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Big GOP Donors Pick Sides

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has two Washington, D.C.-area fundraisers scheduled for Sept. 29 and Oct. 25.

Presidential hopefuls Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have brought their fight for the GOP nomination to K Street, and they will hold back-to-back fundraisers next week aimed at Beltway-area donors.

After months of sitting on the sidelines, the sought-after Washington, D.C., lawyers and lobbyists who’ve helped pull in the big money for past presidential races are finally starting to pick favorites.

The Perry-Romney matchup on K Street mirrors the larger primary contest, with Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, drawing heavily on ex-aides to and loyalists of President George W. Bush. Perry, the governor of Texas, is leaning in part on his Lone Star State allies and on core conservatives.

The candidates, who are emerging as the GOP primary frontrunners, will hold two Washington-area fundraisers apiece in the coming weeks. Perry’s kickoff events, slated for Tuesday, are being hosted by more than two dozen prominent GOP donors who will give $10,000 apiece. The two events, which will take place at the Willard Hotel and at the home of Mary Ourisman, the former U.S. ambassador to the Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, could net Perry half a million dollars in one day.

“Perry is not a well-traveled D.C. figure, so these events have a dual purpose,” one GOP organizer said. “Raising money, of course. But also, they are designed to introduce the governor to a broader D.C. community.”

Event hosts include Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, a top bundler for both Bush and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the GOP presidential nominee in 2008.

Romney’s two Washington-area fundraisers are scheduled for Sept. 29 and Oct. 25, at the Bethesda North Marriott in Maryland and at the Northern Virginia home of Bobbie and William Kilberg. She’s a former Bush aide who heads the Northern Virginia Technology Council, and he’s a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Another partner at that firm, Howard Adler, is also playing host.

Romney’s bench is heavy with ex-Bush administration officials, including Wayne Berman, a former bundler for both Bush and McCain who was assistant secretary of Commerce for policy and is now chairman of Ogilvy Government Relations. A trio of Bush loyalists from Dutko Grayling is also helping Romney: Ron Kaufman, chairman of the firm’s executive committee and a former top adviser in the Bush White House, and managing partners Brad Card and former Bush aide David Beightol.

“Having Gov. Perry in the race has helped sharpen some people’s minds,” Beightol said. “People who had been sitting on the sidelines are ready to get in now.”

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