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Bush Back On Money Trail

President Bush has no apologies about raising millions of dollars for Republican Senate candidates immediately after signing into law new curbs on the financing of campaigns for federal office.

After a major money-raising effort for Republican Senate candidates in South Carolina and Georgia, Mr. Bush moved on to Dallas on Thursday to help raise $1.5 million for Texas Attorney General John Cornyn's campaign to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Phil Gramm.

Mr. Bush posed for a campaign commercial in front of his Marine helicopter with Cornyn and greeted rescue workers who had taken part in search operations after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

With the cameras rolling, Mr. Bush and Cornyn walked down a long line of hundreds of rescue workers, some of whom had been involved in the rescue after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

As he began his two-day campaign swing Wednesday in Greenville, S.C., the president told reporters: "I'm not going to lay down my arms. I'm going to participate in the rules of the system."

The stakes are high for the GOP. Democrats control the Senate by a single seat.

"The Senate races are very important to me," Mr. Bush said. "I want the Republicans to take control of the Senate."

The president signed the campaign finance bill without ceremony in the Oval Wednesday morning. He barely had time to put the cap on his pen before he was off to raise cash for the three GOP candidates.

Mr. Bush's appearance in Greenville helped raise about $1 million for the campaign of Rep. Lindsay Graham who seeks the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Strom Thurmond, the chamber's oldest and longest serving member.

Moving on to Atlanta, the president raised $1.4 million for the campaign coffers of Rep. Saxby Chamblis, R-Ga., who is campaigning for the GOP nomination to face Democratic Sen. Max Cleland.

The president plans to end the trip with a long Easter weekend at his ranch near Crawford, Texas.

Mr. Bush had displayed little enthusiasm for the campaign finance proposal on the campaign trail two years ago and as it moved through Congress after he entered the White House. But he said Wednesday he "wouldn't have signed it if I was really unhappy with it."

Mr. Bush said that overall he believes it improves the system even though parts of it may be constitutionally flawed.

In all three cities on his trip, the president is stopping to encourage police, fire and health emergency workers, report on progress in the war on terrorism and to denounce rising violence in the Middle East.

The Dallas meeting with rescue workers was allotted just 15 minutes on the president's schedule. However, as an official government event it allowed the White House to split the cost of Mr. Bush's travel between the GOP and taxpayers.

Democrats renewed their criticism of the arrangement, which was used heavily by President Bill Clinton.

"The practice of adding political events to official travel for the purpose of saving candidates money seems to be of questionable merit," said Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri.