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Justin Trudeau's campaign rolling in dough

OTTAWA - Justin Trudeau has raised almost $600,000 during the first three months of his Liberal leadership campaign.

That includes $125,000 donated by some 1,400 individuals in just the last three days of 2011.

Campaign director Katie Telford boasts in an email to Trudeau team members that one fundraiser turned in more than $20,000 on Boxing Day alone.

While a candidate's ability to raise money is no guarantee of success, it is a reliable measure of a contender's ability to build the kind of broadly based grassroots support needed to win a one-member-one-vote contest.

During last year's NDP leadership contest, Tom Mulcair raked in the most money — slightly more than $443,000 over five months — and went on to win the race.

Telford says Trudeau, the prohibitive favourite in the Liberal contest, has already pulled in more money than Mulcair; campaign insiders put the total at close to $600,000 so far, with three months to go.

"What does this say about our campaign?" Telford says in the email. "We work hard. We are motivated. We, like many Canadians, are inspired by our candidate."

Trudeau, eldest son of late Liberal icon and former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, has long been the party's best fundraising draw.

No similar up-to-date fundraising information has been released by Trudeau's six rival candidates, but it's unlikely any has raised more than a fraction of his impressive cache.

Upon officially registering as a candidate last fall, each had to file preliminary financial reports with Elections Canada.

According to those now-dated reports, Trudeau had raised almost $95,000 when he registered in mid-November, compared to $10,400 raised by Vancouver MP Joyce Murray, $2,700 by Toronto lawyer Deborah Coyne and $700 by retired Canadian Forces Lt.-Col. Karen McCrimmon.

Montreal MP Marc Garneau, former Toronto MP Martha Hall Findlay and Toronto lawyer George Takach reported no donations at the time of their registration.

The Liberal party has set a spending limit of $950,000 for each candidate. It has also stipulated that no candidate can carry more than $75,000 in debt, so fundraising will be crucial for anyone hoping to be competitive with Trudeau.

The party also requires each candidate to pony up a stiff $75,000 registration fee.

One or two more late entrants may join the race by this Sunday's deadline for registering.

The race will culminate with the selection of a new leader on April 14.

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