Kerry Raises $175 Million (Bush Raises $210)

Boston Globe — Kerry shows a flair for raising money

It seemed so ambitious at the time: John F. Kerry’s campaign announced a $20-million, 20-city fund-raising tour in early March to prove he could unite Democrats after a competitive primary season and to show up skeptics who thought the Massachusetts Democrat lacked Bill Clinton’s magic touch with donors. In short order, Kerry proved his doubters wrong — combining a yen for fund-raising that surprised some Democrats who had heard that their nominee was aloof, with a drumbeat in his stump speeches that each check, each online contribution, each fund-raiser ticket brought the party ”one step closer to the end of the Bush presidency.”

The campaign shattered record after record during the spring: raising $26 million online in March alone, drawing in some 900,000 ”small-donation supporters” giving $100 or so apiece this spring, and holding cocktail receptions and concerts from New York to New Orleans to Los Angeles where Kerry has whipped up the crowds by announcing that they had set a record for fund-raising events.

Today, the Kerry campaign will announce that it has raised at least $175 million for the run-up to the general election in this presidential cycle, breaking the record that George W. Bush set in 2000 of more than $130 million. His challenger this year has come a long way from those days after the Super Tuesday primaries on March 2, when Jeffrey Birnbaum of The Washington Post predicted on Fox News that Kerry would raise ”a lot of money. . . but nothing like the $170, maybe $200 million in total that the Bush campaign will raise.” (For its part, the Bush campaign is celebrating a tally in excess of $210 million, the new record.)

So, Kerry has set “shattered record after record” by raising 83.3% as much as his opponent? Interesting.

The secret of Kerry’s success is no secret to anyone following his campaign schedule or listening to his exchanges with donors during the spring. As much as Kerry was busy introducing himself to voters nationwide, he also began headlining more and more big-money fund-raisers — to the point where, in Baltimore this past Monday, and in Aspen and Denver a week earlier, the public took a backseat to wine-and-cheese affairs that dominated his itinerary. Some days, Kerry’s cross-country schedules on his luxury 757 were dictated solely by his fund-raising. And the campaign found that donors were not waiting to fall in love with Kerry before writing checks; the Democrats’ ”beat-Bush” message was worth as much gold as Kerry’s political platform.

”People are so upset about the direction of the country under Bush, they’ll do everything they can to stop him,” said Ellen Malcolm, a top Democratic fund-raiser. ”I think even the Kerry campaign’s success is highly motivated by people’s desire to beat Bush. People are still getting to know Kerry, but the emotional energy and stamina for the donations comes from beating Bush.”

Kerry, long known in Massachusetts as a prodigious fund-raiser, also showed through the spring that he was not one of those politicians who moan or is self-deprecating when asking for money. Even before large crowds whose members had already given generously to the campaign and the Democratic Party, Kerry would regularly, and enthusiastically, ask for more.

So, essentially, he’s been a full-time fundraiser despite being on the taxpayer payroll. Why is it surprising that he’s been able to raise a lot of money from rich Democrats during a time of political acrimony and a very tight race?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Pietro says:

    a) Perhaps the records Kerry broke were Democratic Party records.

    b) And perhaps Kerry should use some of the proceeds to pay back the taxpayer for funding his extended leave of absence from his Senatorial duties.

  2. Alternatively, he could pay back the loan on his house. Does that money count as part of the 170 million?

    And thanks for pointing out Bush’s total. Everything I’ve seen on this subject makes it seem as if Kerry is raising tons of money and Bush has raised none.

  3. carpeicthus says:

    Hey, does he get his own magical Senatorial jet? Anyone who isn’t a good fund-raiser won’t get to be president under the current system. Bush and Kerry are both great at it, and spend a lot of time doing it because if they don’t, they’ll lose. Probably not the best of all possible worlds, but pretty simple.

  4. Mark says:

    Every year sets a new record. Bush set the record for a candidate in 2000, Kerry eclipsed that in 2004. In 2008, if Bush is in the White House, expect both party nominees to break Kerry’s record. If kerry is in the White House, expect the GOP challenger in 2008 to break Kerry’s record.

  5. John A. Kalb says:


    That does include the $6,000,000 in debt Kerry owes, which he’ll have to pay by the convention.


    Not to quibble, but Bush is probably at roughly $230 million by now.

    By raising his money early, he’s been able to focus on raising money for the affiliated party committees. I don’t think the Bush campaign has done a major fundraiser in several months.

    One other number I’d be interested in looking at is how much cash in hand Kerry has, minus his debts. That’s the really telling number going forward.

  6. legion says:

    C’mon guys, this is petty and ridiculous. How many articles (outside of lefty blogs) have you seen criticizing Bush for spending so much time going fundraisers on AF1? Nobody’s suggesting Bush stop accepting his paycheck while he’s too busy campaiging & fundraising or that he turn his Prez duties over th Cheney while he’s on the road (there’s a joke there, but it’s just too obvious).

    And hey, I don’t recall anyone suggesting Bush resign as Governor of Texas back during the 2000 campaigns, either.

    Incessant fundraising is an ugly part of modern politics. For both sides. As long as they’re following the rules, I say we give both sides a break on this & go back to bitching about what color tie they’re wearing today, or something…

  7. Matt says:

    Well of course Kerry has the time to criss-cross the country strongarming money out of the ABB crowd – he hasn’t showed up for something like 9 out of 10 senate roll call votes this year. Bob Dole had the decency to resign.

  8. John A. Kalb says:


    One difference. The presidency requires a lot of travel no matter what. He’s supposed to go around the country, and if he plans things so that he can go to a fundraiser too, fine. The reason why he has a 747 instead of a Learjet is so that he can take his work on the road.

    And Bush did step down (I think he took a leave) in 2000 to let Rick Perry step in for a few months.

  9. McGehee says:

    Plus (as has been pointed out so repeatedly that one has to try in order to miss it) a Senator’s job description pretty much consists of Go to the Senate floor to vote on bills.

    That — unlike the President’s work — is something you can’t do from across the street, let alone across the country.