Never Too Soon to Build the War Chest

By Dana Milbank
Sunday, May 8, 2005

Still writing 2004 on your contribution checks? Well, wake up: The 2006 congressional campaign is already underway.

Vice President Cheney did a pair of fundraisers for House Republicans on Friday, following two others he did in April. He's got another one Monday, then one next Friday. An aide calls it the "kickoff" to the 2006 cycle.

Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Cheney did 70 events for GOP House candidates in the 2004 cycle, and the White House is "already committing to a two-year campaign to help our incumbents, our challengers and our open-seat candidates." Forti said he hopes that Cheney can match his 2004 tally, and points out that President Bush did an event for the NRCC last month and will raise money for congressional candidates next month. "He may be more active as well since he doesn't have a race of his own," Forti said.

Cheney's first efforts are going to some of the more endangered House Republicans. He did events in April for Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.) and Mike Sodrel (Ind.). Friday it was Rick Renzi (Ariz.) and Heather Wilson (N.M.). Monday it will be Marilyn Musgrave (Colo.), and then comes Charles Boustany (La.).

If all this 2006 talk seems premature, consider that prospective 2008 presidential candidates are already making the rounds in the first primary state. The Union Leader in Manchester, N.H., reports that Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) visited last week, paying the requisite homage: "I often say Nebraska is the center of the universe," he told the locals. "It's not true. New Hampshire is the center of the universe." Hagel told his hosts that he got approval from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), another possible 2008 candidate, before making the trip.

Also last week, Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) visited New Hampshire, raising money for his Senate reelection. On the Democratic side, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is coming on June 7, and retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark on June 12.

Oh, Noe

A luncheon in Columbus at which Bush spoke in 2003 has become a focus of a federal investigation into whether GOP fundraiser Tom Noe broke campaign-finance laws with contributions made to the Bush-Cheney campaign, according to Ohio press reports.

The home of Noe, a coin dealer who served as chairman of the Bush campaign in northwest Ohio, was searched by FBI agents late last month. At issue is whether Noe exceeded the $2,000 contribution limit by giving funds to others who then gave the money to the Bush campaign at the time of the Oct. 30, 2003, fundraiser at Columbus's Hyatt Regency.

The Columbus Dispatch, citing an unnamed source, said the federal investigation, run out of the office of U.S. Attorney Gregory A. White in Cleveland, is focused on "at least $25,000" given to the Bush campaign that came from the same bank account. The Toledo Blade reported that investigators are looking into $2,000 contributions made by a variety of municipal and county officials and co-workers of Noe.

Noe was one of Bush's Pioneers during the 2004 campaign, meaning he raised between $100,000 and $200,000. Noe, chairman of the Ohio Turnpike Commission and a member of the Ohio Board of Regents, is also involved in an unrelated investigation being conducted by the Ohio inspector general into $50 million invested by the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation in rare coins through Noe's coin business.

Not Quite QVC

The House floor briefly became the venue for a telethon Tuesday night when Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) attempted to sell videos of his speech. Just seconds before midnight, he was giving a special order speech talking about the potential of nuclear power when he directed viewers (the proceedings were carried by C-SPAN) to a poster he had erected at the lectern: "To order a video/DVD of this Special Order contact C-SPAN at 202-737-3220."

Total orders generated: zero.

Taken to the Woodhouse

Brad Woodhouse may be the most prolific e-mailer in politics. The former spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, now the flack for Americans United to Protect Social Security, a group fighting the Bush Social Security plan, Woodhouse sent out 68 e-mails in March and 58 in April to the 3,000 journalists on his list. Over that period, his daily high -- seven e-mails -- was reached twice, on March 2 and April 25. His May output is languishing -- eight e-mails as of midday Friday -- but one e-mail was accidentally sent several times Wednesday. Woodhouse reports that the group's computer server has strained under the load but "not a catastrophic meltdown or anything."

On Second Thought

"It's all done in a bipartisan way with significant Democrat votes."

-- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on Wednesday, discussing recent achievements by House Republicans

"We have an opportunity to enact a broad comprehensive reform agenda, and, regardless of the efforts of the minority party, we're going to seize that opportunity."

-- DeLay, 36 seconds later

© 2005 The Washington Post Company