BUSH raises millions at Republican gala

Tuesday, May 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush was bringing in more than $20 million Tuesday night at his first major Republican fund-raiser since winning the White House.

The Republican National Committee's black-tie dinner at the National Guard Armory was attracting more than 2,000 GOP donors at ticket prices ranging from $1,500 per person to $20,000 for a corporate table.

On the menu: vegetable Napoleon, horseradish-crusted tenderloin with shallot merlot sauce, asparagus, five-onion risotto cake and key lime pie.

The sponsors included AT&T, Bristol-Myers Squibb, PepsiCo, Philip Morris, the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the Capitol One credit card company and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.

``It's a good way to participate in the process,'' said Peggy England, spokeswoman for the wine wholesalers association, part of the RNC's ``Team 100'' group of $100,000-plus donors. ``It gives us the ability to meet with and to talk with individuals who are serving Congress and in the administration.''

The group bought a table at the RNC dinner. It also contributes to Democrats, she said.

The GOP fund-raiser followed a reception at Vice President Dick Cheney's mansion Monday evening for about 400 top donors, most of whom previously gave or pledged to give $100,000 or more.

Campaign finance watchdog groups and Democrats criticized the use of the government property, saying it was no different from President Clinton's use of the White House or the use of the vice presidential home for events during the 1996 presidential campaign. The Clinton-Gore coffees became the focus of Republican-led congressional inquiries.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bush supports Cheney's action and plans to thank donors and other supporters at the White House. Golfer Ben Crenshaw, who gave $873 to Bush's campaign in 1999, spent Monday night at the White House, the official said.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called the Bush administration's fund-raising tactics ``night and day'' different from those of Clinton and Gore.

``In the previous administration, it was a very elaborate, ongoing, routine system to bring potential contributors to the White House for the purpose of getting money out of them,'' Fleischer said. The Bush administration is simply saying ``thank you'' to its donors by participating in fund-raisers and related activities, he said.

Bush, then a presidential candidate, also headlined last year's RNC gala, drawing $21 million.

The single-night fund-raising record belongs to Clinton and his vice president, Al Gore, who brought in $26.5 million at last year's Democratic National Committee barbecue.