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Half of Hill GOP Has Given to Bush

Almost half of the 279 Republicans in Congress contributed to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign through the first three months of the year.

The Members, giving either from their campaign accounts or through aligned political action committees, together have accounted for more than a quarter-million dollars to the Bush-Cheney effort. As many as 135 current lawmakers have contributed, according to committee disbursement records.

The dollar amount itself is a pittance next to the $180 million-plus raised by the Bush-Cheney campaign so far. Nonetheless, this level of financial backing from Members is unprecedented for a presidential contest, where lawmakers typically rely on the support the ticket provides — or doesn’t provide — to party candidates down-ballot.

John Feehery, a spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who first encouraged Members to help Bush, suggested that “team building” is as much a goal as the contributions themselves.

“These are symbolic yet significant contributions,” Feheery said.

The donations show that Members consider it important for their own interests that President Bush is re-elected, Feheery said.

“Look, these [Members] have come from eight years of not having the bully pulpit, of not having their party in control of the White House,” said Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “They don’t want to lose that.”

In fact, the Bush-Cheney effort has also received a considerable amount of support from former Republican lawmakers, failed candidates and current Congressional aspirants.

Among the former Members who have given to the Bush-Cheney campaign are former Reps. Thomas Bliley (Va.), Tillie Fowler (Fla.) and Connie Morella (Md.) and former Sens. Jesse Helms (N.C.) and Fred Thompson (Tenn.). Republican candidates or one-time Congressional aspirants include Janice Bowling (Tenn.), Gene DeRossett (Mich.), Chuck Floyd (Md.), Louis Gohmert (Texas), Jay Helvey (N.C.), Virginia Johnson (N.C.), Alice Forgy Kerr (Ky.), Brose McVey (Ind.) and Scott Rolle (Md.).

A spokeswoman for Helvey, a businessman who is seeking to replace Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who is running for Senate, said the candidate contributed to the Bush-Cheney campaign to express common cause with the incumbent.

“Jay Helvey gave the money because he feels very strongly about standing with President Bush, and he fully supports President Bush’s leadership and determination during a time of war,” Helvey spokeswoman Tara Staley said.

The disbursement records, which are based on campaign finance disclosures through the first three months of this year, were compiled by, a political database. Some Members recorded contributions both from their campaign committees and their separate leadership PACs.

The support from Members has been amply reciprocated by the Bush administration. Vice President Cheney has devoted roughly half his campaign schedule to fundraising for incumbents and Congressional candidates.

And in recent weeks, first lady Laura Bush has done her first Congressional campaigning this cycle, appearing at events for Bev Kilmer, who is challenging Rep. Allen Boyd (D) in the Florida Panhandle, and Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.).

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the first lady, said Mrs. Bush will do a “handful” of events for House and Senate candidates this cycle, but indicated that long-term details were not yet available. The first lady is scheduled to appear at a reception in Washington this week for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

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