GOP Raises $7.3 Million in ‘Soft Money’ Donations

<i> From Associated Press</i>

From Fruit of the Loom to the NRA, contributors have given $7.3 million in “soft money” to the Republican National Committee in the first four months of 1995.

That’s close to the $10.5 million in soft money the party raised in all of 1993, when it encountered leaner times after President Clinton took office.

Emboldened by its recent takeover of Congress, the GOP is again raking in five- and six-figure donations from corporate America.


“I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor, and I like being rich better,” party Chairman Haley Barbour said. “This is like getting a drink of water from a fire hydrant, but I haven’t drowned yet.”

Corporations are legally forbidden from donating to federal candidates, and campaign finance laws passed after Watergate limit the size of donations that individuals can give as well. But a provision, or what critics call a loophole, in those laws allows both political parties to collect millions in unlimited contributions from wealthy individuals and companies. It’s known as “soft money.”

Such donations, often above $100,000, are supposed to be used for general party-building activities and not to directly advocate any federal candidate’s election. But they play an important role in presidential elections, funding voter registration drives, generic party advertisements and the like.

Without control of either the White House or Congress, Republicans had a tough time raising money in early 1993, the last off-election year. In fact, they raised just $790,000 in the first three months of that year, about one-tenth of their total this time. The balance began shifting late last fall as the Republicans closed in on winning the House and Senate.

Democrats don’t release their soft money figures until July.

They say they expected the Republicans’ success, especially given the aggressive pitches for money that have been made by House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other GOP leaders.

“These contributions are Watergate-sized, and they are coming at a time when Congress is debating tax legislation and a whole gambit of regulatory matters that are going to affect these interests,” said Ann McBride, president of Common Cause, a private group that advocates campaign finance reforms.


Tobacco giant Philip Morris remains atop the Republican Party’s donor list, having contributed $338,000 in soft money so far this year. Brown & Williamson Tobacco donated $55,000 in the first four months, and RJR Nabisco added $30,000.

Other big donations included $40,000 from the National Rifle Assn., which would like to see the new ban on certain assault-style weapons repealed, and $100,000 from Fruit of the Loom, which wants to cut tariffs and quotas on textiles from the Caribbean. House Republicans have introduced such legislation.