Thursday, March 23, 2000

Gore visit will raise $500,000

GOP also finds Tristate is generous

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For both Al Gore and George W. Bush, the Cincinnati area has become one great automatic teller machine.

        And the best part for the major party presidential candidates is that they never make deposits, only withdrawals.

        For the vice president, who has the Democratic presidential nomination sewn up, the traditionally Republican Cincinnati area has become a campaign cash bonanza largely because of one man — lawyer Stanley Chesley. Mr. Gore heads to Mr. Chesley's Amberley Village house today for a Democratic National Committee (DNC) fund-raiser that will net about $500,000.

        “He's a good friend, and I'll do everything I can to make him president,” said Mr. Chesley, who has raised millions over the past eight years for the Clinton-Gore campaigns and Democratic party committees.

        For the likely Republican nominee, Cincinnati has been and will continue to be a major source of funds, in part because some of his closest friends and business associates are here and because the Cincinnati area has been one of the leading areas for Republican presidential fund-raising for decades.

        “The Bush family has a lot of personal ties to Cincinnati,” said H.C. Buck Niehoff, finance

        chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party. “This is Bush country.”

        Last summer, the Texas governor came to Cincinnati for a reception at the Omni Netherland Hotel that raised $1 million, much of it from Tristate donors.

        The Bush fund-raiser here was organized by two Cincinnati venture capitalists, Mercer Reynolds III and William O. DeWitt Jr., both of whom had been partners with Mr. Bush in oil ventures and the Texas Rangers baseball teams during the 1980s.

        But in addition to the enormous amounts of money Mr. Reynolds and Mr. DeWitt were able to tap into, the Bush campaign had the financial support of most of Cincinnati's business establishment, including financier Carl Lindner and his family, Cintas chairman Richard Farmer and practically the whole membership list of the Cincinnati Business Committee.

        Four southwest Ohio counties — Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont — have chipped in $616,297 to the Bush campaign so far. That is about one-third of the money the Texas governor has raised in Ohio.

        The numbers for the Gore campaign in southwest Ohio are far less — $56,100 so far.

        But while Mr. Bush has raised more, he has also spent more in a string of tough primary battles with Arizona Sen. John McCain.

        The Bush campaign has already spent $63.2 million in the primary contests, compared to $32.5 million for the Gore campaign. That means the Gore campaign, with $11.4 million in the bank at the end of February, has more cash on hand than the Bush campaign, which ended February with only $7.5 million.

        That will mean a fresh round of fund-raising for the general election candidates, and a considerable amount of it will be done here.

        While most of the money Mr. Bush raises in Cincinnati is homegrown, most of the Democratic campaign money is not.

        Mr. Chesley has hosted President Clinton, Mr. Gore, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Tipper Gore for fund-raising events that have a high ticket price — usually $10,000 per couple — and a dinner crowd that is made up in large part from out-of-town friends of Mr. Chesley, mostly fellow trial lawyers.

        Last April, when Mr. Gore stopped in Cincinnati to tour tornado damage in Montgomery and Blue Ash, he also stopped downtown for a Chesley-sponsored fund-raising lunch that included Chesley friends who pledged to raise $500,000 for the Gore 2000 campaign.

        Today at Mr. Chesley's house in Amberley Village, the expected $500,000 won't be going directly to Mr. Gore's campaign. It will be the kind of unregulated “soft money” that goes to political parties that Mr. Gore has said he favors banning from federal elections.

        It is money the DNC will use to indirectly promote Mr. Gore's presidential candidacy and other federal Democratic campaigns.

        Mr. Chesley said about 40 people will attend the Gore lunch today, “although I could have had a lot more.” It will be a crowd, he said, made up of about half local Democrats and half his out-of-town friends.

        If the money were going directly to the Gore campaign, lunch-goers would be limited by federal election law to giving $1,000. But with the money going to the DNC, they can pay the $10,000 ticket price or more.

        Most of the southwest Ohio people who have donated money to the Bush campaign have already reached the maximum contribution level of $1,000 for the primary elections and $1,000 for the general election.

        That means the Bush campaign will have to go out looking for new donors, Mr. Niehoff said.

        “I don't think it will be too difficult to find another 1,000 people in Cincinnati who care enough about the direction this country goes to give money to Governor Bush,” Mr. Niehoff said. “There's an awful lot of people out there.”

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