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Democrats get record donations

Published Sep. 2, 2005

A billionaire media mogul has given the Democratic National Committee $7-million, believed to be the single largest donation ever to a political party.

The DNC also recently received a $5-million check from Hollywood producer Steve Bing that would otherwise have held the record.

"I hope that my contribution will inspire Democrats that are much richer than me to step up to the plate higher than me," said Power Rangers creator Haim Saban, the $7-million donor. "I will be very happy to be fifth in line."

Word of the seven-figure checks comes as President Bush prepares to sign a ban on such unlimited "soft money" contributions to political parties. It was passed by the Senate this week.

Anticipating the ban, DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe has been traveling the nation for several months raising money for a new party headquarters to rival that of the Republican National Committee.

The estimated $32-million building will feature state-of-the-art technology including computer systems and television and radio studios.

McAuliffe's sales pitch struck a chord with Saban, billionaire chairman of the Saban Capital Group and creator of the hit children's television show. Saban, a prolific giver to Democratic campaigns, sent his check in early February.

"The Democrats are in the Stone Age, the Republicans are in the 21st century" in technology, Saban said Friday. "We are for the most part a two-party nation and I thought it would be a disaster if one party were to play in an uneven playing field."

The checks take the DNC a long way toward its fundraising goal, spokeswoman Maria Cardona said. Fourteen donors have pledged most of the money needed for the new building, she said.

Several contributors, including labor unions, gave $1-million each.

The DNC plans to break ground on the building this spring and have it completed by December 2003, Cardona said.

Under the new campaign finance legislation, political parties cannot raise soft money after this fall's election or spend it after Dec. 31.

The DNC is talking with its lawyers about how it can use all the soft money it has raised for the building while meeting the spending deadline, Cardona said.

The previous party donation record was believed to be a $1.7-million check the Republican National Committee received from Amway Corp. in 1996 to build a TV studio.

Saban, who gave Democrats $1-million for the 2000 election, is chairman of McAuliffe's capital campaign. Saban said he has asked his friends to donate for the headquarters and gave a big check in part because "you better be willing to put your money where your mouth is."

Campaign finance watchdogs predict Saban's record will fall before the soft-money ban takes effect.