Kroc Presents $1-Million Gift to Democrats

Times Staff Writer

Exultant Democrats announced Thursday that they have received their biggest donation ever--$1 million from Joan B. Kroc, owner of the San Diego Padres baseball team, widow of the founder of McDonald’s restaurant chain and a registered independent.

In making her gift to the Democratic National Committee, Kroc, an advocate of nuclear disarmament, assailed the Reagan Administration’s emphasis on military force at the expense of domestic programs and said she was turning to the Democrats for “positive, principled leadership” that will restore America as the “foremost champion of peace and justice in the world.”

The Democratic National Committee trumpeted the news in a three-page press release that contained Kroc’s statement and effusive comments from Democratic National Chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr., national finance chairman C. Victor Raiser II and the committee’s chief fund-raiser, Jim Calaway.


The statement included a detailed biography of Kroc, noting previous gifts of $10 million to the San Diego Hospice Corp., $6 million to the University of Notre Dame and a 190-acre ranch to the Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities.

Kirk called the contribution--approximately 10 times larger than the previous record donation--”a tremendous vote of confidence in our Democratic presidential candidates” and added:

“On behalf of those millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, our thanks go to Joan Kroc, a thoughtful, concerned American whose generosity will help the Democratic Party to fulfill its obligation to provide those families with the brighter future they deserve.”

Kroc instructed that her donation be used for “party-building” activities, such as helping state Democratic parties finance computerized voter lists and train candidates and their staffs. If she had wanted her money used in federal campaigns, she would have been limited to a contribution of $20,000 under federal law.

GOP Trims Budget

Although the Democratic National Committee expects to raise only about a quarter as much as the Republican National Committee this year, the GOP recently had to lay off 40 staff members, about 15% of its work force, because of a fund-raising slump. The GOP has scaled back its 1987 budget to $35 million from about $38 million, while the Democrats expect to raise about $10 million.

Nadeen Wong, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, said of the Democrats’ good fortune: “I’m sure they’re ecstatic. They have never been able to raise as much as we have.”


Wong tweaked the Democrats for receiving larger donations than the Republicans on average, despite the GOP’s reputation as the party of “fat cats.”

“We depend on small donations averaging $34,” said Wong, while declining to disclose the amount of the Republican’s biggest contribution.

Democratic spokesman Terry Michael said that the party’s average donation is “$45 to $50,” contrary to previous GOP claims that put it at $350. However, he acknowledged that Republicans have done a better job of tapping small givers and said the Democrats are working hard to catch up.

‘Losing Sight of Goals’

In her statement, Kroc said that, for the last six years, “I have grown increasingly concerned that we may be losing sight of our goals as a nation. In the name of ‘national security,’ we have accelerated the buildup of weapons. We have diverted our bountiful resources from improving our lives and our environment to an unwarranted and excessive increase of our military weapons . . . .

“I have also grown increasingly concerned over the use of military force as the first priority in carrying out U.S. policy abroad. In Lebanon, Libya, Grenada, Nicaragua and the Persian Gulf, many Americans have died as we substituted guns for peaceful leadership.”

Kroc has been listed by Forbes magazine as one of the richest Americans, with assets estimated at $640 million. She inherited the McDonald’s fortune from her husband, Ray Kroc, who died in 1984 and who was a leading contributor to Republican candidates.