State-Party Dilemma Matching '02 Funding Level

State political parties face the daunting task of figuring out how they'll replace the $217 million they got from the national political parties in 2002 money now banned under new federal campaign finance rules.

For the 2002 elections, states raised $819 million, of which $217 million came from the national parties, the Center for Public Integrity, a watchdog organization, said in a report released March 25.

The new federal campaign law bans "soft money," the unlimited donations to national party committees that found their way into the states to pay for advertising and other political expenses, Derek Willis, a researcher with the center, said during a briefing with reporters on the new data.

Governors and top legislative leaders may well become their states' go-to superstars for raising money for upcoming state elections, Willis said. "If the state party can't rely on the national party any longer, then you have to turn to a proven source of fund raising and there are few better proven sources of fund raising than ... governors and state legislators," Willis told Stateline.org.

The new campaign reform law is commonly known as the McCain-Feingold law, named after the law's lead sponsors: U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis).

The $819 million that states raised in the 2001-2002 election cycle is $98 million more than collected in the 2000 presidential election-year.

The center also found that while Democrats received 53 percent of the total money raised, the funding edge at the state level did not always translate to victories at the polls. In Georgia, for example, the Democratic Party and caucus committees spent $5 million more than Republican committees, but nevertheless lost big: Among those Democrats toppled were the incumbent governor, a U.S. senator and the powerful speaker of the state House, the center said.

In Missouri, Democratic committees raised $2.5 million more than GOP committees, yet lost a close U.S. Senate race and control of the state House for the first time in 48 years, the center said.

States with high-profile races in 2002 raised the most money, with Florida ranking first ($89.4 million) followed by New Jersey ($55 million) and California ($42.8 million). 

Labor unions dominated the list of top donors to state parties, providing $41 million, mostly to Democratic committees. 

As part of its project, "Party Lines: Who pulls the political strings in the 50 states," the center has a Web-searchable database that includes campaign finance information from 229 state political party and caucus committees during the 2001 and 2002 calendar years. Click here to search the data base.

The project was funded by the Ford Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, which also funds Stateline.org