Strapped for Cash, the DNC Goes for Broke

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Democratic congressional candidates were raking in money last year. Not so the Democratic National Committee. The DNC's year-end finance report at the end of this month will chart about $40 million in donations in 1999 — well below the $48 million it rang into its coffers four years earlier. That leaves the party with just $2.5 million in the bank at a crucial time. By late March Al Gore or Bill Bradley will emerge victorious but dead broke and dependent on the DNC to carry on the campaign until the August convention, when each party's nominee gets public funding. Meanwhile, likely GOP victor George W. Bush will be waging war with his multimillion-dollar stockpile.

These dire straits have prompted Bill Clinton to sign on for a major fund-raising tour in the next few months, party sources tell TIME, headlining at least a dozen events in a bid to raise an additional $40 million in the first quarter. The DNC suffered as Democrats' House and Senate campaign funds hit historic highs: more than $32 million for the House committee, more than $25 million for its Senate counterpart — its best off-year ever. Also, new DNC chair Ed Rendell spent his early weeks planning a fund-raiser for his 2002 gubernatorial bid; he was Philadelphia mayor until January 1. Ever optimistic, the DNC notes it has no legal fees or campaign debts for the first time since '96.