Candidates seeking Coburn seat spending plenty of their own money

Tuesday, June 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Three Republican candidates seeking the 2nd District congressional seat are spending plenty of money -- their own -- in an effort to replace departing GOP Rep. Tom Coburn.

Federal campaign contribution reports show Steve Money, Jack Ross and Eric Trout each have campaign debts of at least $125,000 because of personal loans.

Of the 133 major party candidates running for the 32 open seats this year, Money ranked 27th, Troutt 28th and Ross 31st in campaign debt, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Coburn is retiring after serving three terms in Congress. The open seat has drawn seven Republicans so far and two Democrats.

Although he is retiring, Coburn is a major factor in the race. He endorsed retired car dealer Andy Ewing early on and has helped Ewing raise money from some of the same contributors who financed his campaigns.

Coburn's decision to back Ewing contributed in part to their decision to put personal money -- in the form of loans and outright donations -- into their campaigns, Money and Ross said Monday.

"Having Coburn involved in it ... we're having to really raise money against a seated incumbent," Ross told the Washington bureau of The Daily Oklahoman.

Money said the political machine behind Ewing -- which includes Coburn's top aide and the GOP consulting company that has assisted Coburn's campaigns -- was "like a swarm of locusts going out there and sucking up the money."

It made fund-raising in the district "real tough," he said.

Some potential contributors are under the impression Ewing has the Republican primary won, Money said. "They don't realize it's not sewn up," he said.

According to FEC figures, Money had $324,655 in campaign funds through March 31 and Ewing had $323,631.

The commission says $294,000 of Money's receipts came from him, while nearly all of Ewing's came from individual contributors and political action committees.

According to Money's latest contribution report, he already has paid himself back $130,000 of the personal funds he put into the campaign, meaning, effectively, his net receipts are far below Ewing's.

Ross had gross receipts of $263,827 through March, and $146,523 of that was own money.

Ross said he is hoping he doesn't have to spend all of the money he has loaned the campaign, but it is available.

"It is a strong statement of my commitment," he said.

Troutt had $173,050 in gross receipts, with $151,750 of that coming from personal funds. Troutt could not be reached for comment Monday.