WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) has recruited his re-election campaign's fund-raising chief and two of his other top money men to help collect millions for January inaugural (search) festivities.
Bush-Cheney campaign finance chairman Mercer Reynolds and Bush "Rangers" Brad Freeman and William DeWitt, who each raised more than $200,000 for Bush's re-election effort, will serve as co-chairmen of Bush's inaugural fund-raising committee. Texas businesswoman Jeanne Phillips, a former ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; DeWitt's wife Kathy; and Reynolds' wife Gabrielle are also committee co-chairs.
The inauguration is Jan. 20. The fund-raising role marks a return engagement for all the committee co-chairs.
In addition to helping Bush raise a record $270 million for his re-election campaign, William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds, partners in a Cincinnati-based investment firm, and Freeman, a California venture capitalist, were co-chairmen of Bush's 2001 inaugural committee. Kathy DeWitt and Gabrielle Reynolds were also co-chairs, and Phillips was the executive director.
The 2001 effort raised about $40 million, much of it in six-figure contributions from corporations; Freeman, William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds each donated $100,000.
All three men are longtime Bush friends and wealthy businessmen who raised money for Bush's first presidential campaign, served in his first administration and have stayed overnight at the White House.
Reynolds and DeWitt were partners with Bush in the Texas Rangers baseball team.
Bush named Reynolds ambassador to Switzerland in his first term — a post Reynolds left to lead Bush's 2004 fund-raising effort — and is reported to be considering him to succeed Donald Evans as Commerce secretary. In September, Bush nominated Gabrielle Reynolds to a seat on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts board of trustees, and last year included her in a U.S. delegation sent to Rome for Pope John Paul II's 25th anniversary.
Last April, Mercer Reynolds made his family's Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga., available for a private Bush "thank you" dinner for top campaign fund-raisers. In June, DeWitt, lead owner of the St. Louis Cardinals, opened the grounds of his suburban Cincinnati mansion for a Republican Party fund-raiser headlined by Bush that raised $2.5 million.
Freeman was Bush's 2004 California finance chairman.
Bush has appointed DeWitt to his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, Kathy DeWitt to the National Council on the Arts and Freeman to the Commission on White House Fellowships. Freeman's brother, North Dakota attorney Russell Freeman, is also a major Bush fund-raiser and was chosen by Bush to serve as ambassador to Belize.
In addition to their fund raising for Bush, DeWitt and Brad Freeman earned the title "Super Ranger" this year by collecting at least $300,000 each for the Republican National Committee.
The inaugural committee can collect unlimited contributions from any source except foreigners.
The committee will help finance nearly a week's worth of inaugural festivities, capped by an evening of formal balls. There were at least eight inaugural balls in 2001, including a "Black Tie and Boots" gala celebrating Bush's home state of Texas.
In addition, taxpayers are kicking in at least $2.8 million for inaugural costs.
Other members of Bush's inaugural committee include:
—Greg Jenkins, deputy assistant to Bush and director of the president's advance team, who will serve as the committee's executive director.
—Finance committee members Nancy and Rich Kinder and Roger and Patty Williams, all of Texas; Al and Dawn Hoffman of Florida; Dawn and Roland Arnall and Sue Ellen and Joe Canizaro of California; Marcie and Bruce Benson of Colorado; Jim and Germaine Culbertson of North Carolina; Sam and Marilyn Fox of Missouri; and Dwight and Martha Schar of Virginia. Several were Bush Rangers in the 2004 campaign.