Washington Prowler

A Hazard of New Fortunes

Kerry plays poor to manipulate perceptions. Plus: A penurious Democratic token.

By 6.30.03

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LI'L ORPHAN JOHNNY
It's expected that Sen. John Kerry saw an uptick in fundraising for his presidential campaign this financial quarter ending today. Kerry is now expected to report pulling in around $11 million. Part of his success is due to the continuing perception -- borne out by polling data -- that he's firming up his status as a front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Another reason may be the story floated by his own campaign that due to campaign finance laws, he won't be able to draw on the vast fortune that his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry's inherited from her previous husband, the late Sen. John Heinz, a Republican from Pennsylvania.

"We don't know how much he can actually use from her fortune," says a Kerry campaign staffer in Washington. "But whether he can use any of it or all of it, the perception that he was loaded and could self-finance the campaign was hurting our bottom line."

By this, the staffer means, Kerry and his fundraisers were finding it difficult to get Democrats to cut donation checks because so much talk at the time involved how Kerry had the cash on hand to basically pay for his own campaign. Heinz-Kerry is believed to have a personal worth of more than $400 million, and, conceivably, half of that could be identified by hubby John as "shared" wealth, which he could use to finance parts of his campaign. The running joke in Washington has been that the definition of a Kerry fundraiser is whenever Kerry gets into bed with his wife.

"We were doing okay, fundraising, but the question was always popping up, 'Isn't your man going to spend his own money?'" says the Kerry staffer. "I think by putting out that story that the Senator probably could not use his wife's money, we increased our fundraising by at least ten or fifteen percent."

Beyond the questions their own fundraisers were getting, were the questions about Kerry's money that fundraisers for other candidates were planting. The Gephardt and Edwards campaigns especially were citing their need for cash -- and Kerry's lack of a need due to his wife's fortune -- as reasons to help them early on and not Kerry.

"It wasn't necessarily with the big donors, but the small donors, the ones we could go back to three or four times before hitting the limit," says the Kerry staffer. "And it's tough to get fundraisers motivated when they think they are working for Daddy Warbucks."

Or, in this case, the husband of Mommy Warbucks.

INVALID TOKEN
Ex-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun expects to have to shut down her presidential campaign in September if her fundraising and poll numbers continue apace. Already, she has quietly shut down most of her campaign operations in Iowa and New Hampshire, laid off most of her staff and consolidated in her home city of Chicago. What staff she has left is volunteering for the time being.

"Her camp has the whiff of death about it," says a staffer with a competing campaign. "But she probably feels she has make a half-hearted showing if she's to have any cred with the Democratic National Committee. There's something else going on here. We don't know what it is, but she sure isn't interested in running for president."

Moseley Braun was said to be running, in part, for the opportunity to be one of the first black female presidential candidates in an era of major media coverage of the primary season. But she has failed to generate any buzz, or any cash, really. The thinking inside the DNC was that she was encouraged to run by DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe and DNC adviser Donna Brazile as a way of watering down potential black support for Al Sharpton. He too has been experiencing poor fundraising results thus far -- but no thanks to Moseley Braun.

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