By Henry Reske, Sun Staff Writer
As election day nears, U.S. Senate candidate Don Riegle's big message to voters appears to be a pitch for money.
On a series of campaign stops in the Detroit area last week Riegle continually asked audiences for donations to his already-depleted campaign coffers.
Riegle press secretary Dennis Herrick said the Flint Congressman was in California early last week to meet with Gov. Jerry Brown and Senator Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) to raise funds and that he would be traveling to New York this week for additional fund-raising activities.
In a telephone interview Saturday, Riegle estimated that $300,000 would be spent on his campaign, with about half of that amount going for television advertising to counter what Riegle has been calling "Esch's smear campaign." Marvin Esch is Riegle's Republican opponent for Phil Hart's Senate seat.
"We desperately need money," Riegle told a group of elderly retired auto workers at the David Miller UAW Retirees Center in Detroit Thursday.
"I know this is not the wealthiest group in society by any means, but if anyone here can contribute a dollar towards our campaign before you leave today, we need it."
Riegle, who said he has long supported the public financing of elections, said it would be a scramble for financing right down to the end.
"People are coming into campaign centers and asking for bumper stickers and buttons and we don't have them to give because we don't have the money," Riegle said.
Herrick was a bit more descriptive in assessing the financing problems, explaining that "Esch can go out and find five fat cats to offset the entire financial contribution of the UAW."
According to new election financing laws, an organization has a $50,000 limit on campaign contributions and an individual has a $1,000 limit.
Neither Riegle or Herrick would say just exactly how much money the campaign has but noted they are not operating in the red. Herrick did say, however, that money was being spent as just as it comes in.
Riegle also said he would be traveling to Washington to do some fund-raising.
In responding to questions about the financial situation of his campaign, Riegle said he hoped the campaign finances wouldn't over shadow the issues.
Riegle has charged that both his opponent and the Detroit News have been raising issues "which are not issues" to damage his chances of winning in November.
He said that Esch television ads insinuating that Riegle supports busing-which Riegle said isn't true- and the Detroit News story on Riegle signing his estranged wife's name to a joint income-tax refund check are just diversionary tactics.
"Esch knows that he has only one chance of winning," Riegle said, "and that is by distorting my record."
A survey of the congressional voting records of both Riegle and Esch showed, however, that both men are often in agreement.
The survey, conducted by the Detroit Free Press, covered key votes in areas ranging from political reform to farm policy. Of 76 votes used in the survey Esch and Riegle agreed 44 times, disagreed 21 times and on 11 of the votes an absence prevented comparison.
Significant splits could be found in the areas of welfare, education, urban affairs, civil liberties, economics and labor, with Riegle consistently voting a progressive line.