Cheney Is Featured At Steele Fundraiser

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 8, 2006

Vice President Cheney joined Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele yesterday for an exclusive fundraiser in the District, becoming the latest top administration official to lend his clout to raising money for the U.S. Senate candidate.

The event brought in another infusion of cash for a campaign that the GOP sees as its best hope for winning a Senate seat long in the Democratic column. It also gave Democrats more fodder for their claims that Steele has close ties to the Bush White House.

Steele's campaign declined to say how many people attended or how much money was raised at the reception, held at the Kalorama home of Jeffrey Weiss and his wife, Juleanna Glover-Weiss, a former Cheney spokeswoman. Tickets were $1,000, but those who paid $5,000 could have their picture taken with Cheney, according to an invitation.

Cheney entered through the back door, bypassing the three abortion-rights protesters who stood with placards in front of the three-story, painted brick house next to the Sri Lankan Embassy. Steele, who filed the paperwork for his Senate bid yesterday, was already inside.

Democrats said the event was further proof that the Republican lieutenant governor was a Bush loyalist.

"I think it is stunning that Michael Steele would tie himself so closely to President Bush and Dick Cheney and their priorities," said Terry Lierman, chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. "Clearly, everyone is known by the company they keep.

"If anyone thinks he is not going to be a right-wing advocate and is going to think for himself, they simply have to look where the money is coming from."

In recent months, Bush, White House political adviser Karl Rove and former White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr. have appeared at separate events to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Steele's campaign.

Campaign spokeswoman Melissa Sellers declined to comment, except to say, "Everything will be properly disclosed." The next round of campaign finance reports is due next week.

Audra Miller, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party, said that Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), a Democratic candidate for the Senate, is raising money from "out-of-state special interests."

Yesterday's fundraiser benefited the Steele-Maryland Victory 2006 Fund, which goes to both the Steele campaign and the state Republican Party.

National Republican leaders believe that the African American lieutenant governor could draw enough votes from blacks to overcome the Democrats' traditional advantage in Maryland.

An internal document from a top Democratic strategist suggests that Steele could pull away black votes. The report, by Cornell Belcher, a polling consultant for the national committee, found that as many as 44 percent of likely black voters would consider abandoning the Democrats to vote for Steele.

But the report noted that African Americans would be far less likely to do so if they believed he was closely aligned with Bush, who polls show is unpopular in Maryland. Belcher found that 8 percent of black voters in Maryland approved of Bush's job performance.

Steele, like other GOP candidates this year, has at times appeared to try to distance himself from Bush. He has said he is running on his own agenda and does not include the word "Republican" in his stump speeches or campaign literature.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company