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Posted by Jeff from LTU-207-73-65-124.LTU.EDU ( on Thursday, August 29, 2002 at 4:43PM :

Bush Breaks Fund-Raising Record
Thu Aug 29, 4:05 PM ET
By RON FOURNIER, AP White House Correspondent

President Bush ( news - web sites) blazed new records in raising campaign cash Thursday as events in two states his 49th and 50th fund-raisers of the year pushed his 2002 total to nearly $110 million and provided fresh evidence that money is the oxygen of American political life.

Republicans once accused Bill Clinton of trading presidential prestige for political donations. Now the GOP controls the White House, and Bush is cashing in on his cachet, too.

"The commander in chief has become the fund raiser in chief. And not just this president, any president," said Art English, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock who watched Clinton rise from the state house to the White House.

At Thursday's fund-raising events, Bush collected $1.1 million for three GOP candidates in Oklahoma and Arkansas. That was on top of $108.7 million raised earlier at events in at least 20 states and the District of Columbia, according to Associated Press tabulations of figures released by the White House. Two events alone brought in a record-breaking $30 million apiece.

Just in the last month, while using his Texas ranch as a political base, Bush raised money in 11 states seven of which are vital to his re-election prospects in 2004.

His numbers far surpass Clinton's at this point in his presidency, and establish Bush as perhaps the nation's most prolific political money man.

With control of the House and Senate at stake, "The president is going to help elect those who will help implement his agenda," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

In Oklahoma, Bush raised $500,000 for gubernatorial candidate Steve Largent and Sen. James Inhofe ( news, bio, voting record), who is seeking a second full term. Republicans paid $1,000 for a chicken-and-beans lunch and to hear Bush promote his domestic and war policies in almost the exact words he uses at every fund-raising event.

"It is time to defend freedom," Bush said.

"Amen!" came a shout from the crowd.

In 2000, Bush became the first presidential candidate to turn down federal matching money in the primary season. He raised more than $100 million to finance the race on his own.

Bush is likely to bust the caps again for his 2004 re-election bid, and Democratic presidential hopefuls are already studying whether they can raise enough money to follow suit.

Escalating costs of polling, travel, consultant fees and, especially, TV advertising has created an unquenchable thirst for campaign cash.

English complained that much of the money disappears into the political ether or pays for cookie-cutter ads that voters tune out. "It's part of the American political system that you get so little for so much," the professor said.

Making matters worse, leaders of both parties are scrambling to raise millions of dollars in "soft money" unlimited, unregulated donations before those contributions are restricted under a new campaign finance law.

In Clinton's home state, Bush was the main attraction at a $500-a-plate fund-raiser for Sen. Tim Hutchinson ( news, bio, voting record), who is seeking re-election in a competitive race against Democrat Mark Pryor.

It's one of the nation's most-watched campaigns in the battle for control of the Senate, which fell into Democratic hands when Sen. Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party in June 2001.

Taxpayers foot most of the bill for the trip, because the White House organized a brief policy event after scheduling the fund-raiser. Bush was announcing that Arkansas is one of five states getting a total of $2.4 million to develop pre-college classes.

In Oklahoma, Largent spent more than $1.5 million to win the GOP nomination Tuesday despite being matched against two Republicans who raised less than $10,000. The former professional football star resigned from the House early this year to try to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Frank Cheating.

Clinton and his party raised millions more than his 1996 rival, Bob Dole. Democratic donors were offered White House slipovers, and Clinton's party was accused of taking illegal money from China.

Though Bush has been more subtle about doling out White House invitations, several prominent GOP donors have spent the night.

"All this shows that Bush, who tried to avoid comparing himself to Clinton at all costs in every way, has picked up that president's mantle," said Steven Weirs of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.

Most Democrats acknowledge the president is doing nothing wrong or illegal, but they say his actions are hypocritical.

"Republicans criticize Clinton for raising record amounts and selling the Lincoln bedroom. Democrats jump on Bush for raising so much money," said Democratic consultant Jim Duff of Washington. "You know what? We're both guilty."

"President Clinton ( news - web sites) saw the advantages Republicans had in technology and the ability to raise money and he became obsessed in getting Democrats in the game," English said. "President Bush understands that a lot is at stake in the congressional elections so he's working hard, as Clinton did, to make sure his party isn't left behind."

-- Jeff
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