When GOP Fund-Raisers Just Say No
By Ruth Marcus
When the Democratic National Committee held a $2.5 million fund-raiser last weekend, it promised the event would be the most open ever. Then, after a series of high-level discussions among party officials and the White House, the DNC refused to disclose the names of those who ponied up $50,000 to attend.
Republicans, unburdened by guilt over raising big bucks, don't go through any such agonizing: They just say no to reporters' requests to attend the intimate briefings and special receptions promised to contributors who gathered here for a $6 million fund-raising dinner tonight for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. They will, however, tell which big givers are coming to dinner.
NRSC spokesman Mike Russell said the dinner will be open to the press but that the associated events for big givers will be off-limits. For example, members of the Senatorial Trust, who give $10,000 or more, get a reception with the Senate and House leadership and a lunch with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Miss.), and a discussion of legislative priorities with Sens. Spencer Abraham (Mich.) and Mike DeWine (Ohio), and a session on the economy in the 21st century with Sens. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), Rod Grams (Minn.) and Arlen Specter (Pa.).
"Party members and supporters are not public figures, they're private citizens, so we feel it's perfectly appropriate for us to offer sessions where they can take a break from the glare of the TV lights for a while and they can speak off the record and speak freely," Russell said.
He likened the sessions for the big contributors to the access given to the press for free. "These are ordinary folks and they are getting time that the press normally gets," Russell said. "These briefings and these discussions about issues are no different than what senators hold in terms of issues briefings or legislative updates to the press every week. This is their opportunity to participate in what you guys get all the time."
But Russell cheerfully provided a list of the dinner leadership, those who helped bring in the big bucks. The dinner's general chairman was Robert Wood Johnson IV of Johnson & Johnson Cos., with the Washington, D.C., fund-raising led by lobbyist William E. Timmons. Dinner vice chairmen (those who contributed or raised $100,000 or more) included Philip Morris Cos.; Carl H. Lindner of American International Group Inc.; John R. Vogt of the Bond Market Association; the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors; CSX Corp.; R. Mitchell Delk of Freddie Mac; Washington lawyer James F. Miller; Bill Hecht of Hecht, Spencer & Associates; Heinz C. Prechter of American Sunroof Co.; and New Jersey banker Walter Shipley.
Among those giving at the $45,000 level were Aaco, Federal Express Corp., International Paper Co., MCI Communications Corp., Pfizer Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the Smokeless Tobacco Council, Travelers Group Inc., United Parcel Service of America Inc., U.S. West Inc. and the Tobacco Institute.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company