NOTED WITH INTEREST

GOP Achievers Want to Compile $5 Million for Libby Defense

(Jim Young - Reuters)
Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Who's Who of Republican heavy hitters and Bush administration supporters are lending their names to help raise $5 million for the defense of Vice President Cheney's former top aide in his criminal trial.

Led by Florida real estate magnate and former ambassador Mel Sembler, the group seeking to help I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby avoid jail time includes 26 notable names, many of whom could also be described as "Friends of George and Dick."

Sembler, a longtime party fundraiser, backed Cheney as a presidential candidate in 1996 until he dropped out of the race, and described himself as vindicated and thrilled when George W. Bush chose Cheney as a running mate in 2000.

Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, was indicted in late October on five felony counts of obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements during an investigation of the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

The Libby Legal Defend Fund opened a Web site yesterday ( http://www.scooterlibby.org ) and reported its advisory committee has raised $2 million since it began in November. The names of donors are not being disclosed; officials said most donors limit their gift a non-taxable $12,000.

Among Cheney's longtime friends on the committee are former senator Alan K. Simpson (Wyo.); GOP donor Frederic V. Malek of McLean, chairman of Thayer Capital Partners who served in the Nixon White House at the same time as Cheney; and top communications aide Mary Matalin. Former Bush energy secretary Spencer Abraham and former CIA director R. James Woolsey are also lending a hand.

"These are people who have been involved in political activities for a long while and know things can get pretty rough . . . who are willing to put their good names behind Scooter's good name," Barbara Comstock, Libby defense fund spokesperson, said.

Some -- including lobbyist Wayne Berman, Mercer Reynolds, a gas and oil businessman; Sam Fox, chairman of a business acquisition group; and banker and former Republican National Committee finance chairman Lawrence E. Bathgate II -- also have a proven ability to raise a lot of money for Republican causes, especially the two Bush-Cheney campaigns, the 2000 recount and two inaugurations.

The committee boasts academics, such as Bernard Lewis, Princeton history professor, and Francis Fukuyama of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, who has written critically of the administration's Iraq policy.

-- Carol D. Leonnig


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