Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Bush visits, but only the well-heeled will see him

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush will slip into Cincinnati quietly today for some fund raising where the admission price is high — $1,000 to $25,000 — and the take enormous — well over $2 million.

        Between public campaign events in Louisville today and in Toledo on Thursday morning, Mr. Bush will come to Indian Hill late this afternoon for several hours of fund-raising events at the homes of Mercer Reynolds III and William O. DeWitt Jr., two long-time friends of the Texas governor.

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        Mr. Reynolds and Mr. DeWitt, who have been Mr. Bush's business partners in oil exploration ventures and in the ownership of the Texas Rangers baseball team, held a Cincinnati fund-raiser for the Bush campaign last year that grossed more than $1 million.

        Tonight's private fund-raising events will at least double that amount, sources close to the Bush campaign said.

        No public events are scheduled.

        The Indian Hill fund-raiser will actually be three events — a private fund-raiser at Mr. Reynolds' home for big contributors, followed by a gathering in a tent on Mr. Reynolds' lawn of 400 to 500 people who have given $1,000 each, and later by a private dinner for major donors at Mr. DeWitt's home.

        Federal election law sets a limit of $1,000 on what any individual can give to a candidate's campaign.

        But last year, when Mr. Bush was battling for the nomination, the Bush campaign came up with a legal way of circumventing the contribution limits.

        The Bush campaign and various state GOP organizations, including the Ohio Republican Party, joined to form the State Victory Fund, a political action committee that could accept $25,000 contributions from individuals.

        Many of the guests at the private reception and dinner this evening will have paid $25,000 to the State Victory Fund to attend.

        The Victory Fund has been particularly successful in Hamilton County, one of the best fund-raising areas in the country for GOP presidential candidates. Last year, Ohio contributors gave $809,500 to the State Victory Fund, according to federal campaign finance reports. Of that, all but $105,500 came from Hamilton County.

        “No area is more committed to electing George Bush president than this area,” said Ohio Treasurer Joe Deters, who also is chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party. “There is a love for the Bush family here that is immense.”

        The money raised tonight will be divvied up among the Bush campaign, the Ohio Republican Party and the Hamilton County Republican Party.

        The money raised for the party organizations is to be used for direct mail, phone banks and other “get-out-the-vote” efforts this fall. The Bush campaign itself has already raised more than $93 million.

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