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First-timers

Once the domain of the stereotypical fat cat, campaign contributions are now flowing from deep within the grass roots. Driven by partisanship, technology and changes in campaign-finance laws -- the 2002 McCain-Feingold law banned large direct contributions to the political parties -- campaign cash has become democratized.

Bush's reelection team said it has received a donation from at least one person in every county in America. Although the majority of Bush's contributions have come from people who have given the maximum ($2,000) allowed by law, smaller donors are playing a role, too. Campaign officials say about 833,000 individuals have contributed some money to Bush's reelection effort, compared with 345,000 during the 2000 election.

The Republican National Committee said it received donations from more than a million first-time contributors during the first three years of Bush's presidency (average contribution: $29.80). "Our small-donor base has just mushroomed," said Ed Gillespie, the RNC chairman. ...

[Terence McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee] estimated that 70 percent of the people who gave money to the DNC in the past three years were first-time contributors. This has helped the DNC wipe out its debts and wean itself of now-banned large "soft-money" contributions from unions, corporations and wealthy individuals. --
Small Donors Grow Into Big Political Force (washingtonpost.com)