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Dole Widens Financial Lead In Gop Race He Raised $24 Million For Year, With $4.5 Million Still In Bank

In the final months of 1995, Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole, R-Kan., strengthened his commanding financial lead among the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, raising more than twice as much as any competitor while his opponents saw their cash reserves dwindle, according to figures released by the campaigns.

Dole ends the year with a healthy $4.5 million in the bank, according to his campaign, and has qualified for an additional $9.2 million in federal matching funds that will begin to flow to candidates next month. He took in $5.7 million in the last three months of 1995, for a total of $24.8 million this year.

“We’re going to have the strongest cash-on-hand position by two or three or four to one,” said Dole’s campaign manager, Scott Reed. In fact, according to figures released by the campaigns, Dole’s advantage is better than 4-1.

But a financial wild card in the Republican race is publishing heir Malcolm S. “Steve” Forbes Jr., who is spending millions of his own money on the race with a blizzard of television advertising. Forbes is now in second place in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he is spending heavily on television.

Forbes’ press secretary, Gretchen Morgenson, said the campaign will not disclose its spending figures for the final quarter until it files the required report with the Federal Election Commission at the end of January. Forbes aides said earlier this month he has spent $7 million of his personal fortune on television ads.

Forbes’ television buying has prompted some campaigns to alter their spending strategy. “He has certainly created anxiety where people feel they have to do things that they would not normally have to do,” said Patrick J. Buchanan’s campaign treasurer, Scott McKenzie.

McKenzie said the Buchanan campaign had borrowed against its matching funds in order to “lock in” television time next month, buying time at the regular commercial rate rather than the discounted political rate in order to avoid being bumped by Forbes’ ads.

“When you’ve got a Forbes campaign in there that can spend an unlimited amount, you’ve got to lock in,” McKenzie said. He refused to disclose the size of the debt.

Others say they can’t even begin to compete with Forbes financial resources. “He has so much money that anybody that wanted to benchmark a strategy against his spending would be crazy,” said Mark Lubbers, campaign manager for Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar.

Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, Dole’s closest Republican competitor in terms of fund-raising, has raised $20.7 million so far, his campaign said. But that figure includes $4.8 million that Gramm transferred from his Senate campaign fund, and the Texan has seen his fund-raising slow each quarter, to $1.9 million in the final months of the year, according to the Gramm campaign.

Gramm has also qualified for $6.6 million in matching funds.

Gramm still is working for extra money, hoping to collect as much as $9 million in contributions and additional matching funds next year. Still, said Charles Black, Gramm’s top adviser, “If we didn’t raise another dime, we could fund our campaign through March 5” - through many of the critical early primaries.

Buchanan raised more than $2.3 million in the final quarter, his campaign said, while former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander raised $1.5 million and Lugar raised $700,000.

But as they began to air their first television advertisements, all the campaigns end the year with less cash on hand than they had on Oct. 1 - and several have borrowed against their matching funds.

Gramm has about $1 million cash on hand and a “handful of bills,” according to spokesman Gary Koops. Alexander spokesman Mark Merritt said the campaign has $500,000 cash on hand and has borrowed $1.5 million, most of it to pay for television advertising in New Hampshire and Iowa in an effort to demonstrate Alexander’s seriousness in the race.

McKenzie said Buchanan’s campaign has about $100,000 in cash and an undisclosed amount of debt.

Lubbers said Lugar has about $200,000 in cash and has borrowed about $1 million against his matching funds.

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