Early glimpse at money derby lacks the Clinton context
Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani opened what is sure to be a year of frenzied presidential campaign fundraising by disclosing Wednesday he had $1 million on hand in his quest to become the Republican nominee, while presumed front-runner Sen. John McCain of Arizona had $472,000.
But they and the rest of the field probably lag far behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. The Democrat is believed to have amassed in excess of $14 million, although her report had not become public as of late Wednesday.
Among other Democrats, freshman Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois had $516,000 in his Senate account, money that he could use for his presidential run. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut reported having $4.9 million in his Senate account at year’s end.
Federal officeholders and candidates were required by law to file campaign finance reports detailing the amounts they had in the bank as of Dec. 31. But presidential hopefuls who made their intentions known after Jan. 1 won’t be required to file reports until April 15.
Campaign finance experts cautioned against reading much into the reports released Wednesday, given that public campaigning is only now beginning. Not all candidates were required to file reports, and some, including Obama and McCain, had not held major fundraising events.
“It is like handicapping a horse race one second out of the gate,” said Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. “It is telling us they are starting, but it won’t tell us how they’ll finish.”
Obama, who is not scheduled to formally announce his candidacy until Feb. 10, plans to venture to Los Angeles later this month for a political gala hosted by entertainment moguls David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg.
Among GOP candidates, McCain raised $660,000 for his presidential bid. That was boosted by $1.05 million more from his Senate account. After expenses, he had $472,000 banked.
McCain received $2,100 checks from former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh; former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger; Patricia Nixon Cox, one of President Nixon’s daughters; and Carly Fiorina, former head of Hewlett-Packard Co.
Giuliani raised $1.3 million in the closing weeks of 2006, most of it in New York. He also received $2,100 checks from Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens Jr. and his wife, and Andrew J. Littlefair of Clean Energy Inc., a Pickens holding in San Diego.
Additionally, Countrywide Financial Corp. Chief Executive Angelo R. Mozilo, and venture capitalist William E. Simon Jr. and Simon’s wife each gave Giuliani $2,100. Simon is a longtime friend of Giuliani’s and was the GOP nominee for California governor in 2002.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another Republican candidate, won’t be required to file a campaign finance disclosure until April 15. Romney is a multimillionaire who gained his wealth as co-founder of Bain Capital, a $40-billion investment and venture capital fund.
To win the governor’s office in 2002, Romney spent $6.3 million of his money, almost twice what he raised from other donors. He also dipped into his personal wealth when he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 1994 against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). Romney still lists a debt of $3.1 million from that campaign, though he owes the money to himself.
Among the other candidates, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, reported having $396,000 in the bank after raising $1.13 million in December, an amount he had set as a goal for his first month as a presidential candidate.
Vilsack tapped two Los Angeles billionaires: Eli and Edythe Broad gave him $3,200, and Ron Burkle gave him $2,100, as did Steve Kirsch, founder of Propel, a Silicon Valley software company.
Kirsch, of Los Altos Hills, has been a major Democratic donor nationally in recent years. In an e-mail, Kirsch called Vilsack “the strongest candidate in the field.” Burkle, however, is expected to back Clinton, and Broad said through a spokeswoman that he had not endorsed anyone.
A handful of others filed reports earlier. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) reported transferring $575,000 from his Senate campaign account to his presidential account. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) had $141,000 in his Senate campaign account as of Dec. 31.