March 30, 2004
Bush’s “Last Hurrah” Fundraiser Leaves No Lobbyist Behind
Bush Caps $172 Million Dash for Cash with Appearance in Front of
K Street Crowd Before Jetting to Weekend Getaway with Rangers and Pioneers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Since kicking off an unprecedented fundraising drive last June, President Bush has collected campaign cash at the astonishing rate of $25,043 an hour, according to a new analysis by Public Citizen. A Wednesday fundraising event in the nation’s capital is being billed as Bush’s “last hurrah” – the 121st and purported final big-money bash for his re-election bid.
Washington, D.C., already has been a lucrative locale for Bush. Residents of the city and its suburbs have donated more to the 2004 Bush campaign than any other metropolitan area. Its 32 “Rangers” and “Pioneers” – honorary titles given to backers who raise at least $200,000 or $100,000, respectively – have collected at least $3.8 million for Bush. Eighty percent of these rainmakers are registered lobbyists.
Bush started his cross-country money hunt in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 2003, with a $3.5 million fundraiser. That event – at which some 1,700 supporters paid $2,000 each for hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos and a glimpse of the commander-in-chief – ranks among his five largest fundraisers in this election cycle. While the campaign won’t release a list of the organizers or attendees for Wednesday night’s fundraiser, a similar crowd of loyalists and K Street lobbyists is expected to be there. As Wednesday’s event brings the campaign full-circle, it offers an opportunity to take stock of Bush’s fundraising odyssey:
- From June 17 to March 31, the Bush campaign raised at least $171.9 million – an average of $4.1 million per week, $601,048 per day, $25,043 per hour or $417.40 per minute.
- Bush personally headlined 56 fundraisers at which he raised $84.6 million – nearly half of his fundraising total. Forty-six of the fundraisers featuring Bush raised at least $1 million; the average fundraiser with Bush brought in $1.5 million.
- Vice President Dick Cheney headlined 41 fundraisers, raking in $14.2 million; First Lady Laura Bush was the top draw at 14 events, raising $4.2 million.
- Texas played host to more big-money bashes than any other state (14), followed by California (11), New York (10), Florida (9) and Ohio (6).
- If the Bush campaign were to continue to raise money at its current pace, it would take in more than $266 million by the end of September’s Republican National Convention.
“Bush has worked overtime to woo special interests on Wall Street and K Street,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “These Rangers and Pioneers have been rewarded with weakened environmental regulations, legislative gifts like the Medicare bill and unparalleled insider access to the administration. When President Bush flies down to hobnob with 500 of his wealthiest backers, they won’t be discussing their golf handicaps.”
The Bush campaign has perfected a system of “bundling” by which fundraisers pool a large number of contributions to maximize their political influence. WhiteHouseForSale.org, a Web site created by Public Citizen to track 2004 contributors, features a searchable database with information on all 187 Rangers and 268 Pioneers. The super-bundlers have raised at least $64.2 million for Bush-Cheney ’04, and at least 403, or 89 percent, of these rainmakers represent the interests of major corporations.
After the financial services industry, lobbyists comprise the second-largest concentration of bundlers – 26 of whom call Washington home. They include trade association heads and Pioneers such as Tom Kuhn of the Edison Electric Institute, Jack Gerard of the National Mining Association, Chip Kahn of the Federation of American Hospitals and Dirk Van Dongen of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, a small business group that’s active on tax issues. Other Pioneers are in-house lobbyists such as Les Brorsen of accounting firm Ernst & Young and David Pringle of insurance giant AFLAC.
Also included are high-powered hired guns that represent some of the country’s biggest corporations. These Pioneers include Kirk Blalock, formerly top White House liaison to the business community and a spokesman for Philip Morris, who now lobbies for the Business Roundtable and Worldcom; Charlie Black, whose clients at BKSH Associates range from AT&T to the Iraqi National Congress; Lanny Griffith of Barbour Griffith & Rogers, who represents Pfizer and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; and Bill Paxon, one of six legislators-turned-lobbyists on the list of Bush’s biggest backers. The former New York congressman who now works for Akin Gump lobbied for Boeing’s $23 billion boondoggle to lease air tankers to the Air Force and headed an Enron-funded “Astroturf” group called Americans for Affordable Electricity. Another Pioneer lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, was recently forced out at Greenberg Traurig over shady dealings with Indian tribes. Abramoff brought millions to the firm, but he is now being investigated by Congress and the FBI.
In “appreciation” of their fundraising efforts, all the Rangers and Pioneers – as well as the 32 “Mavericks” under age 40 who have raised at least $50,000 – have been invited to golf and dine next weekend at Reynolds Plantation, the exclusive Georgia resort built by Bush-Cheney campaign finance chairman Mercer Reynolds. Both Bush and Cheney are expected to attend this private strategy session.
The president’s fundraising may be winding down, but the campaign isn’t shutting off the money spigot just yet. On Monday, April 5, Bush heads for his last scheduled campaign fundraiser in Charlotte, an event postponed in February by a blizzard. After that, the campaign will continue making Internet and direct-mail solicitations, but the big-money events will fund Republican Party efforts, many of which will benefit the president’s re-election and close congressional contests. On April 1, Bush will headline a $5 million fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“The president’s $172 million haul has been portrayed as a triumph,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “But the real winners here are all the Rangers and Pioneers who secured a stake in Bush’s hoped-for second term long before his public campaign got under way.”