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Bush A Magnet For Campaign Cash

The president in modern times has been transformed into the fund-raiser in chief, and President Bush is no exception. He has scored new records in raising cash, with $110 million so far this campaign season.

At Thursday's fund-raising events, Bush collected $1.1 million for three GOP candidates in Oklahoma and Arkansas. That comes on top of at least $108.7 million raised earlier at events in some 20 states and the District of Columbia, according to Associated Press tabulations of figures released by the White House and the GOP campaigns.

His numbers far surpass the $50 million Democrats estimate President Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, raised in 1994 — the run-up to his first midterm campaign as president. Clinton raised about $105 million during 2000, but that was a presidential election cycle, which produces higher fund-raising totals than midterms.

With control of the House and Senate at stake, "The president is going to help elect those who will help implement his agenda," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

In Clinton's home state, Bush was the main attraction at a $500-a-plate fund-raiser for Sen. Tim Hutchinson, who is seeking re-election in a competitive race against Democrat Mark Pryor.

It's one of the nation's most-watched campaigns in the battle for control of the Senate. Bush hopes his wartime popularity will rub off on Hutchinson and other GOP candidates.

Bush seized the opportunity of friendly audiences on the road to urge action on his legislative wish list.

He hammered Congress, particularly the Democrats. Congress, he said, should get to work on his recommended increase in defense spending, tougher work requirements for welfare recipients, permanent enactment of tax cuts passed last year, a wide-ranging energy bill and a new Department of Homeland Security.

"There's some senators up there who would rather listen to special interests in Washington, D.C., than listen to the voice of the people," Bush told Republicans in Little Rock. "There are senators who would rather give us a rule book this thick about how we have to behave, and what we must do to protect the homeland than to trust any administration for protecting America."

In Oklahoma, Bush raised $500,000 for gubernatorial candidate Steve Largent and Sen. James Inhofe, who is seeking a second full term. Republicans paid $1,000 for a chicken-and-beans lunch and to hear Bush promote his domestic and war policies.

In 2000, Bush became the first presidential candidate to turn down federal matching money in the primary season. He raised more than $100 million to finance the race on his own.

Bush is likely to reject federal money again for his 2004 re-election bid, and Democratic presidential hopefuls are already studying whether they can raise enough money to follow suit.

Escalating costs of polling, travel, consultant fees and, especially, TV advertising have created an unquenchable thirst for campaign cash.