WASHINGTON -- Senator John F. Kerry yesterday gave $1 million in campaign funds to the Democratic National Committee's grass-roots organizing campaign, and is asking his network of political supporters to build on his donation to help Democrats compete at the state and local levels.
Kerry is earmarking the money for grants that will go to state-level organizations, so state parties can hire permanent staffs that will help in legislative and congressional races this year and next.
In an e-mail message to 3 million of his supporters, Kerry said the money would help the party take a "dramatic step" that will make it easier to compete with Republicans across the country.
"The Democratic Party should have powerful and nimble organizations in every single county and precinct," Kerry wrote. "There's only one way to win -- we've got to compete everywhere, all the time. Our party should be a constant positive presence in every American community, and we can be if we tap into the grass-roots energy of volunteers."
The donation leaves Kerry with about $10 million in his campaign fund, which he can tap for a possible presidential run in 2008.
Some Democrats expressed disappointment that Kerry finished the campaign with $16 million in one of his campaign accounts, and Kerry has sought to mend fences by making sizable donations to state parties and national campaign committees, including a $1 million donation to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The donation to the Democratic National Committee is a signal that Kerry intends to work through the existing party organization after his unsuccessful presidential campaign. One aide to the senator said it should send a message of good will to Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who was Kerry's rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, now in line to be the next Democratic National Committee chairman.
Jenny Backus, a Kerry political consultant, said the money and donations from Kerry supporters will help put in place a permanent local organizing presence for the party, mimicking the operation that Republicans have had in place for years.
"We've always built up the party once every four years, for the presidential run," Backus said. "The Republicans have been paying for staff at the state party level, and for organizers. This is a dedication to making the Democratic Party permanently strong."
The outgoing Democratic National Committee chairman, Terry McAuliffe, said in a statement that the money will boost the party's "unprecedented" efforts to build up its grass-roots organization.