The mostly vacationing President Bush will head down the road Friday for some political fence-tending at the Broken Spoke Ranch, where he plans to eat a little barbecue and raise a lot of money for the Republican Party.
Bush, who shattered all fundraising records on the way to back-to-back election wins, will host some of the GOP's biggest donors to thank them for helping to expand his party's fundraising edge over the out-of-power Democrats -- and encourage them to do more. A well-connected Republican said at least $2 million is expected to be raised.
At the ranch owned by Stan and Kathy Hickey, the president will offer brief remarks and pose for photos with the biggest financial backers of the Republican National Committee, aides said.
In what has become an annual affair, the guest list will include the "Pioneers," who raise $100,000; "Rangers," who bag $200,000; and the more exclusive club of "Super Rangers," who top the $300,000 mark for the GOP cause, according to aides. Smaller donors are welcome, too. Laura Bush and administration officials plan to attend to give the donors face time with the White House brass.
Vice President Cheney, for his part, will continue his little-publicized fundraising tour later this month, headlining events for Sens. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho).
Cheney, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove are all intimately involved in the effort to raise money for GOP candidates for the House and Senate more than a year before the next congressional election.
Races Hatching I: Lampson vs. DeLay
The other party also has eyes on Texas this summer. Democrats are pushing donors big and small to help former representative Nick Lampson (D-Tex.) raise $1 million before the end of the year to fund his long-shot bid to oust Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), the House majority leader. Lampson, a victim of DeLay's redistricting effort in the 2004 races, is on target to pocket $750,000 by the end of September, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) said.
But there DeLay has access to some kinds of money that his opponents can't match. He stuffed hundreds of millions of dollars into the energy and transportation bills passed last month to benefit projects in his suburban Houston district. He'll spend much of this month making sure the largess -- including $50 million to improve an interstate that cuts through his district and $324 million for Houston Metro -- does not go unappreciated. On Monday, DeLay will show a softer side, speaking at the opening of the foster care foundation he and his wife started.
In 2004, DeLay spent nearly $3 million to defeat attorney Richard Morrison (D), 55 to 41 percent. Emanuel sees DeLay as one of the top targets in the Democratic strategy to paint Republicans as ethically compromised and abusive of Washington power.
Other GOP names high on what Emanuel calls his ethics hit list: Reps. Robert W. Ney (Ohio), Charles H. Taylor (N.C.) and Richard W. Pombo (Calif.). Republicans say all four targeted Republicans are on pace to win reelection in strong GOP districts.
Races Hatching II: Bell vs. Perry
Speaking of DeLay, his former colleague ex-representative Chris Bell (D-Tex.) is planning to run next year for governor of Texas. Bell broke an unwritten truce last year between the two parties when he filed an ethics complaint against DeLay. Bell, a freshman who earlier that year had been redistricted out of his seat -- thanks to partisan maneuvering directed by DeLay -- is the first major Democrat to indicate he will challenge Gov. Rick Perry (R).
Speaking of Barbecue, Here's the Pork
When Bush flies from his ranch here to Illinois to sign the transportation bill, he will be approving a law that sometimes seems to dole out money for earmarked special projects in inverse proportion to where people actually live, according to one watchdog group.
Taxpayers for Common Sense found that while California, Illinois and New York topped the list when it came to overall money given for earmarks -- pork, as it is otherwise known -- the rankings changed dramatically when measured on a per capita basis. The organization put Alaska at the top of that list, with $1,501.39 per person. Vermont ($544.33) was second, followed by Montana ($441.43), North Dakota ($390.53) and South Dakota ($359.53).
More-populous states generally fared worse. Rhode Island was the highest-ranking state with more than 1 million people, coming in seventh place with $269.81 per capita. Illinois led the list of those with more than 10 million, coming in 23rd with $107.42 per head. California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, Florida and Texas -- which came in 49th with a paltry $36.18 per capita -- all ranked in the bottom half of the list.
Keith Ashdown, a spokesman for the group, said the pattern is nothing new. "It's called the Senate," he said, noting that many small states have lawmakers who sit on the right committees and are able to turn their public works wish lists into law.