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A Sure Winner: Brown 800-Line Funding Idea : Campaign: More than $2 million has come in so far, but the money isn’t everything. The calls also generate a list of possible grass-roots backers later.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

No matter how his presidential campaign finally turns out, Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. has come up with one idea that others undoubtedly will try to emulate--a toll-free fund-raising line as a candidate’s main financing tool.

Open 24 hours a day to accept individual contributions of no more than $100 from throughout the nation, the phone operation had received $5,342,917 in pledges from 216,000 individuals through Thursday night, according to its director, retired insurance executive Jan Krajewski.

Of that amount, Krajewski said, $2,245,895 has materialized into actual contributions. “We send one confirmation letter for each pledge, and no more than one reminder,” he said.

The money raised through the line, 1-800-426-1112, is supplemented with federal election matching funds. Together, this has been enough for Brown to wage a national campaign.

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More than that, however, the 800 line and the $100 limit have come to symbolize Brown’s crusade against big money and powerful special interests in national politics. And, since all contributors are entered into computer lists, the line may be creating the skeleton of a mass grass-roots political movement for years after the 1992 campaign is over.

On Friday, there were allegations that something might be amiss with the operation of the phone bank, which is located in a ramshackle office building near downtown Los Angeles and staffed by men and women paid $8 to $10 an hour.

The Cable News Network said one of its reporters who called the line pretending to be a potential contributor was told that Brown’s $100 limit could be circumvented by having family members contribute $100 each, thus giving the campaign a gift of possibly several hundred dollars.

Brown, campaigning in New York, responded angrily that if any such a thing were said, it may have come from a Clinton plant. And Krajewski said if more than $100 arrives in a single check, and there is documentation for only one name, the excess is returned even if there is only $1 extra.

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The 71-year-old Krajewski said he had called the CNN reporter to seek further details of his call and remonstrate that suggestions of multiple contributions are not campaign policy.

A Clinton campaign spokesman said any suggestion that Clinton supporters had infiltrated Brown’s telephone bank is “completely ridiculous.”

Krajewski had no precise response to indications that about one in every three dollars collected via the 800 line goes to pay the costs of the effort. The estimate comes from Brown’s campaign filings with federal election officials.

He said his own firm, Compucall, which is under contract to the Brown campaign, made only a $5,000 profit in February for its efforts. But, he added, the costs of the fund raising are “considerable,” entailing as much as $500 an hour in labor alone, plus extensive telephone charges, mailings, computer equipment, check sorting and administration.

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Bills for all this often lag a couple of months, and they are paid by the Brown campaign, so he does not know how much the expenses are, he said.

Krajewski, a longtime confidant of the former California governor, was born in Poland and lived in Britain and Brazil before he arrived in this country in 1960.

He disclaimed all credit for the 800 presidential campaign line. The idea was entirely Brown’s, Krajewski said. Until now, his firm has mainly done solicitations for public television stations and the Sierra Club, he said.

However, Cathy Calfo, executive officer of the California Democratic Party when Brown was party chairman two years ago, said that Krajewski had originally suggested that the Democratic Party use an 800 fund-raising line to make mass popular appeals, rather than rely on funds from big contributors.

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Calfo added that she saw the 800 line as a way for Brown to eschew big money, and as a means of organizing a mass political movement in the future. She said Krajewski should get a lot of credit.

A visitor to the telephone operation Friday saw 60 informally dressed employees sitting at tables equipped with telephones and usually with computers. Telephones rang constantly. In separate rooms, automated equipment spewed out pledge confirmations and a half-dozen women took checks out of incoming mail and recorded them.

Krajewski said the bill for keeping the staff fed with pizzas at odd hours runs nearly $2,000 a month. The atmosphere is quite informal.

He said some of the busiest times these days, with the New York primary approaching, is about 5 a.m., California time. That is 8 a.m. in the East, and New Yorkers are getting up, reading their newspapers about the campaign events of the night before, and deciding to make a small contribution, he said.

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Through Thursday, however, campaign figures show that 122,000 of the 216,000 people making pledges have been Californians, indicating Brown’s most fervent backing remains in his home state.

Krajewski said that in the early months of the 800 line that started in September, prank calls ran 15% to 20% of the total, but that recently the percentage of pranks has tailed off dramatically.


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