GOP: President’s Dinner Will Be Well-Done

Posted June 9, 2008 at 5:58pm

During their weekly Conference meeting today, House Republicans will get another fundraising nudge from party leaders aiming for a goal-breaking take at next week’s President’s Dinner.

By most accounts, fundraising for the dinner is going well — better than the March dinner that benefited the National Republican Congressional Committee. In the runup to that dinner, some House leaders called the lack of Member participation shameful.

But after three special election losses this spring, participation and enthusiasm for the June 18 event has picked up among House Republicans despite the fact that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) will not attend the dinner because of a scheduling conflict.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll have one of the more successful President’s Dinners that we’ve had,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), being sure to add that he’s not counting his chickens before they hatch.

Hensarling, the chairman of the dinner in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) are expected to give their pitches to Members at this morning’s Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club.

“I’ve been very encouraged by Member participation. I’ve been very encouraged by Member transfers,” he said.

In addition to returning Members, leaders have leaned on retiring Members to transfer funds from their re-election accounts to help the party.

Hensarling said a number of retiring Members have heeded the call, and he specifically held out retiring Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.) as an example. McCrery, the ranking member on Ways and Means, has pledged to transfer $150,000 to the NRCC account.

“Just because they’re retiring doesn’t mean they’re any less committed to faith, family and freedom,” Hensarling said.

While fundraising and politics will be the topic du jour, one issue that is not expected to come up is the now-completed audit of NRCC finances in the wake of a fundraising scandal involving the committee’s former treasurer.

Cole is expected to brief the NRCC’s Executive Committee on the audit on Thursday, and will likely brief Audit Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Management Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) on the audit results today.

Former NRCC Treasurer Christopher Ward allegedly transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars from NRCC coffers to his personal bank accounts. The NRCC hired Covington & Burling to conduct a forensic audit of the committee’s books to determine the level of alleged fraud.

The annual President’s Dinner serves as the biggest fundraising event of the year for Congressional Republicans, and the proceeds are split between the GOP’s House and Senate campaign arms.

The dinner at the Washington Convention Center has a goal of raising $7 million for the NRCC and $12 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) is the Senate chairman of the dinner.

At the end of April, the NRCC had $6.7 million on hand. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had more than $45.2 million in the bank.

“Fundraising is on pace for the June dinner, but we still have a ways to go to meet our goal,” NRCC spokeswoman Julie Shutley said. “Rep. Hensarling and the team captains are encouraging more Members to get involved to ensure we have all the resources we need to beat Democrats in the fall.”