Soft Money Heights

8 posted on 03/22/2002 7:52:30 AM PST by dittomom
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To: abner
Yep, doesn't take effect until the day after the election. I guess Congress, once again, doesn't have to obey the laws it imposes. Look for a rider early next year that amends the CFR law even further to allow those who were in office prior to November 6 to be exempt from the law that year, and the next, ...
9 posted on 03/22/2002 7:52:56 AM PST by GoreIsLove
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To: dittomom
Soft Money Heights

LOL!

Or, Hypocrite Hall

10 posted on 03/22/2002 7:53:58 AM PST by abner
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To: abner
DemocRATS: Sotp us! Before we break the law again! They have never been anything but the biggest bunch of hypocrites that ever existed.
11 posted on 03/22/2002 7:56:42 AM PST by Blood of Tyrants
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To: abner
Correct, not in effect for this cycle. We won't really see the effects of this till 04
12 posted on 03/22/2002 8:02:29 AM PST by steve50
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To: abner
Hypocrite Hall!

That's a good one, too!

How about just, The John McCain Building?

13 posted on 03/22/2002 8:04:11 AM PST by dittomom
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To: dittomom
That would work too. The McMoney Building.
14 posted on 03/22/2002 8:06:53 AM PST by abner
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To: Registered
It's NOT a law yet. President Bush has NOT SIGNED IT. Therefore, it is not a law yet.
15 posted on 03/22/2002 8:13:10 AM PST by DJ88
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To: abner
As to their computer upgrade, I posted on another thread:

"Also, heretofore, they had the White House Data Base at their disposal. With a taxpayer funded system, they didn't need their own."

In any event, thanks in part to Jim Robinson, the right has a leg up on this "free media". Thank God for that....

16 posted on 03/22/2002 8:13:34 AM PST by eureka!
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To: DJ88
I know that! I was being sarcastic over the way they wrote the article.
17 posted on 03/22/2002 8:15:36 AM PST by Registered
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To: abner
This must be upsetting to Bernard Schwartz. He held the record for over 4 years.
18 posted on 03/22/2002 8:21:18 AM PST by LarryLied
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To: Registered
While Israelis/Jews are being blown up in the Middle East, another MORON Jew gives money to the party who precipitated it. Makes me sick to be a Jew.
19 posted on 03/22/2002 8:28:37 AM PST by joltinjoe
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To: Registered
Oh, see what happens when you get pinged to a certain thread with a # attached to it?

Sorry..I'm stressed out today. ;-)

20 posted on 03/22/2002 8:33:17 AM PST by DJ88
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To: abner
No one should expect the politicians to be honest. After the law is passed, they will still get their soft money, but it will be in back alleys with unmarked tens and twenties stuffed into a briefcase. Actually, quite a few probably do that now.
21 posted on 03/22/2002 8:42:03 AM PST by Don Myers
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To: abner
YIKES! That is quite a load of money. I am sure the timing of the gifts was merely coincidental.
22 posted on 03/22/2002 8:44:39 AM PST by diotima
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To: abner
What short memories the press have! I find this story hilarious in view of the WHDB...Guess that computer slipped their collective mind.
23 posted on 03/22/2002 8:51:51 AM PST by Lion's Cub
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To: diotima
I am sure the timing of the gifts was merely coincidental.

Absolutely.

24 posted on 03/22/2002 8:52:16 AM PST by abner
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To: abner
I still don't fully understand the terms "soft" and "hard" money. What exactly are they?
25 posted on 03/22/2002 9:22:28 AM PST by BonnieJ
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To: BonnieJ
For a definition of soft money, go here.
26 posted on 03/22/2002 9:32:28 AM PST by abner
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To: abner
bump.
27 posted on 03/22/2002 10:33:42 AM PST by patent
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