Democrats Plead to Fill Campaign Coffers By Year's End

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

( - Democratic presidential frontrunner Howard Dean is turning to former Vice President Al Gore for some last-minute fund-raising help before the end of 2003.

Gore and his wife, Tipper, will headline a conference call Tuesday night linking more than 1,300 "house parties," each with the goal of raising $311 for Dean. The former Vermont governor also announced Monday that his campaign had raised $14 million in the last four months of 2003.

The Dean campaign held a similar conference call on Sept. 29, which attracted 1,442 "house parties" to help raise $14.8 million for the third quarter. The campaign hopes to break that record. As of Monday afternoon, it was about $800,000 short of the goal. The Federal Election Commission's fourth quarter deadline is midnight Wednesday.

Campaign manager Joe Trippi said the campaign needed the money to counter attacks from the eight other major candidates in the Democratic race for president.

"Against any single candidate, we'd be fine," Trippi said in a note to Dean supporters. "But because you've built the greatest grassroots campaign in history, the other candidates are reverting to a one and two state strategy, and trying to throw up roadblocks of cash in your way."

Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) has come under the most intense fire from the Dean campaign. Gephardt has concentrated his efforts on winning the Jan. 19 Iowa caucuses to slow Dean's momentum in the contests that follow. Trippi also criticized Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and retired Gen. Wesley Clark.

"All their money together is aimed at stopping our campaign, even as we need to focus on Washington state and Michigan and the other races beyond - and George Bush himself in the general election," Trippi wrote.

Dean's campaign wasn't the only one to make a last-minute pitch for money. Kerry, citing "increasingly positive press," called on his backers to open their wallets before the Dec. 31 deadline.

The Kerry campaign said voters were still undecided about the candidates. The fund-raising pitch cited an internal Mellman Group poll of likely Iowa voters that puts Dean at 28 percent, Kerry at 24 percent and Gephardt at 23 percent.

Gephardt's campaign boasted $948,823 as of Monday afternoon in its effort to raise $1 million for the Iowa contest.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) set a goal of raising $300,000 in the final days of 2003. As of Monday morning, he was lagging behind, having only raised $63,751 of that goal.

The Democratic candidates weren't the only ones getting into the act of last-minute fund-raising.

The liberal group, America Coming Together (ACT) asked supporters to help raise $5 million before the close of 2003, which would give the group $50 million in its effort to elect liberal candidates. ACT has a goal of raising a total of $94 million to "defeat George W. Bush and his extremist allies from the school boards to the House and Senate."

ACT has the backing of billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros, who pledged $10 million for its get-out-the-vote initiatives. EMILY's List founder Ellen R. Malcolm and former AFL-CIO political director Steve Rosenthal lead the organization.

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