updated 11/18/2004 5:00:06 PM ET 2004-11-18T22:00:06

Democratic Party leaders want to know why Sen. John Kerry ended his presidential campaign with more than $15 million in the bank, money that could have helped Democratic candidates across the country.

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Some said this week that Kerry, D-Mass., would be pressured to give the money to Democratic campaign committees rather than save it for a potential White House bid in 2008.

“Democrats are questioning why he sat on so much money that could have helped him defeat George Bush or helped down-ballot races, many of which could have gone our way with a few more million dollars,” said Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential race.

Brazile is a member of the 400-plus-member Democratic National Committee, which meets early next year to pick a new party chairman. A high-ranking member of the DNC, speaking on condition of anonymity, said word of Kerry’s nest egg had stirred anger on the committee and could hurt his chances of putting an ally in the chairmanship.

Democrats foundered in congressional races
Congressional Democrats and labor leaders also privately questioned Kerry’s motives. One said he would personally ask Kerry to donate some of the money to the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees.

Democrats lost seats in both the House and the Senate on Nov. 2, setbacks that were compounded by the multimillion-dollar debts they incurred.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee borrowed $10 million in the final days of a campaign in which it spent heavily in Texas, where four veteran lawmakers wound up losing their seats. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee borrowed a smaller amount, more than $3 million, according to officials. Even so, Democrats lost four Senate seats and will have only 44 when the new Congress convenes, the fewest since 1930.

Kerry aides disappointed
Three former Kerry campaign aides, also demanding anonymity out of concern about alienating their former boss, said they were surprised and disappointed to learn that he left so much money in the bank.

Kerry had about $45 million left in his primary campaign fund as of mid-October, according to his Federal Election Commission report, and could use that as seed money for another presidential bid.

His final report is not due until next month, but officials close to Kerry said he had $15 million to $17 million in that account, with no outstanding debts, after giving the DNC about $23 million and state parties about $9 million since the mid-October report.

In addition, the report showed that Kerry had about $7 million on hand in a legal and accounting compliance fund that he could use for legal expenses in a 2008 campaign. Officials said he raised several million more for that account since the filing.

Last summer, Kerry donated $3 million apiece to the House and Senate campaign committees and $2 million to the Democratic Governors Association.

While Kerry has likely given more money to state committees than any other nominee, no other Democrat has raised as much as he did. And second-guessing Democrats said they could not recall a candidate leaving so much money on the table after a campaign.

“He’s going to have to give some of it up for 2005 and beyond,” Brazile said. “The party will demand it.”

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