Democrats plan telethon to broaden donor base

The Democratic Party plans to reach the people where they really are on Memorial Day weekend this year: watching television. The party seeks to change its financial fortunes with a 17-hour telethon on NBC laced with some of liberal Hollywood's biggest names - Paul Newman, Mary Tyler Moore, and Jack Lemmon, among others.

Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown, in town organizing the project as the telethon's chairman, is ambitious. ''We have a chance to really revolutionize giving for our party.''

The most important thing the Democrats expect their show to do is triple the number of donors to the national organization. The Democratic National Committee has about 200,000 donors now, and hopes for Memorial Day weekend to produce some 400,000 more.

''We don't have the fat cats, the big givers'' that the Republican Party has, Governor Brown says. In fact, he notes, the GOP outraised the Democrats 8 to 1 over the past two years. The telethon, ''Celebrate America,'' is a chance for the Democrats to broaden their base of small contributors.

''We need to find some kind of approach where we can compete,'' Brown says. ''Otherwise money is just going to dominate politics.''

The cost of the show will run to $5 million or $6 million, according to Democratic National chairman Charles Manatt, and it is slated to raise between $ 6 million and $10 million gross. So the money it raises directly may just cover its cost. But Mr. Manatt stresses that the importance of the telethon is to get new donors on annual giving programs.

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