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Bush Sleepover List A Virtual Yawner

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush have invited dozens of friends and relatives to sleep over at the White House, from Republican fund-raisers to Texas pals such as pro golfer Ben Crenshaw and country singer Larry Gatlin.

The issue of White House sleepovers arose during the Clinton administration when it was learned that the Democratic Party was rewarding big donors with overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom.

The Bushes' roughly 160 guests include at least six of the president's biggest fund-raisers and their families. White House spokeswoman Anne Womack said she didn't know whether donors, or any other Bush guests, have slept in the Lincoln Bedroom.

"They sleep in a variety of guest rooms in the White House," Womack said. "The president and Mrs. Bush enjoy spending time with their friends and family and have invited friends and family to stay as guests in the White House."

A half-dozen Bush donors and fund-raisers known as "pioneers" are among the guests on a list released late Friday by the White House. Each raised at least $100,000 for Bush's 2000 campaign, helping him take in a record $100 million for the Republican primaries.

They include Roland Betts, a Yale classmate of Bush's and a former partner of his in the Texas Rangers baseball team; venture capitalist and Republican National Committee fund-raiser Brad Freeman; Texas rancher and state Sen. Teel Bivins; Boston businessman Joe O'Donnell; and Joe O'Neill of Midland, Texas, an oilman and childhood friend of Bush credited with introducing him to Laura Bush.

Womack said the fund-raisers are also longtime friends of the Bushes.

Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group, said that whether the Bushes are letting contributors stay in the Lincoln Bedroom "matters symbolically," regardless of whether the donors are also family friends.

"The Republicans made a very big deal about it during the Clinton administration," Noble said. "In this whole business, the whole issue is perception."

The halting of White House tours for the general public since the Sept. 11 attacks may present a new issue for the Bushes, he said. Only children's groups, veterans and guests of members of Congress are currently allowed on tours.

"The American public's access to the White House has been severely restricted," Noble said. "So you may have an increased perception problem if, in fact, large contributors are getting access to the White House."

Bush has said he wouldn't use overnight invitations to the White House in any quid pro quo with donors.

"There's something sacred about the Lincoln Bedroom," he told The Associated Press in an interview last year.

In contrast to the star-studded guest list Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton compiled - from Barbra Streisand to director Steven Spielberg and actors Jane Fonda and Tom Hanks - no members of the Hollywood elite have stayed overnight in the Bush White House.

But there are some famous names in the crowd, including Crenshaw, a Bush family friend and campaign donor from Austin, Texas; country music performer Gatlin; and Texas musician and author Kinky Friedman.

Interior designer Ken Blasingame, who has decorated the Bushes' private quarters in the Texas governor's mansion and the White House and their ranch in Crawford, Texas, has also been a guest.

Several Bush relatives have also stayed over, including the president's parents, former President Bush and Barbara Bush; presidential siblings Jeb, Neil and Marvin Bush and Doro Koch; and Laura Bush's mother, Jenna Welch.

Republican governors, including Pennsylvania's Tom Ridge, now Bush's chief adviser on domestic security; Jane Hull of Arizona, George Pataki of New York, John Rowland of Connecticut, Bob Taft of Ohio and John Engler of Michigan also are among the guests.

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