Bush helps GOP raise $22 million at event

WASHINGTON -- President Bush scrapped the traditional gala tuxedo for a business suit Wednesday as he helped raise $22 million for Republican Senate and House candidates, showing the GOP's prowess at collecting cash despite the new campaign finance law's restrictions.

The Washington Convention Center event was the closest any political party has come to matching the record $30 million-plus that Bush helped the Republican National Committee and the two congressional campaign organizations raise at each of two galas last spring.

At those events, "soft money" donations, unlimited contributions from corporations, labor unions and wealthy donors, were permitted. Under the campaign finance law that went into effect last November, the national parties can raise only "hard money," donations of up to $25,000 per year from individuals and political action committees.

Black ties were optional, and Bush opted for business attire -- a dark suit and silver tie. Those sharing the head table with him were asked to do the same.

"It's always nice to have a nice quiet dinner with a few friends," he said after entering the room to a standing ovation.

As at past Republican galas, however, Bush did not stay to eat. He left after a wide-ranging, 20-minute speech that touched on tax cuts, terrorism, the war in Iraq, education and trade policy, among other topics.

Bush spoke of the need for responsibility in all walks of life, mentioning corporate scandals that have rocked the stock market.

"If you're a CEO in corporate America, you have a responsibility to tell the truth to your employees and shareholders," Bush said to cheers and applause.

A gala record of roughly 7,500 people attended the gala, the first fund-raiser Bush has headlined since a December event for a Louisiana Senate candidate. A similar event last year drew around 5,000 people.

In past years, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee split the total raised. This year, each was responsible for its own fund raising.

The House leadership asked its members to raise at least $25,000 each or sell at least one 10-seat table for the $2,500-per-ticket event. Unlike past galas, the two committees were keeping the money they raised rather than splitting the total.

Ohio Rep. Bob Ney, chairman of the House Administration Committee, said he raised $50,000. He estimated he had to make about 30 calls to meet his goal, about a third more than it took when soft money was allowed.

Ney said he continues to oppose the new ban on corporate and union contributions but added that the total raised showed "the Republican Party's thriving, with or without soft money."

The adjustment has been tougher for the Democratic Party, which has relied much more heavily on soft money. New fund-raising reports compiled by the tracking service PoliticalMoneyLine show the disparity was biggest in the House last month, with the NRCC raising nearly $8.3 million in hard money compared with about $1.5 million for its Democratic counterpart.

NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said that for the gala, the party reached out to potential donors across the country rather than relying as heavily on the usual Washington crowd. One contributor, investment banker Larry Simon of San Diego, said he noticed at least some difference.

"I see people at my table, a single woman from San Francisco, she's a real estate agent, people I wouldn't necessarily think would be here," said Simon, who contributed $5,000 with his wife to attend the event. "You still have a lot of important supporters, and important people and corporate people here."

AOL chairman Steve Case, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and several members of Congress were in the crowd.

The GOP fund raising push comes as the Supreme Court prepares to decide the fate of the campaign finance law.

A lower court earlier this month struck down part of the soft-money ban on national party committees as an unconstitutional violation of free-speech rights. It decided this week to block its ruling from taking effect pending a Supreme Court review, which is expected to take several months.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush scrapped the traditional gala tuxedo for a business suit Wednesday as he helped raise $22 million for Republican Senate and House candidates, showing the GOP's prowess at collecting cash despite the new campaign finance law's restrictions.

The Washington Convention Center event was the closest any political party has come to matching the record $30 million-plus that Bush helped the Republican National Committee and the two congressional campaign organizations raise at each of two galas last spring.

At those events, "soft money" donations, unlimited contributions from corporations, labor unions and wealthy donors, were permitted. Under the campaign finance law that went into effect last November, the national parties can raise only "hard money," donations of up to $25,000 per year from individuals and political action committees.

Black ties were optional, and Bush opted for business attire -- a dark suit and silver tie. Those sharing the head table with him were asked to do the same.

"It's always nice to have a nice quiet dinner with a few friends," he said after entering the room to a standing ovation.

As at past Republican galas, however, Bush did not stay to eat. He left after a wide-ranging, 20-minute speech that touched on tax cuts, terrorism, the war in Iraq, education and trade policy, among other topics.

Bush spoke of the need for responsibility in all walks of life, mentioning corporate scandals that have rocked the stock market.

"If you're a CEO in corporate America, you have a responsibility to tell the truth to your employees and shareholders," Bush said to cheers and applause.

A gala record of roughly 7,500 people attended the gala, the first fund-raiser Bush has headlined since a December event for a Louisiana Senate candidate. A similar event last year drew around 5,000 people.

In past years, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee split the total raised. This year, each was responsible for its own fund raising.

The House leadership asked its members to raise at least $25,000 each or sell at least one 10-seat table for the $2,500-per-ticket event. Unlike past galas, the two committees were keeping the money they raised rather than splitting the total.

Ohio Rep. Bob Ney, chairman of the House Administration Committee, said he raised $50,000. He estimated he had to make about 30 calls to meet his goal, about a third more than it took when soft money was allowed.

Ney said he continues to oppose the new ban on corporate and union contributions but added that the total raised showed "the Republican Party's thriving, with or without soft money."

The adjustment has been tougher for the Democratic Party, which has relied much more heavily on soft money. New fund-raising reports compiled by the tracking service PoliticalMoneyLine show the disparity was biggest in the House last month, with the NRCC raising nearly $8.3 million in hard money compared with about $1.5 million for its Democratic counterpart.

NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said that for the gala, the party reached out to potential donors across the country rather than relying as heavily on the usual Washington crowd. One contributor, investment banker Larry Simon of San Diego, said he noticed at least some difference.

"I see people at my table, a single woman from San Francisco, she's a real estate agent, people I wouldn't necessarily think would be here," said Simon, who contributed $5,000 with his wife to attend the event. "You still have a lot of important supporters, and important people and corporate people here."

AOL chairman Steve Case, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and several members of Congress were in the crowd.

The GOP fund raising push comes as the Supreme Court prepares to decide the fate of the campaign finance law.

A lower court earlier this month struck down part of the soft-money ban on national party committees as an unconstitutional violation of free-speech rights. It decided this week to block its ruling from taking effect pending a Supreme Court review, which is expected to take several months.

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