Saturday, January 22, 2005

With President Bush sworn in, the parade route clear and the ballrooms empty, a group of up-and-coming Republican fund-raisers stayed in town on Friday to meet with party officials and discuss what they could do next to raise money.

Young Bush Fund-Raisers Are Courted by the Party

By GLEN JUSTICE, New York Times
January 22, 2005

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 - With President Bush sworn in, the parade route clear and the ballrooms empty, a group of up-and-coming Republican fund-raisers stayed in town on Friday to meet with party officials and discuss what they could do next to raise money.

The "Mavericks" are a group of about 95 fund-raisers around the country, each of whom is under 40 and raised at least $50,000 - some much more - for President Bush. Together, they brought in about $11 million. As a result, they are being courted by the party, and are likely to hear from candidates for Congress or the White House in the next four years.

"It's an exciting, fresh young group of fund-raisers with a proven ability to raise money," said Paul Dickerson, a 34-year-old Maverick from Houston who gathered $200,000 for Mr. Bush. "There are various candidates who would like to work with this group of folks."

The gathering on Friday drew about 50 fund-raisers to the office of Van Scoyoc Associates, a lobbying firm near the Capitol, where they spent more than two hours discussing where to direct their energy. Ken Mehlman, Mr. Bush's campaign manager and new chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Jack Oliver, Mr. Bush's deputy finance chairman, both attended.

The meeting highlights an important question for Republicans: what will happen to Mr. Bush's fund-raising network, the most effective in presidential campaign history, now that he has run his last race?

Campaign finance experts say that there are no guarantees that the 550 people who each raised six figures for the president in last year's election will stay involved, and that many will have to be persuaded. Only about half of Mr. Bush's top fund-raisers in the 2000 race returned to the task in 2004, according to Texans for Public Justice, which tracks Mr. Bush's network.

But Mr. Bush's fund-raisers will be heavily courted by the Republican Party and its candidates for the mid-term elections in 2006 and by various campaigns in the wide-open presidential race two years later.

Campaign finance laws place a premium on those who can raise large amounts, rather than those who can write large checks. In addition, this year's presidential race was the most expensive on record and it could escalate the amount it takes to run a credible campaign in future elections. In such a climate, proven fund-raisers who can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars are likely to be extremely valuable.

"Candidates will start trying to get to know them," said Michael Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute.

Mavericks seem to understand this and they are already talking about how to stay involved. Dick Williams, who directed the program, said many began contacting him soon after the election ended, hoping to set up meetings around the country.

"It was like they had a taste of it and they wanted more," Mr. Williams said.

The program recruited young professionals, many in their 30's and some even younger, by lowering the amount people had to raise in order to receive recognition from the campaign and holding fund-raising events with lower ticket prices to help them do it. Though many who participated were first-time fund-raisers, about a third of them raised $100,000 or more, double the goal that was set for them. Equally important, each now has a fund-raising network of their own that can be put to use again.

Among them are Mr. Dickerson; Husein Cumber, a railroad executive from West Palm Beach, Fla.; Justin Sayfie, a lawyer from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and John C. Kern, managing director of an investment firm in Cincinnati.

"They are not just the fund-raisers of the future, they are the new political activists," said Anne Dickerson, who was director of Mr. Bush's six-figure "Pioneer" and "Ranger" fund-raisers during the campaign. "They are very excited and they have a lot of energy."

Though nothing was decided at Friday's meeting, there are a number of proposals under consideration.

"It was a spirited conversation about how to keep the Mavericks a cohesive and relevant group in politics," said Mr. Cumber, 29, a $200,000 fund-raiser who attended the meeting. "There's no doubt the Mavericks program is one of the legacies this president will have."

One idea is to find a way for people in the program to help generate money for the Republican National Committee. Most of the committee's programs call for supporters to contribute thousands of dollars. The young professionals in the Mavericks program do not always have that kind of personal money to contribute, but they may be able to raise it with small checks from friends, colleagues and family.

Another idea is to have them raise money for state-level candidates, and several are also interested in meeting with politicians who may enter the in 2008 presidential race.

"They had enormous success and they will look to repeat that," said Rick Davis, who managed the 2000 presidential campaign of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. "Part of the culture is that you look for a winner. They want to stay involved."