Bert Lance's cash flow problems may have propelled him out of the Carter administration last September. But his golden touch with contributors has made him the financial hero of the Jimmy Carter fund-raising gala here Friday night.
With Lance helping to man the phones, a grateful constituency of fat cats is expected to shower between $650,000 and $850,000 into the Democratic Party's near-empty coffers to help pay off old debts and finance this year's congressional campaigns.
The list of donors the Democrats tapped comprises the political funds of such blue chip corporations with heavy Washington interests as the LTV Corp. ($10,000), Grumman Aircraft ($7,000), Braniff Airlines ($5,000), Delta Airlines ($5,000) and American Family Insurance Co. ($8,000).
Individual enthusiasm ran high, too, as witness the case of wealthy Florida developer E. Everett Huskey, who is buying $40,000 worth of tickets for himself and his wife. (Vice president Mondale spent an hour at Huskey's home in Orlando on Jan. 4 warming him up on the subject of ticket sales.)
As added bait to the $1,000-a-couple catered affair on the President's political home grounds, donors were offered the dinner companionship of Cabinet members.
Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano Jr., for example, will be seate with a group of doctors who paid early for an opportunity to pour out their hearts to him.
A group of wealthy sportsmen associated with Safari International have been offered Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus in exchange for the purchase of a table.
Democratic National Committee Treasurer Joel McCleary and dinner chairman Tom Beard handled the day-to-day mechanics, while ex-budget director Lance was the recognized front man making phone calls for donations all over the Southeast.
Carter fund-raisers freely provided for inspection of a dinner receipt book which listed Lance as "contact" man for nearly half of the first $25,000 raised last month - most of it from textile mill officials in Georgia and South Carolina.
Grumman and LTV are locked in a competitive battle with Northrop for coveted fighter aircrat contracts with the Navy. Baniff was recently awarded a controversial route to Europe by White House decision.
About 2,000 ar expected to be seated at the dinner, with 300 to 400 of them complimentary. The dinner sponsors are paying $25 a plate for the meal (duck l'orange, wine and bubbly) and rent.
Lance is planning to host a private cocktail party he is sponsoring for Cabinet members with whom he recently shared rank. he will also act as master-of-ceremonies and then introduce his friend, Jimmy Carter, at the dinner.
The dinner committee is paying for the cost not only of the President's travel, but his staff and Cabinet members. That adds up.
Califano, for example, is expected in Atlanta with his secretary and three other aides. Earlier this week he sent an advance man to look over the dinner site and learn with whom he would be seated.
Aides say the advance man was needed because Califano plans to spend the day touring HEW facilities in Atlanta before going on to the fund-raiser.
The Atlanta affair is the first in a string of at least five dinners from which party officials hope to clear $5 million. The Republicans hope to raise $14.5 million through comparable efforts without the drawing power of a President or a congressional majority.
Half this, though, will come from a direct mail campaign for small contributions.