White House Defends Bush's Fund Raising; Disputes Reports New Law Bars Such Action

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DALLAS - The White House yesterday disputed media reports that fund-raising activities President Bush is conducting this week would violate a new federal campaign law he signed Wednesday.

While the law does not take effect until Nov. 6 - the day after this year's congressional elections - several newspapers, including the New York Times, reported the president's efforts in raising $2.5 million on Wednesday for Republican candidates would be forbidden by the new law.

"The statement in the story is incorrect because it didn't apply," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe. In fact, he said, the new law does not spell out specific parameters, which will be set by the Federal Election Commission when the law takes effect.

The New York Times said: "Of the total $2.5 million raised at the two events today, the White House said, $500,000 was in unlimited 'soft money' donations to the state Republican parties, contributions that are restricted by the new law."

Mr. Johndroe said that is inaccurate because the new law contains no such specifics for state party collection of soft money. Under the new law, however, soft-money collection by national parties will be banned.

The White House said the president's fund-raising efforts are legal under current law and would be legal under the new law.

The Bush administration appears to be strictly adhering to current laws. At a fund-raiser yesterday for Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, who is seeking to keep in Republican hands the Senate seat being vacated this year by Phil Gramm, a card carried this pledge - and warning - for donors: "I agree to raise $10,000 and give a personal contribution up to the legal limit of $1,000 a person and $2,000 a couple."

Mr. Bush has hit three fund-raisers in the past two days, raising $3.5 million for Senate candidates in South Carolina, Georgia and Texas. The president said while he sees the new law as useful, if flawed, he will not change fund-raising strategy while Democrats continue collecting money under the current laws.

"I'm not going to lay down my arms. I'm going to participate in the rules of the system," Mr. Bush said.

The president's appearance at the Dallas event raised $1.8 million for Mr. Cornyn's campaign, nearly all of it in hard money, which are donations directly from individuals to candidates. …