Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton Thursday claimed $831,000 in federal funds to match money he raised in December--nearly as much as the total that his five main rivals raised that month--in the latest indication of his campaign's ability to build on a surge of good publicity over the last six weeks.
With the race for the Democratic nomination about to enter the cash-intensive period of heavy television advertising leading up to the first primaries--in New Hampshire on Feb. 18 and in more than half the states in March--the matching-fund filings are the latest information on how the candidates are faring.
Judging by those numbers, Clinton appears to enjoy a financial edge over his rivals. As a result, other candidates will be under even more pressure to perform well in the New Hampshire primary because they lack the resources to continue to campaign beyond the state without a large infusion of new cash. They would be unlikely to get that infusion without a good showing on Feb. 18.
Clinton has raised a total of $3.3 million to date and has spent roughly $1.6 million, according to his campaign. With an expected $1.4 million in federal matching funds, Clinton already can bank on having about $3.1 million to spend before New Hampshire votes.
By contrast, Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey has raised $1.8 million and has spent nearly $1.3 million so far, according to spokesman Steven Jarding. With $839,000 in matching funds requested, including $259,000 Thursday, Kerrey so far would have less than half as much money available as Clinton.
The matching funds come from the $1 checkoff on individual income tax returns and match contributions from individuals up to $250. The first federal match came late last month.
Campaigns are not required to outline their total fund raising and expenses until Jan. 31, and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's campaign refused to do so. "I won't lay any cards on the table," campaign manager Tim Raftis said.
But Thursday's request for matching funds provides some information by which to evaluate Harkin's financial position.
So far, Harkin has raised almost as much as Clinton in funds eligible for the federal match. But most of Harkin's fund raising came earlier in the fall. He qualified for nearly $1.1 million with his first report, but his request last month was for only $269,000.
Moreover, the base of Harkin's fund raising is direct mail, which is an expensive way to raise money. If the rough equality between Clinton and Harkin in $250 contributions extends to larger contributions as well, then Harkin still would have considerably less cash on hand because of his fund-raising expenses. In fact, although campaign aides will not say so officially, Harkin is widely believed to have raised considerably less in large contributions than Clinton, making his cash position worse.
Harkin's fund raising was hurt by the attention paid in November and December to New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, who shares Harkin's liberal philosophy. Now that Cuomo has declared he will not be a candidate, Harkin aides and outside consultants both expect to see the senator's money flow improve somewhat in January.
Harkin's matching-fund request also does not reflect contributions from political action committees because the federal program matches only contributions from individuals. Harkin, unlike most of the Democratic candidates, has been accepting PAC money. But Raftis said the PAC contributions are only "6 to 7%" of Harkin's total funds.
The rest of the Democratic field raised considerably less. Former Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., who has made his refusal to take contributions over $100 the centerpiece of his campaign, submitted a claim for $173,000 in matching funds. Brown has requested a total of $462,000 in matching funds so far, which should be roughly equal to his entire campaign treasury.
Former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas requested $105,000 in matching funds, bringing his total to $591,000. And Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder requested $94,000 in federal funds, bringing his total to $297,000.
On the Republican side, President Bush is the only candidate who has qualified for federal matching funds. He submitted a claim for just over $1 million in matching funds for December, bringing his total to date to $3.7 million.
Third-party candidate Lenora B. Fulani of the New Alliance Party requested $141,000 on Thursday, bringing her total to $765,000. She was certified for $624,000 last month.