The George W. Bush re-election effort is employing citizens to help raise funds for the campaign. Called Pioneers and Rangers, these people agree to raise a set amount of money through their own contacts. The idea for the fund-raising resulted from campaign finance reform that limits the amount of money individuals can donate to a campaign. McLean and its nearby communities have nine Pioneers or Rangers.
Pioneers raise at least $100,000 and Rangers raise $200,000 each. New this year is the Super Ranger designation that has an individual raise $200,000, plus another $300,000 for the Republican National Committee (RNC). Raising those sums is made more challenging by the donation limits. There is a $1,000 limit from individuals and $5,000 from businesses. Fund-raising for the RNC has a different limit of $25,000 per individual.
Democrats employ a similar system with heavy fund-raisers being coined 527’s, after their tax code designation.
Congress changed the rules on how campaign contributions could be collected in the hopes of changing the influence money had in electing a president in the United States.
Virginia ranks in the Top 10 fund-raising states for the Bush re-election campaign. David Hunt, the chairman of the Dranesville District Fairfax County Republican Committee, said “McLean has always been a player in raising money for the party.” He attributes the willingness of many in the community to work on election campaigns with its close proximity to Washington, D.C., and the large number of lawyers in the area, as well as the community's affluence.
“There’s a good economy in Northern Virginia. It’s a good place for politicians to count on,” said Hunt.
THE PIONEERS AND RANGERS in the area tend to be lobbyists and lawyers. According to Craig McDonald with the non-partisan research and advocacy group Texans for Public Justice, there are advantages to people in those professions raising funds for the campaign. “A good percentage of Pioneers from 2000 have received appointments. Different pioneers are in it for different things. Many lobbyists want access to the president and people in the government. Business owners may be in it for ideological reasons,” said McDonald. “An individual can get a lot of clout this way. It certainly buys recognition in the Bush camp,” said McDonald.
According to Texans for Political Justice statistics, in the 2000 campaign 104 Pioneers, roughly 40 percent of the total number of Pioneers, ended up with a job or an appointment as a result of their fund-raising efforts.
McDonald said that typically a Pioneer can expect to get, “appointments, sleepovers and access to the White House and the federal government.” There is nothing amiss with the fund-raising technique; in fact both parties do it. “Bush does it and Kerry does it. Bush just does it better,” said McDonald. “He smashed all records in the history of the world when he raised $110 million in 2000,” McDonald said. “Bush has never had a problem raising money,” said Hunt.
Several local Pioneers were back this year after raising funds for the previous campaign. Many have received appointments by Bush.
Dwight C. Schar, the chairman and CEO of NVR Homes, was a Pioneer in the last election and a Ranger in this campaign. He has received a Bush appointment.
Bobbie and William Green Kilberg, of McLean are both lawyers with Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher. In 2000 they were Pioneers and in 2004 Rangers. A Bush appointment was received after the first campaign.
Michael Govan, a McLean resident and lobbyist with Legacy Group, was a Major League Pioneer in 2004.
John Engler, of McLean, is a lobbyist who has been a White House sleep over guest.
Ziad Ojakli of Falls Church, the vice president of Corporate Affairs for Ford Motor Corporation, reached Pioneer status this year.
Jerry Pierce, another Bush appointee, from Falls Church, is a Pioneer.
Mary Beth Savary-Taylor from Vienna is a lobbyist and the vice president of government relations with the American Hospital Association. She’s also a Pioneer.
John Patrick Schmitz, a lobbyist from McLean, is another local Pioneer.
“Generally, they don’t really like talking about it,” said McDonald of the Pioneer's fund-raising efforts. Just one Pioneer contact responded to inquiries. Schar said only, “The record is the record.”
Hunt said, “There is no guarantee of an appointment. Many get them but you do have to be qualified. I’ve known Pioneers who wanted them that didn’t get one.”
Sean Flannigan, a Republican in McLean, said, “This is Washington. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that things are done that way. It’s not what you know, you know.”
McDonald said the fund-raising is not easy, given the limitations on the amount that can be collected from one source. “They work their Rolodex and generally, their place of business,” said McDonald.
Hunt said McLean residents and businesses can be friendly fund-raising sites. “In general, the McLean community is very active at the local, state and federal levels. On a national level we are doing well. The business community here has been very kind to Republicans and very supportive,” said Hunt.