WASHINGTON – President Bush helped the Republican National Committee (search) raise $15 million at its annual spring gala Tuesday night and told the party faithful he plans to take on the tax code, pension plans and Social Security in his second term.
All three were created to meet the needs of people in an earlier time, Bush said during a 25-minute speech.
"I believe the side of reform is going to prevail," the president said.
About 1,500 people stood shoulder to shoulder to hear Bush speak in a basement ballroom at the Grand Hyatt Hotel (search) in downtown Washington. Many gave more than the $1,500 ticket price, helping the RNC raise about $1 million more than it did at its non-election year gala in 2003.
Last year's dinner, which took place as Bush sought re-election, raised a record $38.5 million.
The gala used to be a black-tie affair with a formal dinner. But starting in 2003, when party committees could no longer accept big corporate checks and had to start relying on individual donations of up to $25,000 a year per donor, the RNC has sought to cut the overhead for its annual event.
Donors stood and dined buffet-style, rising on tiptoe to see the president over the heads of others in the packed ballroom. Business attire was the suggested dress.
Bush referred to the amenities, or lack thereof, in his opening remarks. "Thanks for coming. Please be seated," he said to laughter.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton (search), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and other GOP officials attended. Some donors met with high-ranking Republicans in policy briefings before the event.
Rather than hold onto its contributions for the 2006 elections, the RNC has already starting tapping them for its voter registration efforts and other party-building activities.
As of April, according to the most recent figures available, the RNC had $26 million in the bank, compared with about $7 million for the Democratic National Committee.