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Sleeping on Couches Paid Off - Brown Has Big Surplus

THE Democratic presidential runner-up who refused donations larger than $100 has finished the primary season in better financial shape than the man who beat him to the nomination while accepting donations 10 times larger.

And, next month, Jerry Brown plans to flaunt the estimated $1 million surplus he had as of June 1 by throwing a bash at the Democratic National Convention unparalleled by a losing candidate.

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"To [paraphrase] the famous saying, `We won't go quietly into the dark,' " said Mike Campbell, Mr. Brown's special events coordinator. He brushed aside any suggestion that the bash runs contrary to the well-publicized frugality of Brown's campaign.

"The Republicans have their party, and the Democrats have their party. Why can't Jerry Brown have his own party?" Mr. Campbell asked.

Brown's campaign is planning to stage two thank-you concerts for volunteers at the Ritz Hotel in Manhattan, rent a comedy theater, air his own daily cable television show from the streets of New York, distribute his own newspaper in hotels and place advertisements in newspapers.

By law, the former California governor can't take any of his surplus campaign funds with him to continue his anti-establishment cause after the election.

And if, after the convention, he still has a surplus, he'll have to return a portion of it to the government to reimburse for the public campaign financing he did not use.

So Kevin McDermott, Brown's treasurer, estimates the campaign will spend between $500,000 and $1 million at the convention. That's more than it spent campaigning in California's delegate-rich primary.

"It's a very pretty position to be in because we get to decide how we want to spend the money," Mr. McDermott said.

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It's not only pretty; it's rare. Usually primary losers finish millions of dollars in the hole, like Republican Jack Kemp who earlier this year was still trying to retire debts from his unsuccessful presidential bid in 1988.

But given that much of conventional political wisdom has been upset in 1992, it shouldn't be surprising, added one Democratic strategist. "He ran a very low-budget operation. And he may have some extra money, but the bottom line is he lost," said Mike Berman, fund-raiser for Walter Mondale's 1984 presidential campaign.

On the campaign trail, Brown scrapped charter flights to fly coach-style, hitched rides on the ground with supporters and spent nights sleeping on friends' couches rather than in hotels. And with the exception of the disastrous New York primary, Brown was virtually absent from the airwaves when it came to advertising.

The frugality combined with the popularity of Brown's trademark toll-free fund-raising number left the candidate in the black at the end of May even though he hadn't won a primary since March 24 and had limited donors to $100 each, far below the $1,000 legal limit.

Brown then landed a huge windfall June 2 when he received $1.7 million in public campaign assistance - federal matching dollars based on his receipts of donations in April.

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