Sept. 15, 2003
At Philadelphia Fundraiser, Public Interest Groups Blast Bush for Selling Access and Favors at the White House
WhiteHouseForSale.org Web Site Predicts Monday’s Philadelphia Event
Will Push Bush Campaign Haul Over $62 Million
WASHINGTON – President Bush is expected to collect more than $1.5 million at a $2,000-a-plate fundraiser outside Philadelphia today, pushing his re-election total more than $62 million. That would put him about $17 million over the maximum that participants in the presidential public financing system will be allowed to spend in pursuit of their party’s nomination, according to WhiteHouseForSale.org.
Representatives from a coalition of organizations concerned about the influence of special-interest money on presidential politics scheduled a news conference at 5 p.m. today in Springfield’s Rolling Green Park – along the road to the Drexelbrook event center where the Bush fundraiser is being held. The backdrop for the news conference will be a giant, inflatable White House with a “For Sale” sign on the front. The news conference will feature speakers from Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, the Clean Air Council and Citizens for Consumer Justice.
Public Citizen, a national consumer group with 5,900 Pennsylvania members, recently launched the WhiteHouseforSale.org Web site to track contributors to Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, particularly those dubbed Rangers or Pioneers for steering hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the campaign. Public Citizen’s accounting of Bush’s fundraising total is drawn from Federal Election Commission (FEC) data, statements from the campaign and press reports.
“President Bush is making a dash for cash across the country, courting corporate and other wealthy interests at every stop,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “These rainmakers who raise $100,000 or $200,000 anticipate a return on their investment in the form of tax breaks, loosened regulations and lucrative government contracts.”
The administration’s efforts to weaken clean air and water rules to benefit some of the president’s biggest backers will have long-term ramifications, said Arthur Stamoulis of the Clean Air Council. “Time and again, the Bush administration has let its supporters in the oil, coal and power industries off the hook for their pollution,” he said. “When the White House allows big corporations to rewrite the nation’s environmental laws, it is children’s health that suffers.”
“America has made great progress cleaning soot and smog from our air, pollution from our water and toxic chemicals from our communities,” added Diana Silbergeld of the Sierra Club. “But the Bush administration has put that progress in peril and communities at risk. They are allowing polluting corporations to benefit at our expense.”
WhiteHouseForSale.org focuses on Bush’s fundraising because he is the only major candidate who has opted out of the public financing system during the primaries. According to press reports, Bush plans to collect as much as $200 million during the primary season – more than four times the amount that a candidate who remains in the public financing system can raise and spend – even though he faces no opposition in the primaries. The president is raising money at nearly double the rate needed to reach $200 million by September 2004, according to Public Citizen’s calculations.
Much of Bush’s cash is coming from wealthy donors and interest groups that bundle $2,000 contributions from many individuals. Those who raise $200,000 this way are designated as Rangers by the Bush campaign; those who raise $100,000 are called Pioneers. Bush disclosed the names of 241 individuals who achieved Pioneers status in 2000. A lawsuit revealed the names of another 310 people who pledged to raise $100,000. The Ranger category is new for 2004, now that the individual contribution limit has been doubled from $1,000 to $2,000. The 2004 Bush campaign has identified 23 Rangers and 45 Pioneers.
“The amount of money President Bush – or any other candidate – can raise from wealthy special interests should not determine who gets elected president,” Clemente said. “Elections should be based on a candidate’s ideas, vision and priorities for America. That’s why we need a full public financing system for presidential elections – so that average citizens, not the donors behind candidates, choose their leaders.”
The only Pennsylvanian to make the list of 2004 Pioneers so far is lobbyist David Girard-DiCarlo, chairman and CEO of the law firm Blank Rome – whose employees and their spouses gave $143,250 to Bush in the last 10 days of June, according to FEC data. Bush named Girard-DiCarlo, who was also a Pioneer in 2000, to the Transportation Department transition team as well as the boards overseeing Amtrak and the Kennedy Center. Blank Rome – whose attorneys played a key role on the Bush team during the 2000 Florida recount – lobby in Washington on behalf of clients such as Aetna, Raytheon and World Wrestling Entertainment.
In 2000, 15 Pennsylvanians were named Pioneers. The list includes a who’s who of state power-brokers, including state GOP Chairman Alan P. Novak, Pittsburgh Republican matriarch Elise Hillman and Philadelphia developer Manny Stamatkis. Other notable Pennsylvania Pioneers were attorney Martin J. Silverstein, appointed by Bush as ambassador to Uruguay, and former Gov. Tom Ridge, who now heads the Department of Homeland Security.
Monday’s event – which follows a $600,000 Philadelphia fundraiser headlined by First Lady Laura Bush in June – is expected to add more individuals to the ranks of Rangers and Pioneers for 2004. Their names should be disclosed when the campaign makes its next quarterly report to the FEC in mid-October.