White House For Sale: $200 Million

I've been trying to understand something lately. Bush is running unopposed in the Republican Presidential Primaries, right? If Americans are generally pretty happy with the job he's done: protecting the country from terrorist attacks; looking out for workers, senior citizens, children and the environment; while also getting the economy back on solid ground, then why does he need to raise so much money to stay in the White House?

If he were a good President, the answer is that he wouldn't. But he isn't, so he needs to buy the White House. And in case anyone didn't know, the White House is for sale, just like everything else in American politics. (You too can call, "Do over!" on a legal election for just $1.7 million! Never mind the $43 to 67 million cost to taxpayers.)

So far Bush & Co have raised more than $46 million and will raise any amount necessary to maintain their grip on power. A new site launched by Ralph Nader's Public Citizen, WhiteHouseForSale.org, draws attention to the fact that Bush:

is the only major candidate who has opted out of the public financing system during the primaries. Bush has done so because he believes he can collect at least $200 million during the primary season – nearly five times the amount a candidate who remains in the public financing system can raise and spend. Yet, the president is unopposed!"

In the 2000 election, Bush shattered all previous records by raising $101 million, at least a third of which was raised by his "Pioneers." And yet he still had Katherine Harris illegally strike 94,000 names from the voter rolls in Florida to steal the election. Since voter roll manipulation and $101 million nearly resulted in a defeat, it looks like he won't be taking any chances this time. Yes, $200 million should be just enough to buy the White House for four more years.

"Pioneers" and "Rangers" are titles given to Bush's top fundraisers who respectively raise $100,000 and $200,000 from their friends, family and associates. Bush shows his gratitude by hosting BBQs, like the one he's throwing for them this weekend, at the Broken Spoke Ranch near the Texas White House in Crawford. They also "receive faxed and e-mailed political updates. They participate in periodic conference calls with top officials, including Racicot, Rove, White House chief of staff Andy Card and Commerce Secretary Don Evans. They also get gifts, including silver keepsake boxes embossed with the presidential seal."

So who are these Pioneers and Rangers?
"These people are some of the smartest businessmen in America, and if they didn't continue to see a payback in their investment in the Bush campaign, they wouldn't continue to make these kinds of donations time after time," said Tom Smith, director of Public Citizen for Texas.

"President Bush today is hiding his big donors behind plumes of barbecue smoke," said Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Justice. He said the fund-raising technique violates the spirit of campaign finance laws.

McDonald called Mr. Bush's quest for $170 million or more in an unopposed nomination contest "an obscene fund-raising drive." He said the public should know exactly how much money is raised by each supporter.

"The legal limit is $2,000, not $200,000," he said.

He said the Bush campaign should identify everyone attending the event, how much the campaign has credited them with raising and where they work.

One Republican noted that multibillionaire George Soros is committing $10 million to a new Democratic-leaning group aimed at defeating Bush next year. This Republican said Bush would need to counter such spending.

The barbecue was closed to the news media. Mr. Bush's only public words Saturday were his weekly radio address, in which he said Iraq is making steady progress establishing its economy, basic services and a democratic system and that should improve security in Iraq and the Middle East.

"We're keeping our word to the Iraqi people by helping them to make their country an example of democracy and prosperity throughout the region," he said. "This long-term undertaking is vital to peace in the region and to the security of the United States."

In case you hadn't noticed, Bush has taken the entire month of August off for a much-deserved vacation. This makes him the biggest malingerer to ever sit in the White House, and gives validity to the Saturday Night Live joke that he works 24/7: 24 hours a week, 7 months a year.