Guests at a Virginia political fund-raiser in Williamsburg Saturday may be able to guess who is coming to dinner, but if they depend on their engraved invitations they won't know why.
That's because the 3,200 invitations that a Richmond committee has issued for the $1,000-a-couple dinner describe it as an event "honoring the President of the Unted States Jimmy Carter." Neither the invitations nor attachments to them mention that the President is coming to raise money for the three Democrats running in Virginia's statewide elections this fall.
The wording has upset some top White House officials who say the invitations place too much stress on the presidency and not enough attention on the political nature of the Williamsburg dinner, deputy press secretary Rex Granum acknowledged yesterday. Asked if the Carter staff wished it had been consulted before the invitations were printed, Granum replied: "I think so."
The dinner will cap seven hours of campaigning the President plans to do in Virginia Saturday on behalf of his old friend. Democratic gubernational nominee Henry E. Howell of Norfolk, and his two running mates.
Granum said the White House staff had not made "a major sort of thing" with the sponsoring committee over the wording, but would have prefereed that the invitations name Howell and spell out for what the funds are to be used.
"We aren't trying to hide anything," said Lane O'Farrell, head of the Richmond-based "Presidential Dinner Committee," which prepared the invitations and is staging the even to raise funds for what Howell calls his "Rainbow Ticket."
"This is a dinner honoring the President of the United States and we belive the emphasis on the invitations should be on the President of the United States," O'Farrell said. Furthermore, he said the committee sent out a news release shortly before the mailings stating that the dinner would be a fund-raiser.
State Senate Majority Leader Adelard L. Brault, a Fairfax Democrat, said he found the invitations "very clear." "I don't think there was any ambiguity in the thing," he said.
"When it says $1,000 a couple, I think that would mean to everyone that it is a fund-raiser," said William Rosendahl. Howell's campaign manager, "I haven't heard anyone say they were confused by the invitations."
Proceeds from the dinner will be used to reimburse the White House for the costs of the President's campaigning in Virginia, Rosendahl said. What's left after that will be divided among the candidates on a percentage (Chuck) Robb, the nominee for lieutenant governor, and Edward E. Lane, the nominee for attorney general, Rosendahl said.