Bush begs as cash flows in to Clinton

IF MONEY makes you popular, then being popular can also make you money - especially if you are a good bet to be the next president of the United States. This well-tried law of American politics, for once, has the Republicans on their uppers and the Democrats with a virtual embarrassment of riches.

It is not something to which the Grand Old Party of George Bush is accustomed. In recent memory, especially in the golden days of the Reagan candidacies, the party's campaign coffers would overflow with private contributions while the pauper Democrats scrambled for every nickle and dime. Not so this year.

With 50 days to polling day, Bill Clinton finds himself just about freed of further fund-raising obligations because almost all the money needed for the rest of the campaign is already in. In contrast, President Bush's diary is jammed with events arranged solely to raise extra cash.

Both parties are entitled equally to dollars 55m (pounds 31m) in federal money to finance their campaigns. Beyond that they are allowed to raise privately an additional dollars 10m each, also for the campaigns proper, and any amount of additional so-called 'soft money' from private contributions to finance-related election functions, such as voter-registration drives.

While the Democrats have raised all of their dollars 10m allocation, the Republicans have barely topped dollars 2m. While the Clinton camp is poised to exceed their own dollars 53m record, set in 1988, in soft-money contributions, the main Republican soft-money drive, which had aimed to collect dollars 46m, has so far received only about dollars 5m.

Mr Clinton's success in attracting money reflects his lead in the polls and the confidence of donors that he will be the next man in the White House. Cash is coming from individuals, with gays showing up as important new benefactors, as well as from unions and the business community.

To try to catch up, Mr Bush's former campaign chairman, Robert Mosbacher, has been drafted in as new fund-raising supremo. The ever popular Barbara Bush has lent her name to a fresh mail-shot drive, apparently to fairly lucrative effect, and several grand events, usually with Ronald Reagan appearing by satellite, are planned to dig deeper into supporter's pockets.

For the President, meanwhile, personal appearances at private functions and parties are becoming an unavoidable daily duty, distracting him from campaigning. Even on Monday - when he addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York - in the evening he will be the reluctant star guest at a small Manhattan dinner party for wealthy Republican loyalists designed to raise an extra dollars 750,000. Expensive eating for some.

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