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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Trevor Potter

Aired June 17, 2003 - 20:20   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, joining us now to talk about the presidential money machine is the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. Trevor Potter is in Washington.
Trevor, thanks for being with us.

The amount of money we're talking about is quite a lot. I just want to quickly put on the screen showing what the Democratic candidates, all nine of them, have been able to raise in three months -- $26 million versus President bush in just two weeks, able to raise $25 million.

Why the difference? What advantage does the president have besides just being the president? As we all know, presidents naturally have an advantage raising money.

TREVOR POTTER, FMR. CHMN., FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: Well, starting as an incumbent is a huge advantage. But President Bush has an enormous fund-raising machine. If you go back and look at 2000, he had a team of people -- now it looks as over 500 individuals, who each raised $100,000 or more for him. So you're looking at perhaps half the money that he raised in 2000 being raised by this inner group of people. Some were inherited by his father, some were people he knew in Texas or in the oil business or in baseball.

COOPER: Some go as far back as college, right?

POTTER: A number of them are either Yale classmates or Harvard Business School classmates. So there's a real network of people who have wealthy friends, who are in business and can go out and raise money from their vendors, their suppliers.

COOPER: Right. Now the amount...

POTTER; You saw Wayne Berman, lawyers' lobbyist, that whole network.

COOPER: And the amount of money we're talking about is tremendous. We -- CNN just confirmed that tonight alone President Bush raised $3.5 million at this fund-raiser that we just talked about.

Want to show the money raised in the past f-- by past president incumbents for primaries. Let's look at this screen. Reagan, 1984, $16.6 million; Bush '41, $24 million; Clinton, 42.5; Bush in 2003 projected $170 million. It's just extraordinary. Why so much now compared to what it used to be in the past?

POTTER: It will be the largest in history, without any question. The only close one, I think, and it's not close, is Richard Nixon back in 1972 before the rules were changed and limits were put on what people could give.

Part of it is that President Bush has learned the lessons of his father's loss for re-election in 1992, which is that when president -- the first President Bush had won the first Iraq war, he didn't go out and raise money. His campaign people urged him to and he didn't want to do that at that point. And so what this President Bush is doing a year ahead of the election -- more than that -- is going out and raising an untold amount of money to be able to run advertising in the next year.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Right. We're talking about for a primary campaign in which he has no opponent within his own party. Obviously another advantage right there.

Just as we leave, I don't know if you saw -- caught the piece in "The New York Times." I read Dick Gephardt spends about eight hours -- "the Times" was saying -- about eight hours a day on the phone trying to raise money. President Bush can, you know, show up at a party for 15 minutes, shake some hands and raise much more than that.

So it was an interesting contrast from "The Times" today.

Trevor Potter, appreciate you joining us. Thanks very much for joining us.

POTTER: You're welcome.

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