Bush ends money controversy

July 23, 1999|By Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover

WASHINGTON -- Among those who make their living by running political campaigns, there has to be great admiration these days for the way Gov. George W. Bush handled two burgeoning controversies about his money. He simply reversed himself before his critics could build an audience for their complaints.

Thus, the Texas governor and his strategists demonstrated that they know the value of prompt action in defusing a touchy situation. This may be Mr. Bush's first run for president, but he didn't just fall off the turnip truck.

The first mistakes by the Bush campaign was the plan to have several friends pay the $50,000 owed to the Iowa Republican Party for tickets to the Aug. 14 straw poll and for the ridiculous $43,000 rental fee the campaign offered for a small plot of ground in a favored location outside the convention hall.

The theory was that such a "contribution" to the state party would not exceed the limits on what Mr. Bush's friends can give directly to his campaign. And the $50,000 would not have to come from the campaign treasury.

Forbes complaint

But Steve Forbes, one of Mr. Bush's also-ran rivals for the GOP presidential nomination, complained that the Texas governor was trying to circumvent the limits of $1,000 on individual contributions to candidates for federal office. So the Bush campaign simply caved and paid the $50,000, hardly a big deal for a campaign with $30 million cash on hand.

The second problem was Mr. Bush's original refusal to identify those who each have raised $100,000 or more for the campaign, making them charter members of the "Pioneers," a group of fat cats with special stature in the campaign.

In this case, the complaints came from the press and campaign watchdog groups. So Mr. Bush released the names of 115 Pioneers who have raised $11.5 million of the $37 million total contributed to Mr. Bush so far. To no one's surprise, the list included many prominent business executives from Texas and elsewhere.

The Bush campaign's quick response gives the candidate a measure of insulation against criticism from his political opponents.

And if the other Republicans whine about it, all they do is call attention to their own inability to raise enough money to compete effectively.

Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover write from the Washington Bureau.

Pub Date: 7/23/99

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