NY Times falsely reported McCain "began tapping into" Bush donor base on February 12

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller claimed that "Senator John McCain began tapping into President Bush's prized political donor base on Tuesday." In fact, four of the five "major McCain fundraisers" Bumiller mentioned in her article were either Bush Rangers or Pioneers -- people who raised $100,000 and $200,000, respectively -- during the 2004 election and signed up to raise money for McCain in 2007 or 2006.

In the first sentence of a February 13 New York Times article, reporter Elisabeth Bumiller claimed that "Senator John McCain [R-AZ] began tapping into President Bush's prized political donor base on Tuesday as his campaign announced that Mercer Reynolds, who helped Mr. Bush raise a record $273 million for the 2004 re-election campaign, would be the national finance co-chairman for Mr. McCain." Bumiller then described Reynolds' appointment as "a major sign that the Republican financial establishment was coalescing around Mr. McCain, who has often been at odds with his own party, particularly conservatives," and reported that "Mr. McCain's advisors said that Mr. Reynolds ... would be of enormous help in reaching out to the president's most valued contributors -- the Bush campaign called them Rangers and Pioneers." In fact, contrary to Bumiller's assertion that McCain "began tapping into President Bush's prized political donor base on Tuesday," four of the five "major McCain fundraisers" mentioned by Bumiller, Reynolds being the exception, were either Bush Rangers or Pioneers -- people who raised $100,000 and $200,000, respectively -- during the 2004 election and signed up to raise money for McCain in 2007 or 2006. Indeed, Bumiller herself reported later in the article that a "major McCain donor" was "one of numerous Bush supporters who signed up to raise money for Mr. McCain early last year."

Bumiller included a quote from "Wayne Berman, a major McCain fundraiser," and also reported that "[o]ther major fund-raisers for Mr. McCain include Henry R. Kravis, the financier; A. Gerald Perenchio, the former chairman and chief executive of Univision Communications, the nation's largest Spanish-language broadcaster; and Lewis M. Eisenberg, the former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey." All four of these "major fundraisers for Mr. McCain" were either Bush Pioneers or Rangers during the 2004 presidential campaign. According to Texans for Public Justice, described by its website as "an Austin-based non-profit that organized in 1997 to take on political corruption and corporate abuses in Texas," during the 2004 election cycle, Berman and his wife, Lea, and Eisenberg were Bush Rangers, while Kravis and Perenchio were Pioneers. And all four signed up to raise money for McCain well before February 2008. Bumiller reported that Berman "signed up to raise money for Mr. McCain early last year, when the senator was in his first incarnation as the Republican front-runner." Eisenberg and Perenchio are listed as "national finance co-chairmen" in a December 14, 2006, press release from the McCain campaign, and Kravis is listed as a member of McCain's "New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Finance Committee" in a December 19, 2006, McCain campaign press release.

Additionally, several media outlets reported on McCain's success in 2007 in recruiting former Bush fundraisers to support his campaign:

  • A March 26, 2007, article in The Hill reported that "[f]ifty-five of the president's biggest fundraisers -- those who have reached "Ranger" and "Pioneer" rank -- are backing McCain."
  • A May 23, 2007, Politico article -- headlined "McCain snags Bush's top fundraisers" -- reported that "McCain has wooed 66 former Bush Rangers and Pioneers to bundle checks for him, including more than a dozen prominent GOP lobbyists." The article also reported that "[t]he bundlers are tasked with raising $50,000, $100,000 or $200,000" for McCain's campaign.
  • A July 19, 2007, post on the ABC News blog Political Radar reported that McCain is "the most popular candidate among at least one group of heavy-duty fundraisers: the Bush Rangers," adding that "[f]orty-five of them gave a total of $235,800 to McCain."

The Times article was reprinted in full at msnbc.com, and headlined: "McCain taps Bush's prized political donor base; Seen as sign Republican financial establishment coalescing around McCain."

From the February 13 New York Times article:

Senator John McCain began tapping into President Bush's prized political donor base on Tuesday as his campaign announced that Mercer Reynolds, who helped Mr. Bush raise a record $273 million for the 2004 re-election campaign, would be the national finance co-chairman for Mr. McCain.

The development was a major sign that the Republican financial establishment was coalescing around Mr. McCain, who has often been at odds with his own party, particularly conservatives. It also signaled that Mr. Bush's political apparatus was moving into action for Mr. McCain, a onetime insurgent and competitor to Mr. Bush in 2000 who has had a difficult relationship with the president.

Mr. McCain's advisers said that Mr. Reynolds, a wealthy Cincinnati executive and a former ambassador to Switzerland, would be of enormous help in reaching out to the president's most valued contributors -- the Bush campaign called them Rangers and Pioneers -- on behalf of Mr. McCain.

"He knows them all, and hopefully we'll get them on board," said Charles Black, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain.

Advisers to both men said on Tuesday that the once-strained relationship between the president and Mr. McCain had improved and that Mr. Bush, who vouched for Mr. McCain as a "true conservative" in a television interview last weekend, would do whatever he was asked by his party's nominee.

[...]

In 2004, contributors to Mr. Bush who collected $100,000 in checks, otherwise known as bundlers, were called Pioneers. Those who collected $200,000 were called Rangers, after the Texas baseball team once partly owned by Mr. Bush.

Mr. McCain's advisers said that the senator's campaign would also be bestowing titles on its most prolific fund-raisers under an "incentive system," with privileges for those who raised the most money.

[...]

Mr. McCain's advisers insisted that the senator was not turning his back on a campaign finance system, which bans large "soft-money" donations to the political parties, that he helped put in place. "The senator's always been an advocate of contributions from individual Americans," said Wayne Berman, a major McCain fund-raiser. "It's those contributions that are supporting his presidential campaign."

Mr. Berman was one of numerous Bush supporters who signed up to raise money for Mr. McCain early last year, when the senator was in his first incarnation as the Republican front-runner. But the campaign fell far short of its $100 million fund-raising target and by last summer had nearly collapsed in debt and recriminations. In November Mr. McCain took out a $3 million loan to keep the race alive through New Hampshire. His primary victory there on Jan. 8 opened wallets all over the country. Since then he has held 20 fund-raisers and collected more than $12 million.

Other major fund-raisers for Mr. McCain include Henry R. Kravis, the financier; A. Gerald Perenchio, the former chairman and chief executive of Univision Communications, the nation's largest Spanish-language broadcaster; and Lewis M. Eisenberg, the former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

This week and next Mr. McCain's advisers are planning strategy meetings to set new money targets, set a fund-raising schedule and discuss how they might use Mr. Bush at fund-raising events. They are also working on hiring staff members and setting up "McCain for president" offices around the country.

"We have to talk about the short term and the long term," Mr. Black said. "Basically you're changing from a primary campaign that runs on fumes and volunteers to a national campaign."

Posted In
Elections, Campaign Finance
Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Person
Elisabeth Bumiller
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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