WASHINGTON (AP) – John Kerry spent more than he raised from donors last month as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination relied on a $3.5 million infusion of personal cash to keep his campaign financially afloat.

Kerry raised about $4.1 million from contributors and spent $7.1 million, according to his campaign finance report for January, which was released Saturday.

Kerry mortgaged his family’s Boston home to finance campaign loans. The campaign began February with $2.1 million in the bank and $7.2 million in debts.

Kerry’s fund-raising prospects have improved considerably since January. He has won all but a few of the delegate contests so far and has drawn a flood of donations over his Web site in the weeks since his first victories in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Since the campaign got under way more than a year ago, Kerry has raised at least $33 million, including $6.4 million from personal loans, and spent $30.8 million, according to figures through January.

Kerry’s spending will become more important the longer it takes for him to be declared the presumptive nominee. The Massachusetts senator has promised to limit his spending until that time to about $45 million, the cap set by the presidential public financing system.

Kerry and former Democratic hopeful Howard Dean joined President Bush in opting out of the program. That meant rejecting money from the government monthly but also freed the candidates of the accompanying spending constraints.

Under pressure from campaign finance watchdogs, Kerry agreed to abide by the overall cap, but said he would ignore its state-by-state limits.

Kerry has relied largely on the Internet and his fund-raising volunteers to help him take in cash in recent weeks. Kerry plans to return soon to the fund-raising trail and the campaign is putting a schedule together, spokesman Michael Meehan said.

This month, Kerry has challenged supporters to help him raise $2 million over the Internet by the March 2 “Super Tuesday” delegate contests in 10 states, including Ohio, California and New York.

His chief Democratic rival, John Edwards, raised $700,000 in one day in fresh money via the Internet and two New Jersey fund-raisers after his close second-place finish in Wisconsin on Tuesday. Edwards has raised at least $4.9 million this year.

Through January, Edwards has raised $22.5 million, including $5 million in public financing.

Edwards has blended campaigning in early primary states with fund raising in profitable places such as New York and Los Angeles. He has additional fund-raisers scheduled in both places before March 2.

Edwards has spent his money as he takes it in; his campaign ended January with $501,163 in the bank and $382,666 in bills to pay.

Though fund-raising has picked up for both Kerry and Edwards, they remain far behind Bush.

By mid-February Bush had reached his goal of raising at least $150 million for his re-election effort, and is likely to collect millions more. The campaign plans more fund-raising stops for Bush, first lady Laura Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney this month.

Bush started February with about $104 million in the bank and about $41 million in total spending, his January report showed.

The candidates’ new finance reports were due at the Federal Election Commission at midnight Friday.

Kerry’s campaign said it filed his report on time, but due to technical difficulties it was not available to the public on the FEC Web site by the deadline.

The campaign posted the report on Kerry’s campaign Web site Saturday.

AP-ES-02-21-04 1239EST

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