Big Bash For Bush Backers

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 12: ESPN reporter Erin Andrews looks on during the 2009 XM All-Star Futures Game at Busch Stadium on July 12, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
They are Republican "Pioneers," the raisers of the early cash that made the machinery of presidential politics purr for George W. Bush as he sought and won the 2000 GOP nomination.

Eighteen months after he entered the White House, President Bush is putting on a party for the hundreds of people whose efforts helped raise a record $100 million as he hurtled through the 2000 primary season. More than 200 Bush Pioneers pledged to raise at least $100,000 each for the Bush 2000 campaign.

The gathering on Friday at a ranch near Bush's own 1,600-acre spread is a thank you with an eye on the present and future as well as the past.

Many of these well-connected party activists are raising money for GOP candidates this year, an important effort as the party attempts to retain control of the House, win back the Senate and keep statehouses in the Republican column.

The Bush Pioneers likely will find their fund-raising talents and energies tapped in earnest two years from now as the president opens his expected race for re-nomination and election to a second term.

The Bush fund-raising team is a formidable force, with the extensive contacts necessary to raise large amounts from donors legally limited to giving just $1,000 to each candidate for each election.

They also are generous givers themselves. As of last spring, Pioneers and their immediate families had contributed at least $2.7 million to 2002 Republican campaigns, according to an Associated Press analysis of donations compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

"We're people who are well-connected and are willing to put in the time to raise a few dollars, and willing to give up our own funds," Pioneer and former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz of Minnesota said in an interview in May.

Mr. Bush also was hosting a barbecue at midday Friday for the dozens of volunteers who assure his travels run smoothly and help with the details of holding events such as this week's economic forum at nearby Waco.