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More Funds Raised in Bid to Beat Bush

Times Staff Writer

Fueled by money from Hollywood, unions and wealthy executives, the largest independent groups raising money to defeat President Bush in November collected more than $20 million in the first quarter of 2004, according to records released by the IRS.

The groups, set up by Democratic insiders and known as 527s because of the tax code that governs them, have collected about $37 million since last year. But they are still far short of their goal, now estimated at $145 million.

A group of three interconnected 527s -- America Coming Together, the Media Fund and Joint Victory Campaign 2004 -- have collected about $20 million this year to spend on the November elections. The groups have been spending millions of dollars on television advertising in the 17 battleground states where the race for president is expected to be toughest.

Among the big givers to the Joint Victory Campaign 2004, the fundraising arm for the Media Fund and America Coming Together, were producers Steve Bing and Marcy Carsey, as well as Paul Newman and Norman Lear.

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Bing topped all the Hollywood donors with a contribution of $5 million. Carsey gave $1 million. Newman ponied up $50,000, Lear gave $20,000 and Kevin Bacon contributed $15,000, IRS records show.

Other big-money contributors to Democratic 527s include Slim-Fast President S. Daniel Abraham and Boar’s Head Chairman Frank Brunckhorst, each of whom gave half a million dollars; Cleveland insurance billionaire Peter B. Lewis, who gave $2 million in February (in addition to the $3 million he gave last year); Orange County investor Anne Catherine Getty Earhart, who gave $1 million; San Francisco activist Susie Tompkins Buell, who gave $1 million; and Chicago Newsweb Corp. President Fred Eychaner, who gave half a million.

“We’ve raised the money as we need to spend it,” said Jim Jordan, spokesman for the three 527s. “We feel pleased and confident about our fundraising. We’ve been right on track.”

Although Media Fund President Harold M. Ickes said in February that he hoped to raise $75 million for his group, spokeswoman Sarah Leonard said Monday that it now had a $50-million goal. America Coming Together hopes to raise an additional $95 million. (Much of the money is collected through Joint Victory Campaign 2004, which then divides it between the other two 527s).

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Leonard said that America Coming Together already had commitments of $58 million.

“We’re sitting here in April. The election is in November,” she said. “We feel we’ve raised the money necessary to run our program.”

Union money has come in part from the American Federation of Teachers COPE, which contributed $750,000, and a Service Employees International Union chapter in New York, which gave $500,000.

MoveOn.org Voter Fund, another 527 that has been running anti-Bush ads, has collected most of its money ($4 million so far this year) from ordinary Americans. PoliticalMoneyLine has counted 3,084 donors to MoveOn 527 since Jan. 1.

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The group also has had some big-dollar contributors, including $2 million this year from billionaire Lewis (who gave them $500,000 last year) and $1 million from philanthropist George Soros (in addition to $1.5 million he gave last year), their report to the IRS shows.

The 527 groups have raised the ire of the Republican National Committee, which filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission last month that alleged they were a “shadow Democratic party” illegally raising money to help Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

The FEC last week also held hearings on whether it should enact rules restricting 527s.

Campaign finance reform laws ban unlimited “soft money” contributions from individuals, corporations and unions. But the 527s contend that those laws do not apply to them.

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Hollywood money

Among those contributing to the Joint Victory Campaign 2004, one of the groups set up by Democratic insiders to help defeat President Bush in November:

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*--* Donor Profession Contribution Steve Bing film producer $5 million Marcy Carsey TV producer $1 million Paul Newman actor $50,000 Norman Lear TV producer/writer $20,000 Kevin Bacon actor $15,000 Rob Reiner director/producer/actor $5,000 Robert Chartoff film producer $5,000 Mike Stoller songwriter $5,000 Nick Wechsler film producer $2,500 Chevy Chase actor $2,500 Jonathan Demme film director $500 Nora Ephron writer/director/producer $500 Delia Ephron writer/producer $500 Blythe Danner actor $500 Tim Robbins actor/director $250 Susan Sarandon actor $250

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Source: First-quarter financial reports filed with the IRS; Internet Movie Database


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