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Klink fires campaign finance director

Wednesday, June 21, 2000

By Jack Torry, Post-Gazette National Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Senate candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Klink yesterday dismissed his chief campaign fund-raiser amid complaints from state Democrats that Klink has not aggressively raised the money he needs to challenge Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.

Although campaign aides declined to provide any details about the dismissal of Finance Director Thomas Perron, Democratic sources said it was a sign that Klink's midsummer campaign report will show that he has not raised much money since winning the April 4 state Democratic primary.

In an effort to boost Klink's campaign treasury, President Clinton has agreed to attend a July 10 fund-raiser in Philadelphia for the four-term congressman from Murrysville. Democratic officials said Clinton's visit could provide between $600,000 and $1.3 million for both Klink and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Mary Murphy Kiernan, Klink's campaign manager, said, "We don't discuss personnel matters." But citing Clinton's visit to Philadelphia, she said, "We feel very confident that we have a plan to be successful in November, and we feel we'll be able to fund it fully."

Klink ended the primary campaign in debt, having loaned his campaign $300,000 of his own money by taking out a mortgage on his home in Murrysville. Klink said after the primary that he needed $6 million to effectively challenge Santorum this fall.

"I think he's going to catch up quickly because he's starting off with the president," said Tom Leonard, a Philadelphia Democratic fund-raiser who is helping Klink. "The president is obviously sending a message that this is a winnable race and he's going to do the most important thing, and that's leading the charge in fund-raising."

Santorum and Klink will file their campaign reports with the Federal Election Commission on July 15, showing how much money each candidate has raised through June 30. Santorum had $3.4 million in available campaign cash in April.

Perron, 27, a former campaign aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is highly regarded by Kennedy, his staff and officials of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But one Pennsylvania Democrat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the campaign shakeup "may be a consequence of everybody waking up and recognizing that on June 30, Ron Klink is going to be in an embarrassingly low financial position relative to Santorum."

Perron said last night: "I wish it had been a better fit. I think they've got a strong campaign and I think they're going to win this fall."

During the primary, a number of Democrats feared that Klink would not be able to raise money nationally from traditional Democratic organizations that either favor abortion rights or new gun restrictions. Klink opposes abortion and voted in 1993 against the Brady Law, which mandates a criminal background check for anyone buying a gun. The July 15 report should show whether that proved to be true.

Klink, who remains relatively unknown outside his Western Pennsylvania congressional district, has leased an apartment in Philadelphia for the remainder of the campaign. Although his Westmoreland County home remains his primary residence, the Philadelphia apartment is a sign that he plans to aggressively campaign in the state's eastern half.

Klink has peppered the state this month with a direct-mail appeal to Democrats for campaign money.

In his letter, Klink wrote that Santorum and Pennsylvania Republicans "will stop at nothing to beat us" and that he "will need substantial resources" to defeat the incumbent senator.

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