Texas governor George W. Bush spoke to members of the media Friday about a new addition to his Web site.
It was the first day people from across the United States could actually see for themselves who is contributing to Bush's campaign and exactly how much they are contributing.
Bush said he started this new page because he has recently been bombarded with questions regarding campaign finance reform. He says there's only a 14-day waiting period from the time the checks come in to his campaign until the time they are available for disclosure on the Internet.
The first group of names included several House members who reached into their campaign bank accounts to make contributions to the Republican presidential front-runner.
Bush received almost $20,000 from House members - including $1,000 apiece from House GOP Conference Chairman J.C. Watts and Chief Deputy Majority Whip Roy Blunt - and another $5,000 from the leadership PAC of National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Some four dozen state and local officials also contributed to Bush from their campaign accounts.
"I think he offers the best promise to give new direction to the country as we enter a new century," said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., who also gave $1,000. Boehlert has taken both Bush and his father, former President George Bush, on tours of the Baseball Hall of Fame, which is in his congressional district.
Overall, Bush reported raising $12 million between July 1 and Aug. 26, bringing his total to a record $49 million and assuring that he will break the $50 million barrier before the end of September.
Meanwhile, the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., expects to report raising more than $10 million by Sept. 30, including $2 million transferred earlier from his Senate account, and Gary Bauer reported that he had raised more than $5 million to date.
Bush is the first presidential candidate to release his donors in advance of the federally required reporting periods.
"I have said that it's important to raise the individual limit [of $1,000] to make it easier for candidates to be able raise money, but I also believe we ought to have instant disclosure," Bush said.
The Texas governor's action comes in the wake of criticism of his fund-raising practices and his decision to jettison the Watergate-era reforms of limiting campaign spending in exchange for some federal financial assistance. On Monday, another Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said the decision by both Bush and publisher Steve Forbes to forgo the federal funds so they can spend as much as they want is "a precedent that will basically emasculate the law."
McCain declined to comment Thursday on Bush's decision to release the names of his contributors.
Bush campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said the action was not a respnse to the attacks on his fund raising. "This has been in the planning stages for quite a while," she said.
Still, campaign finance expert Herbert Alexander said Bush's actions could deflect the criticism.
"It's something that reform advocates have been in favor of for a long time," said Alexander, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Southern California. "It certainly deflects from the negative stories about his not accepting the public funding and going the private route."
While Bush moved toward the $50 million mark, Bauer announced he had broken through the $5 million barrier. He said he had taken in more than 90,000 contributions and called his progress "a very encouraging sign" that the campaign is about issues, not just money.
Meanwhile, the Federal Election Commission has voted to stop a practice by which presidential candidates are raising money for the general election long before they have won their party's nomination.
The FEC voted to prevent candidates from raising money for their general election accounts until June 1 of the presidential election year. Commission spokesman Ian Stirton said the regulations won't take effect until next year and therefore won't affect the current candidates.