Occasional Reports, Notes and Commentaries on the Road to the White House
Warming Up for 1999: Fundraising Activity in 1997-98
 by Eric M. Appleman
The pre-campaign period is a time when potential presidential candidates can gear up for the challenge of raising huge sums of money in 1999.  (Republican fundraising consultant Stan Huckaby sets the bar to achieve the Republican nomination at $21.6 million, or about $60,000 per day in calendar year 1999; for Democrats the process will be somewhat less costly). 

Would-be presidential candidates cannot directly start raising money for their bids until they formally declare their candidacies.  Further, any money raised before January 1, 1999 does not qualify for federal matching funds, so it does not make sense for potential candidates to start raising presidential money too early.  These two factors do not mean that financial activity is absent in the pre-campaign period, however.

A favored fundraising vehicle for pre-presidential candidates and other ambitious politicians is the leadership PAC, also known as the multi-candidate PAC.  Politicians use leadership PACs to to make contributions to like-minded candidates, but much of the money actually goes to fund their own travel, communications, and other activities.  A leadership PAC allows the potential candidate to build up donor lists and put fundraising staff and machinery in place.  Leadership PACs can accept contributions of up to $5,000.  In addition to the federal leadership PACs, several presidential prospects established state-based PACs, which in some cases can accept unlimited amounts. Funds raised by a leadership PAC cannot be converted to use in a presidential campaign. 

By contrast, if a potential presidential candidate happens to be running for re-election to another office, he or she can put leftover funds from that campaign committee into a presidential campaign.  Texas Senator Phil Gramm used this approach in his 1996 bid for the Republican nomination.  Looking toward 2000, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. John Kasich (R-OH) finished their 1998 campaigns with substantial amounts of cash on hand.  Such money can provide an early edge in 2000, although the funds cannot be matched as is the case with qualified contributions.

The table that follows does not reflect non-federal dollars which are not reported to the Federal Election Commission.  Further, the table does not reflect a number of types of pre-campaign financial activity; these are discussed below the table.

Leadership PACs of Potential Presidential Candidates
Receipts Jan. 1, 1997-Nov. 23, 1998 (Source: Federal Election Commission)   See Notes Below
1997 1998 thru 11/23/98 Total 1997-98
Lamar Alexander1
Campaign for a New American Century


John Ashcroft2
Spirit of America PAC
(PAC formed 7/96 but began activity 8/97)
$2,399,743 $2,635,243
Gary Bauer3
Campaign for Working Families
$2,034,089 $4,943,602 $6,977,691
Steve Forbes4
(PAC formed 9/97 but activity started in 1998)
$95,660 $95,660
Newt Gingrich5
Monday Morning Political Action Committee
$334,894 $1,454,892 $1,789,786
John Kasich6
Pioneer Political Action Committee
$811,777 $1,023,214 $1,834,991
Jack Kemp
Freedom and Free Enterprise PAC
$534,821 $413,670 $948,491
Alan Keyes7
Black America's PAC
$1,355,937 $2,121,721 $3,477,658
Dan Quayle
Campaign America
$2,258,379 $3,715,247 $5,973,626
Bob Smith
Live Free or Die
(PAC formed 9/97)
$256,260 $285,488
Bill Bradley
Time Future Inc.
(inactive in 1997)

Dick Gephardt8
Effective Government Committee
$416,246 $948,065 $1,364,311
Al Gore
Leadership '98 Inc.
(started actively fundraising 3/98)
$4,291,937 $4,291,937
Bob Kerrey9
(formed 3/98)
$537,566 $537,566
Leadership PACs are only part of the pre-campaign fundraising picture.  Steve Forbes' non-profit issues advocacy organization, Americans for Hope, Growth and Opportunity, attracted over 120,000 members and raised over $10 million in 1997-98.  During the 1998 cycle, party leaders--notably Speaker Newt Gingrich, Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chair Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE)--helped to raise tens of millions for individual candidates and party organizations. 

A number of presidential prospects faced re-election campaigns in 1998.  In Texas, Gov. George W. Bush raised $17.2 million and outspent his opponent by more than 3 to 1, en route to racking up 68.6-percent of the vote.  Bush and his wife Laura also helped to raise $10.4 million for Republican candidates and groups in 72 fundraising events during 1998, and they raised $3.9 million in 30 events during 1997.  Sen. McCain raised about $3.8 million for his one-sided 1998 re-election campaign, and had several million remaining at its conclusion.  Likewise Rep. Kasich raised more than $1.7 million for his 1998 re-election campaign and had almost $1.5 million in cash on hand after the election.  McCain eschewed a leadership PAC as did Sen. Fred Thompson. 

Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and Republican Alan Keyes established exploratory committees, which are not required to report finances. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) worked at retiring the debt from his costly 1996 re-election campaign against Bill Weld. 


1. CNAC is a federal/state PAC; the state PAC can accept unlimited donations and is not reflected in the figures above.  Lamar Alexander is also chairman of We the Parents, a Virginia-based PAC formed in summer 1998.  As of late 1998, We the Parents expected to raise about $2 million during the year.  In addition, from fall 1997 to the end of 1998 Alexander served as honorary chair of the RNC's $15-20,000 donor club Republican Eagles.

2. John Ashcroft is also chairman of American Values PAC, a Virginia-based PAC (not required to file with the Federal Election Commission) formed in summer 1998.  The Washington Post (May 16, 1999) reported that "Ashcroft accepted a $400,000 corporate check for his PAC from the House of Lloyd, a Missouri direct-sales marketing firm." [Susan B. Glasser and Juliet Eilperin. "A New Conduit for 'Soft Money.'" Washington Post, May 16, 1999, p.A1.]  Ashcroft also chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee's Inner Circle ($1,000 donors) from January 1997.

3. CWF, which Bauer started in November 1996, was America's sixth largest PAC in 1997-98, and came in second behind EMILY'S List in 1998.  On the non-political side, Bauer had the resources of the Family Research Council and American Renewal to communicate his views.

4. By late 1998 AHGO, Forbes' national issue advocacy organization, claimed over 120,000 members and contributions of over $10 million.  Forbes provided an initial $100,000 to start the organization back in August 1996.  Also during the 1998 cycle Forbes served as Finance Chairman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

5. Newt Gingrich's campaign committee, Friends of Newt Gingrich, raised $2.9 million in 1997 and $3.8 million in 1998.  Further, Gingrich raised tens of millions of dollars on behalf of Republican candidates and causes during the 1998 cycle through events for members, state parties, the NRCC and the RNC.  Thus, his leadership PAC was only a small part of the picture.

6. Kasich's congressional campaign committee, Citizens for Kasich, raised more than $1.7 million in 1997-98 and finished the campaign with almost $1.5 million in cash on hand, which Kasich could put into a presidential campaign.

7. In addition, Keyes 2000, the authorized exploratory committee established in July 1997, had raised "well over $750,000" by late 1998, according to one of its spokespersons.

8. Dick Gephardt, like Newt Gingrich, raised tens of millions of dollars on behalf of Democratic candidates. Gephardt's own campaign committee, the Gephardt in Congress Committee, finished 1998 with almost $2 million in cash on hand.

9. According to a spokesperson, when federal and non-federal funds are considered, BACK PAC raised $1.5 million. Further, Bob Kerrey chaired the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the 1996 and 1998 cycles.  The DSCC raised over $33 million in 1997-98. 

  Copyright 1998, 1999 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.