A new political group set up to help Democrats win control of Congress with a last-minute advertising blitz brought in $3 million as of last week, leaving the effort far short of its reported fund-raising goals.
The September Fund was created last month by a top Democratic operative, Harold Ickes, to combat an anticipated pre-election onslaught of advertising by Republican groups. The fund reportedly hoped to raise between $10 million and $25 million, but its filing yesterday with the Internal Revenue Service indicated the total received through October 18 was only $3 million.
By contrast, a single Republican donor, Robert Perry of Texas, has given at least $8 million this year to conservative "527" organizations working to help the GOP hang on to the House and Senate. The groups, which get the label from a section of the tax code, take multimillion-dollar gifts that traditional political action committees cannot accept.
Democratic donors who gave tens of millions to 527s in 2004, such as George Soros, are being less generous this time. Mr. Soros has not donated to the September Fund, but he did pledge $3 million to a Democratic get-out-the-vote effort, America Votes.
A consultant working on the September Fund campaign, Erik Smith, disputed that his group ever expected to raise up to $25 million, a figure reported by the New YorkTimes. "That wasn't our number. I don't know where that came from," Mr. Smith said yesterday.
The Washington Post reported last week that Mr. Ickes said the new group had raised between $5 million and $10 million. The longtime adviser to Senator Clinton and deputy chief of staff to President Clinton did not return a call seeking comment for this article.
"It has been more difficult raising money than I expected," the political operative told the Post. He also said Democrats were probably being too optimistic about their electoral chances.
Mr. Smith said the September Fund is running ads in five states: Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia. He said ads will pop up in three more, but he declined to identify them.
Of the September Fund's $3 million, $825,000 came from labor-affiliated political action committees. Under federal law, only the $2.2 million the group took in from individuals can be spent on broadcast and cable ads mentioning federal candidates.
One September Fund ad dodges that legal restriction by referring only to President Bush, who is not a candidate for any office this year. The ad depicts people standing in a park, asking a bush questions about the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, and health care costs.