Lee Atwater, the political consultant who served as deputy director of the 1984 Reagan-Bush reelection campaign, today will be named chairman of Vice President Bush's political action committee (PAC), the Fund for America's Future.
"Lee lives and breathes politics," Bush said. "Through the fund, I expect a lot of Republicans around the country will benefit from Lee's advice."
Atwater, 34, a native South Carolinian who broke into politics as an aide to Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), was deputy assistant to the president for political affairs before leaving the White House in 1984 to help manage the Reagan-Bush reelection effort.
He is a partner in the Alexandria-based consulting firm of Black, Manafort, Stone and Atwater. His decision to assume a formal role at Bush's PAC, after having served as an unpaid adviser there for the past year, creates a potential conflict-of-interest problem.
Atwater intends to remain a partner at the firm, spending a portion of his time working on some of the firm's dozen 1986 gubernatorial, Senate and House campaigns.
Meantime, one of this partners, Roger Stone, is serving as an unpaid adviser to Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), who is generally regarded as Bush's foremost rival for the 1988 GOP presidential nomination. Partner Charles Black is an unpaid adviser to Kemp and Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), another 1988 hopeful.
"So far, nobody has ever questioned our ability to keep a confidence," Black said of the unusual arrangement. "But when it comes to the formal campaign phase, we'll have to consider something like a leave of absence. We can't have one firm working for more than one candidate in the same race." He said he does not expect that the firm will have to face that problem until 1987.
Bush's PAC, which has a staff of 20, raised nearly $4 million in 1985. Bush is using it as all of the prospective 1988 GOP candidates are using their PACs -- to build a political organization, to finance political trips and to collect IOUs by contributing to state and local candidates.