NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
The 2008 presidential election is 643 days away, and it's not too soon to start.
Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): I announce today that I'm forming a presidential exploratory committee. I'm not just starting a campaign, though, I'm beginning a conversation.
Unidentified Man #1: Tim(ph), tomorrow I'll be filing papers to launch an exploratory committee. And yes, I'll be out there.
Unidentified Man #2: …to be preparing to run for president of the United States.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): And I'll be filing papers today to create a presidential exploratory committee.
CONAN: Each of those candidates is making decisions right now that will be critical to their prospects, and there is none more critical than money. With the frontrunners in both parties expected to amass something on the order of $100 million, even those hopefuls convinced that they have the right message and the right ideas have to figure out a way to provide themselves with enough to be competitive.
How many $1,000-a-plate dinners, how many phone calls, how many meet-ups? Do you hit up the big donors or ask for $10 at a time on the Web, or both? And while 21 months until November '08 might seem like a lot of time, everybody's early start creates a scramble for skilled staff and difficult decisions about travel and scheduling and positioning.
Today we begin a series of programs about the mechanics of presidential campaigns, nuts-and-bolts issues that can make or break a candidacy. So you want to be president? And we begin with a principal focus on the money.
Later on, a review of Microsoft Vista from somebody who's used it. But first, how to fund a modern presidential campaign. If you have questions about how campaigns raise money and how they spend it, give us a call: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is email@example.com.
Joining us now are two political strategists who have worked on presidential campaigns. Ed Rogers worked for the 1988 Bush-Quayle campaign. Anna Greenberg worked for Clinton-Gore in 1992 and Gore-Lieberman in 2000. Later on in the program, former presidential candidate Bob Kerrey will join us. Ed Rogers and Anna Greenberg are here with me in Studio 3A. Thanks very much for coming in.
Mr. ED ROGERS (Chairman, Barbour Griffith & Rogers): Good to be here.
Ms. ANNA GREENBERG (Partner, Greenberg, Quinlan, & Rosner): Thank you.
CONAN: And Ed Rogers, why don't we start with you.
Mr. ROGERS: Sure.
CONAN: Does a campaign need to develop a strategy on fundraising, and does it need to do it now?
Mr. ROGERS: Well absolutely. It needs a strategy, it needs a budget, and it needs a plan and it needs people to execute it. We're, say, call it 12 months away from the real voting, that is the real shooting, in an actual campaign.
CONAN: That's the primary election of a week ago - a year from a week ago.
Mr. ROGERS: That's right. That's exactly right. So call it a year from now. And the primaries are beginning to bunch up. The whole calendar isn't set yet, but you have a lot of encroachment on the early, traditional primaries of Iowa, New Hampshire and then South Carolina. Again, you have a lot of big states that are beginning to encroach, which means you are going to have to have more money sooner. So pick a number, call it $80 million to be viable, to be able to spend leading up to both Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and a host of other states after that.
The simple math on that is about $220,000 a day, $1.5 million a week that you have to raise to have your war chest - a moderate war chest, $80 million isn't even a lot - to go ahead and have it in place.
Now that supposes somebody is not going to take federal matching funds. I don't want to get bogged down in too much campaign finance, but the federal matching funds haven't exactly been set in the rates for '08 exactly yet. But you're going to have a limit, theoretically, if you accept matching funds of around $45 million that you can spend in the primaries. And if you apply that to the task, it's kind of comical. You can't get there.
CONAN: Yeah, and we've had both Mr. Obama and Senator Clinton already indicating they're not going to take the federal money and that they are budgeting about $100 million for their campaigns. If you're only getting $45, Anna Greenberg, you're at a big disadvantage.
Ms. GREENBERG: Absolutely. The precedent was set in 2004 when first Howard Dean and then John Kerry decided to forego the public financing and the spending limits, and then of course Bush did, even though he didn't really have a primary. And now it's sort of unimaginable that anyone will be able to compete in this primary with just the $45 million. As Ed says, the process has been sped up and there's a front-loading of the primaries.
And so it used to be that you could run a really good ground campaign in New Hampshire and Iowa and maybe emerge from one of those primaries maybe with not very much money and then really raise money very quickly to compete in the following primaries.
Now you've got four, you know, in January, and maybe, you know, eight or 10 in the beginning of February. You're going to have to spend money simultaneously in all of those states. You're not going to have time to raise that money if you - say, you know, you emerge in Iowa like Kerry did.
CONAN: You can't expect to be a surprise third place in Iowa and suddenly start raising a lot of extra money that's going to help you down the road.
Ms. GREENBERG: One thing to remember is that Kerry actually took a mortgage out on his house right before the Iowa primaries. He was basically broke, and then he just raised incredible amounts of money coming out of Iowa and then New Hampshire.
CONAN: All right. We want to encourage listeners' questions on these issues. 800-989-8255, if you have questions about how to finance a presidential campaign. That's a daunting sum of money. How would you raise $250,000 a day for the next 21 months? Our number, if you'd like to join us: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. And let's turn to Brian(ph). Brian's with us from Lawrence, Kansas.
BRIAN (Caller): Hi.
BRIAN: One of the points that kind of came forward on this was that so much money has to be raised on this, it takes away from the candidate's ability to actually become president and do a good job at it. I'm in an industry that has lobbyists, and I find it kind of frustrating from my point of view that so much money has to go into lobbying to go to get access, where a lot of people really don't have that access. I think it kind of points to a fundamental flaw in the whole system in that money is the driving force of this, not the politics or the ability to be a good president.
CONAN: Would you agree with that analysis, Ed?
Mr. ROGERS: Well, I'm not sure I agree with all of it, but it is a reality. In the modern world, campaigns are about communicating with people. In our system, you can communicate with people by buying airtime, by paying for advertising, et cetera, et cetera. Maybe that's a bad system. I can't think of one that's any better or any more desirable.
In fact, we sort of belittle our campaigns. It's a cliché that cars and soda, soft drinks, et cetera, spend infinitely more on their advertising than do the political parties and the campaigns on the American public-policy debate.
So advertising is a part of it. It's here to stay. I can't think of any system that would be better, even though this one's certainly got its flaws.
CONAN: And - well, let me just turn that question slightly to you, Anna Greenberg. And that is if you're getting significant amounts of money from various interest groups, whichever industry Brian is in, the lobbyists from that group, are you selling part of your campaign?
Ms. GREENBERG: Well, I think that many people argue that the source of campaign contributions has an impact on policy-making, and that's not just true at the presidential level; it's true at the congressional level. We see that, in my view, quite clearly with a range of policy areas, including energy policy, for example, in the last six years.
So I think it's not necessarily the case that people are unduly influenced by the contributions they get, but it is a reality of our system.
Mr. ROGERS: One thing, just a point. The presidential campaigns are somewhat unique. Most of the money doesn't come from Washington. Most lobbying enterprise has a hands-off at the presidential level. Most of the money, by far, comes from direct mail and direct contributions out in the states.
CONAN: Brian, thanks very much.
BRIAN: Thank you.
CONAN: And as we're talking about that strategy for raising money, Anna Greenberg, do you go to the Web? Do you go to the big pockets? Do you do both?
Ms. GREENBERG: You do everything. I think that there's no doubt that a big part of what you do is go to the big donors. And so one of the things you're seeing right now is the scramble to hire the best fundraisers, to have the best people who raise, you know, bundle money, meaning that they collect $1,000 or $2,000 in their networks. And so at least on the Democratic side, you see a scramble for those folks to get those allied with your campaign.
But the Dean campaign and then the Kerry campaign, and even the fundraising of the DNC showed that there's - and moveon.org - that there's incredible power in fundraising over the Web and in bringing in small donations. That's something Republicans pioneered through direct mail a long time ago.
And so I think you have to do both. And I think that you'll see that the most successful Democratic candidates already are starting to build their e-mail and mailing list capacity while they are trying to bring in the big-dollar donations.
Mr. ROGERS: No kidding, the Web is a real growing phenomenon in fundraising, and it's very much a part of the process now. It's not an asterisk, it's not an add-on, it's right at the core of your fundraising strategy.
CONAN: If you have a presidential campaign, a serious one - we're not talking about somebody who might be running on an issue, but a serious - you're contending, how many people should you have on staff right now, Ed Rogers?
Mr. ROGERS: Right now, I'd have to do just some quick math. You've got to have a ground game in, say, four states, you know, call that four people a state. You've got to have an event management and fundraising team, you've got to have management. You know, call it no fewer than 20 today is the ante, is the minimum.
CONAN: That's the minimum.
Ms. GREENBERG: That sounds right, and there's also going to be an array of consultants, so there are actually more people - and also informal advisers. So you may have 20 on staff, but you've probably got double that in the kind of informal advisory rolls.
CONAN: Let's get another caller in. This is Maryann(ph), Maryann with us from Cary, North Carolina.
CONAN: Hi there.
MARYANN: I'm calling because I wanted to understand a little bit more about where the money goes. I mean, I know we all can assume that the lion's share of it goes to the media, but what are the other largest pockets, the biggest pocket of where the money is spent. And with the media, how does that play out? Is it primarily television or has the Internet taken over, or what?
CONAN: Well, first of all, where does the money go, Anna?
Ms. GREENBERG: Well, first of all, you have to distinguish between primaries and general. So there's no doubt that overall the lion's share of the budget goes to paid advertising, and that advertising is on television. But in the primary process there's a fairly substantial amount of money spent on building your operations in individual states. And again, given the front-loading of this primary process, they're going to have to build operations not just in Iowa and New Hampshire but in South Carolina, Nevada and then a whole array of other states that are pushing up their primaries.
CONAN: And big states could be California, could be Illinois, could be New Jersey.
Ms. GREENBERG: Right. But what you'll see is that especially with these big states like California, a bigger share of that budget will now go to advertising because there won't be the time or the ability to build organizations in every single state.
Mr. ROGERS: And Roman numeral one has probably got to be your advertising costs. Roman numeral two is your fundraising cost. That's probably the second-biggest component of a campaign expenditure is its own fundraising cost to themselves.
CONAN: We're not talking about the candidates' cell-phone bills here.
Mr. ROGERS: No, we're not talking about that. You're talking about the infrastructure of your Web exercise, your mail exercise, your event costs, your travel costs. Like I said, I would think number two in any campaign of the category of expenditure is going to be fundraising costs.
CONAN: And Maryann's other question. In terms of advertising, is it directed still primarily to television, or is the Web beginning to make an impact there too?
Mr. ROGERS: Well, different states have different voter-contact requirements. You know, in Iowa for instance, the kick-off state, fewer than 100,000 Republicans will participate in those Iowa caucuses and decide the winner and loser. In a multi-candidate field, you can safely say that 40,000 participants will make you win, come in first place in Iowa.
It's inefficient to reach those people just through advertising, television traditional advertising. It's much more individual that - it's much more individually focused than that, recruiting one person at a time and then focusing on turnout. Bigger states, different model.
CONAN: Maryann, thanks very much for the call.
MARYANN: Thank you.
CONAN: And when we come back from a short break, we're going to talk more with Ed Rogers and Anna Greenberg about what it takes to run a presidential campaign. Also, former presidential candidate Bob Kerrey will join us. 800-989-8255, if you'd like to pitch in.
I'm Neal Conan. This is NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
Coming up later this hour we'll get a review of Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system. If you have questions about how it works, what it looks like, or if it's worth the headache of an upgrade, drop us an e-mail now: email@example.com. And we'll get to those later.
We also encourage callers later, but right now we're encouraging callers to ask questions about how to run a presidential campaign more than a year away, or just about - a little bit less than a year away from the first primary election in New Hampshire next January. Candidates are already organizing and already under the gun to raise phenomenal amounts of money.
With us in the studio are Anna Greenberg, a partner with Greenberg, Quinlan, & Rosner, a political consulting firm here in Washington, and Ed Rogers, Republican strategist and chairman of Barbour Griffith & Rogers LLC here in Washington. Both veterans of presidential campaigns.
And if you'd like to join us: 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@.npr.org. And let me ask - within the Democratic Party and within the Republican Party, your opponents are your opponents, at least for the time being. There's a tremendous scramble for access to the same donors, for staff, Anna Greenberg. Does this start to cause problems that show up more later down the road?
Ms. GREENBERG: I'm not sure what exactly you're referring to in terms of problems. I think at the moment there's a scramble to hire the best staff, to bring into your orbit the best fundraisers - and not just paid fundraisers, but the kind of high-dollar donors who can bundle donations. But at the end of the day, once the primary's settled, everybody coalesces around their parties' nominee and doesn't create long-term - and in fact, a lot of people who work on presidential campaigns work with each other, you know, on other campaigns in prior years, and they'll work in the future on other campaigns. There's a real congeniality among the people who kind of staff presidential campaigns.
CONAN: And Ed Rogers, I would assume that one place you pick up additional staff down the road is when some of your opponents fall by the wayside.
Mr. ROGERS: Oh, absolutely. You pick up fundraisers, you pick up state leadership, you pick up key opinion leader endorsements, and you pick up a few staff. So yeah, that's part of it. There's a winnowing of the process, and people start looking for a home.
CONAN: Let's get another caller on the line. This is Deborah(ph), Deborah with us from Madison, Wisconsin.
DEBORAH (Caller): Hi. My question is about the spending. I understand that there's some notion of tailoring this strategy depending on the state and whether mass-marketing seems to make more sense or not. But in general, it seems like there's such an emphasis still on traditional television advertising, when in the marketing world or the product world, you know, marketers are moving away from that kind of mass advertising in droves.
I mean, it's viewed as very inefficient due to things like TiVo and other kinds of things.
CONAN: Ed Rogers?
Mr. ROGERS: Yeah, politics is struggling with that. It's struggling with the fact that you don't just go to three networks and buy a bunch of time, and a few radio stations and buy a bunch of time, that people get their information from many diverse sources now, the advertising and therefore the political messaging has got to follow that. And I would say politics is a lagging performer in penetrating the new media that's proliferating, rather than leading it.
CONAN: Yeah, and you're shaking your head.
Ms. GREENBERG: Well that's right. I think you are seeing, though, some real innovation in both parties around reintroducing - and I say reintroducing because there was a time when direct voter contact was the way people involved used to communicate with voters - reintroducing direct voter contact through mail, through phones, through door-knocking. You really saw a huge increase in that kind of activity in 2004. There was a lot of it in 2006. You'll see a lot of in 2008.
DEBORAH: So do you think there'll be less spent on television advertising?
Ms. GREENBERG: I don't think so. Even though you're absolutely right that in the commercial world there's huge innovation around direct marketing, especially through the Internet, if you look at the electorate, the electorate still tends to get most of its information from television, it tends to be older. And we know that people who watch network news tend to be older.
So the electorate is still skewed towards television. I think it's going to change and is changing…
CONAN: Older people tend to vote more.
Ms. GREENBERG: Exactly, yeah, and especially in off-year elections.
DEBORAH: I guess my last question would be: Do you think there'll be a change in the content of the advertising because we know that, you know, historically and increasingly it's just gone negative.
Ms. GREENBERG: I don't see any reason to believe that the advertising won't continue to be negative.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: We'll focus on that further on down the road in the campaigns, when they're actually working up ads and we get to see a few of the first ones. But let me ask about viral marketing. We did see, for example, this is word of mouth, it's different forms of - YouTube, for example, played a big role in some of the congressional campaigns this past year, Anna.
Ms. GREENBERG: Right, and it's not just things like YouTube. A story can start on the Internet, on a blog for example, and then make it into the mainstream press, and then that becomes covered in a way that everybody knows about and maybe even thinks they saw it on television. So I think marketing really has changed fundamentally in politics.
CONAN: Deborah, thanks very much for the call.
DEBORAH: Thank you very much.
CONAN: Few are more familiar with fundraising challenges than the candidates themselves. Democrat Bob Kerrey ran for president in 1992. He's a former senator and governor of Nebraska. And he joins us now by phone from his office at the New School in New York City, where he's the president. Senator Kerrey, good to have you with us.
Mr. BOB KERREY (President, The New School University): Thanks, Neal. Nice to be with you.
CONAN: And what was your biggest fundraising challenge back in 1992?
Mr. KERREY: Well in '92, it was travel because you had to travel to the destination where the fundraiser occurred. I mean, it was pre-Internet. I mean, I was, you know - in 1992, Jerry Brown was holding up a 1-800 number, that's how far back that was. It doesn't seem that long ago to me, but in terms of technology and your capacity to raise money and the nature of fundraising, it's like night and day.
CONAN: And as things have changed over the years, do you envy the challenges that Senators McCain or Clinton might be facing?
Mr. KERREY: No.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. KERREY: I don't. No matter what you do it's still grueling. I mean, you can't take away the fatigue. And the weariness actually comes from having to say the same thing over and over and over, tell the same joke over and over and over. In the '92 race, somebody gave me some letters that Abraham Lincoln had written in 1860, and it was the same complaint then. It's just that it's gotten more intense.
CONAN: Much more intense.
Mr. KERREY: Much more intense, and you're - you know, that little moment when you say something in a living room in Concord, Massachusetts - Concord, New Hampshire, can be broadcast in 1992 - in 2007-2008, it's distributed much more widely and much more quickly than it was then. So the power continues to move away from the traditional power centers, basically the owner of the television station or the owner of the network or the owner of the newspaper.
CONAN: Did you ever feel - as you were trying to collect money to continue your campaign, did you ever feel like, you know, wait a minute; should I be talking to these people at all?
Mr. KERREY: Well of course, yes. I mean, the answer is absolutely yes. And more importantly, typically the (unintelligible) on the other end of the line from whom you were raising money would say the same thing. God, they say I'm sorry you've got to go through this. It's part of the test in some ways. It's part of the measurement of whether or not you've, you know, got what it takes to survive.
CONAN: You've got the stomach, as they say, to survive, yeah.
Mr. KERREY: Right, but even - if you brought public financing more aggressively, which I'd prefer, you still have to acknowledge that, you know, that you've got to make it clear who you are, why you're running, and what you're going to do. And whatever it is that you say, you've got to say it over and over and over.
And it can - you know, there's your staff, and they were with you three hours earlier when you told the same darn jokes. And it takes somebody other than a human being not to be sitting there saying, God, I don't want to put Neal through this darn joke. He's heard it three times already today. And so your human impulse is to change it, and that's when you get in trouble.
CONAN: And that's when you make a mistake with your jokes. Yes, I can understand that.
Mr. ROGERS: Right. Off-message.
CONAN: Off-message. Staying on message, that's another grave difficulty. And as you look at the difficulties of raising the volume of money that we're talking about for this primary round, Senator Kerrey, it's so - where do you begin?
Mr. KERREY: Well, I mean, it's easier - as I said, it's easier to begin today because, you know, with the Internet you can establish relationships. You can form, you know - using affinity groups and other techniques, you can form relationships with people and actually keep them apprised of what you're doing. And it'll feel to them like they're, you know, right inside the campaign because in many ways you can make them more a part of your campaign.
I mean, the breakthrough moment was Howard Dean in 2004. But Governor Dean really - at that point in time, that was three or four years after the word Web blog was being used by people. He - the Internet at that point in time was just a way to raise money. Well now it's a lot more than that. It's a way to establish relationships, put affinity groups together, people that care about the same issues, et cetera, so you can - it's much easier. And you see, actually - and the leading person who's using the Internet right now, John Edwards.
I mean, John, by using the Internet effectively and using these affinity groups effectively and using technology effectively, he has made himself the leading anti-war candidate in the campaign. He's driving - today, the last few days, he's forming - again using technology - groups of people who are lobbying Congress to try to get the minimum wage increased. So you can use not just to raise money, the Internet today, you could used it actually organize your campaign.
CONAN: Making a move…
Mr. KERREY: (Unintelligible) if you don't, it's going to be difficult to get people excited enough that they'll, you know, they'll put a couple of a hundred bucks on their credit card on the Internet. So you don't really have to do the kinds of traveling that you used to have to do. That said, you start off and nobody knows who the heck you are, you know, if it's Bob Smith from Iowa and nobody has ever heard of him before. That's tough.
Mr. KERREY: So the fact that John Edwards is a former vice presidential candidate is a big deal because people know who he is. So it's easier for him. He doesn't have to introduce himself. He's got himself already introduced.
CONAN: Let's get a caller on the line. This is Lou(ph). Lou is with us from Phoenix, Arizona.
LOU (Caller): Hi.
Mr. KERREY: Hello.
LOU: Hi. Thanks for taking my call.
LOU: So I'm an MBA student at the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. And in our program we are taught that measuring return on investment can't be understated. In fact, it's driven home, that return. And this holds true whether or not you're an investor, a marketer, or an operations manager. So I guess my question is: If political contributors are investors and the Democratic Party is essentially a marketing organization…
CONAN: Or the Republican Party for this purposes of this conversation.
LOU: I'm sorry, say it again.
CONAN: Or the Republican Party for that matter, but go ahead.
LOU: That's correct. That's correct. Then how does each measure its return on investment?
Mr. KERREY: First of all, I think the comparison is not apt. If you make a contribution in the campaign and you say what's in it for me, I think you're going to be sorely disappointed. Because if you can't come to a campaign and say what's in it for me is I want my country to be stronger as a consequence of my participation, let alone the, you know, my success, my candidate may lose.
I mean, let's say I write a check for $1,000 and my candidate loses 80 to 20 on a straight business standpoint. I've got to say that's a lousy return on an investment.
But in democracy, it's a phenomenal return on investment. You participated. You've gotten in the game. And it gets even more serious if you put your name on the line and the next thing you know you're getting nasty e-mail messages to somebody who doesn't like your position on abortion or the death penalty or the Iraq war.
So I mean, that's - the return on investment really is not - it can't be seen, shouldn't be seen as a personal one. Although I've got to be quick to say, a lot of people who give money think that way.
Mr. KERREY: You think about, you know, am I going to get my taxes cut, am I going to get my business less regulated.
CONAN: Well, I've been…
LOU: Can I add a follow-up?
CONAN: Go ahead. Quickly.
LOU: Yeah. So, OK, so the only point I would make is that then those people who give find a value in the participation, right?
Mr. KERREY: Right.
LOU: And so I'm wondering, do you guys or do people use a formula that equates that utility with their financial investment?
Mr. KERREY: No, not in the first instance. Because even with technologies increasing - obviously dominance in effective campaigns - even with that, every campaign depends upon a thing called, a human being called a volunteer. And they - in the campaigns' cases, they depend on quite young volunteers.
One of the myths in politics is that, American politics, that you hear, especially people in the mainstream press will say, well, you know, people don't seem to be listening to young people. That's hogwash. Young people rule. They run campaigns. They run Senate and House offices afterwards.
So that volunteer enthusiasm that enables you to, you know, get the room decorated, get your campaign event pulled together is still critical to a successful campaign. And those kids aren't sitting there saying what's in it for me? Other than I want to get involved and I want to learn something.
Now I'm not - I've got enough experience in this to know that there's a lot of people who give money because they want to be ambassadors. There are a lot of people who give money because they hope something will happen that's good for them personally. But I would say, my experience is the majority of people who get engaged in campaigns, who give time and money, are doing it because they just enjoy it or they want something, you know, good for the larger society to occur.
CONAN: Lou, thanks very much for the call. I appreciate it.
LOU: Thank you.
CONAN: And Senator Kerrey, I wanted to thank you for your time today.
Mr. KERREY: You're welcome. Am I done?
CONAN: Yeah, you're done.
Mr. KERREY: OK. Bob Kerrey, president of the New School - where of course he now knows nothing about fundraising - University in New York City, former senator and governor of the state of Nebraska. And he joined us today by phone. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
Still with us are Anna Greenberg and Ed Rogers. And here's an e-mail question we have from Jason in Pittsford, New York. What happens to money raised by a candidate when he or she is no longer in the running? Let's say they raised $80 million and spent $60 million. Do they get to keep the remaining 80 - the remaining $20 million. You can tell arithmetic was not my best subject. Go ahead, Anna.
Ms. GREENBERG: They do, and they often use it after their presidential campaign to either help other candidates or further their future ambitions, and sometimes those two tasks are intertwined.
So John Kerry had a pretty significant amount of money leftover from his presidential campaign, and throughout 2006 he gave away quite a bit of money to other candidates, in campaign for candidates. And he also later decided not to run. But had he decide to run, then that would have been part of his future fundraising and organization moving forward.
Mr. ROGERS: Just to be clear, you can't pocket the money. There was a time way back when where theoretically under federal law you could, and maybe some members of the Congress did that. But now that's tidied up and nobody can just selfishly keep the money.
CONAN: And let's see, we have time for one more. This is John(ph). John is with us Tucson, Arizona.
JOHN (Caller): Yes. Thank you for taking my call.
JOHN: I have a real quick question. The funds that a candidate gets that are -the public funds that they choose or choose not to get, are there certain restrictions that are not on the, like Barrack Obama who chooses not to use that funding?
CONAN: Are there restrictions if you decide to go outside the public financing system, how much money individuals can donate, that sort of thing?
Mr. ROGERS: Yeah, you still have an individual limit that you have to adhere to. That doesn't change. But when you decide to take your chances, then you don't have any upper limit on what you can spend.
You also - there's a formula; it's not a hard threshold to follow. You have to raise X number of dollars, contributions of $250 and less, et cetera, et cetera. There's some things, there's some formulaic things like that, but nothing too burdensome.
CONAN: OK, John, thanks very much.
JOHN: Thank you.
CONAN: Is that about right, Anna?
Ms. GREENBERG: Yes, and the other thing I want to add is there are some limitations on who you can take money from. So for instance, corporations and labor unions, and the like, cannot give large individual donations to presidential candidates.
CONAN: But that's true no matter whether you take the public financing or not
Ms. GREENBERG: Right.
CONAN: OK, that's all the time we have for today. We wanted to thank our guests: Anna Greenberg, a partner and Democratic strategist at the consulting firm Greenberg, Quinlan & Rosner, Ed Rogers is also Republican strategist, chairman of Barbour Griffith & Rogers. Both kind enough to join us today in our studios here in Washington.
And we'll be continuing the series as inevitably the days, weeks and months wind down and we actually start to have real debates and real votes and real commercials to talk about.
Mr. ROGERS: I look forward to it.
Ms. GREENBERG: Thank you.
CONAN: When we were talking about so you want to be president. When we come back from a short break we'll take your questions about Microsoft's new Windows Vista.
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I'm Neal Conan. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
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