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Contributions to McCain camp increased in July

Times Staff Writer

The John McCain campaign Friday reported its best fundraising month since the Arizona senator became the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee.

McCain raised $27 million last month, the fifth consecutive month in which contributions have increased, campaign manager Rick Davis said in a morning conference call. The Republican National Committee reported it had raised an additional $25.8 million, giving it a total of $71.5 million.

Republicans have been lagging behind in raising money when compared with the Democrats and their likely nominee, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who built a cash juggernaut using the Internet.

The latest numbers show that Republicans are warming up to the McCain campaign, Davis said. “It indicates to us that our fundraising continues to be very healthy,” he said.

McCain had $21.4 million in ready cash at the end of July, Davis said, but fundraising by the RNC and other groups means McCain and his GOP supporters can draw on more than $100 million to battle Obama.

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Under federal campaign financing rules, McCain cannot spend money he has raised during the primary season after Aug. 31, so the campaign aims to exhaust those funds this month. “So we’ll be spending much more than we’ve been raising,” Davis said.

After McCain accepts the party’s nomination in St. Paul, Minn., in the first week of September, his campaign will get an infusion of $100 million in federal funds, “so we’ll start the general election campaign fully flush,” Davis said.

The McCain campaign said it now has 600,000 donors, and in a posting on its website, the RNC said it had reached 1 million donors. The Obama campaign has said it has passed the 2-million-donor mark. Unlike McCain, Obama has rejected public financing. Experts have predicted that each side will spend more than $400 million on the general election.

McCain had no public schedule Friday; Obama traveled home to Chicago after a vacation in his native Hawaii. Both will appear today at Saddleback Church in the Orange County community of Lake Forest.

While Republicans were pleased with their fundraising results, Democrats on Friday stepped up their attack on McCain for agreeing to a fundraiser sponsored by Ralph Reed, a prominent conservative Christian. The fundraiser is scheduled for Monday in Atlanta.

Reed’s 2006 campaign for lieutenant governor of Georgia was damaged by his affiliation with imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the focus of a wide-ranging corruption scandal involving illegal payments to support Indian gaming.

Many details of the scandal were uncovered by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, chaired by McCain, who cites that inquiry as an example of his reform credentials.

For much of the last week, Democrats have called on McCain to distance himself from Reed, who could help the Republican build support from the Christian right.

In a conference call Friday, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) criticized McCain.

“John McCain’s decision to raise money from one of the key figures in the Jack Abramoff scandal -- one of Abramoff’s conspirators in a money laundering scheme -- is a very disappointing example of John McCain abandoning his principles on the campaign trail,” Waxman said. “He claimed to be a reformer? Well, reformer no more.”

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bob.drogin@latimes.com

Times staff writer Michael Muskal in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


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