Bush Collects $1.5 Million at Fund-Raising Dinner

Greek Americans helped President Bush raise $1.5 million Wednesday night at a re-election fund-raiser in the nation's capital, where he began his drive for $170 million nine months ago.

Greek surnames dominated the list of donors for the event, one day before a White House "Celebration of Greek Independence Day (search)."

Alex Spanos (search), owner of the NFL's San Diego Chargers (search), was the event's chairman. His son, Dean, the team's president, was a co-host.

"Alex said, 'Why don't you come by, I may have a few friends here. A few Greek Americans might show up," Bush told about 1,100 donors.

The event was more upscale than some recent Bush fund-raisers, where donors were treated to boxed meals. On Wednesday night, each table had a bottle of wine.

Contributors also included Jan Antonoplos (search), the Delaware County, Ohio, clerk of courts; Simos Dimas, a Bronxville, N.Y., lawyer; and William Stavropoulos, director of Computer Associates International, Inc., one of the federal government's top 100 contractors.

Among other donors were:

— Tom Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute, a member of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force and a "ranger" - the top echelon of Bush fund-raisers, who round up at least $200,000 each.

— Kirk Blalock, a former White House official now working for Philip Morris and a "pioneer" - among those who collected at least $100,000 for the campaign.

— James A. Baker IV, a "pioneer" and son of James A. Baker III, a former secretary of state and a Bush family friend.

— James Langdon, a Washington attorney specializing in international oil and gas transactions whose clients include Lukoil, the Russian oil company. He raised more than $100,000 for Bush and was a Washington finance co-chairman.

— Tony Hope, son of entertainer Bob Hope.

Bush used the occasion to try to advance a line of attack the White House and his re-election campaign have been using against Democratic rival John Kerry: that he favors tax increases.

"My opponent is one of the main opponents of tax relief in the United States Congress," Bush said, reciting a list of instances in which he said Kerry voted against tax cuts. "But when tax increases are proposed, it's a lot easier to get a 'yes' vote out of him."

Flush with cash, the president's role as fund-raiser in chief is waning - at least as far as his own re-election treasury is concerned. His last in-person re-election fund raiser is set for Monday in Charlotte, N.C., a Republican official said.

Wednesday's appearance was a bookend of sorts to the "opening night" fund-raiser Bush held June 17, 2003 in Washington.

A labor group organized a protest outside, part of what it called a "Show Us The Jobs Tour." AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka and hundreds of supporters said they wanted to highlight the more than 2 million jobs lost on Bush's watch.

Bush did not see the protesters; his motorcade pulled up to a rear entrance of the hotel.

Monday's fund-raising lunch in Charlotte was to make up for a Feb. 26 event that was postponed due to snow.

Though Bush's personal appearances at fund-raisers are winding down, his re-election campaign will continue to solicit and accept donations via direct mail and the Internet.

And Bush will remain active on the fund-raising circuit for other candidates and his party. On Thursday night, he is the star attraction at a Washington fund-raiser expected to bring in $5 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

On Friday, he was traveling to Greensboro, Ga., for a pair of private appearances to thank those who have raised the most donations for his campaign. The news media will be barred from those events, unlike most of Bush's fund-raisers.