Thursday, May 12, 2005

White House sleepovers included donors, friends


White House sleepovers included donors, friends
By Judy Keen and Jim Drinkard, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — About a third of the 152 adult guests who slept at the White House or Camp David last year were fundraisers or donors to President Bush's campaigns, but at least half of those also are family or old friends.

The guest lists, released Wednesday by the White House at the request of USA TODAY and the Associated Press, also include many family members, administration officials and politicians. The only non-political celebrity is golfer Ben Crenshaw, a Bush friend and donor who spent the night at the White House with his wife, Julie.

The guest list at Camp David was the most exclusive. The 64 people who stayed there were family, staffers or old friends. The White House releases guest lists about once a year. Because Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas, is private property, the White House does not share the names of his guests there.

Larry Noble of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan watchdog group, said that while the practice of inviting donors to spend the night at the White House and the presidential retreat isn't new, it doesn't look any better than when it sparked a scandal during the Clinton administration.

"It sounds like to a certain degree the White House and Camp David are being used as they have been for quite a while — as a way to reward fundraisers and big givers," Noble said. "It's similar to what we saw in the Clinton White House," when Clinton was attacked for allegedly trading White House sleepovers for campaign donations.

"These are members of the president's family and people he considers friends, many of them longtime friends that go back three or four decades," Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said. "Many of those are also people that actively supported him in the campaign."

Among the guests:

•People who raised at least $100,000 for Bush's campaigns, including California state Sen. Jim Brulte, Boston Concessions Group CEO Joseph O'Donnell and Alice Carrington, a San Antonio art dealer who was named to the Committee on Arts and the Humanities.

•Fundraisers who also are old friends, including Roland Betts, chairman of Chelsea Piers in New York; California venture capitalist Brad Freeman and Joe O'Neill, a Midland, Texas, businessman who introduced Bush to his wife Laura.

•Politicians, including governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, George Pataki of New York, Rick Perry of Texas and James Douglas of Vermont.

•Family, including former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara; brothers Marvin Bush, Neil Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; sister Doro Bush Koch; and Laura Bush's mother, Jenna Welch.

•Aides, including speechwriter Michael Gerson, then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, then-communications director Dan Bartlett and press secretary Scott McClellan, all at Camp David.

•At least seven of Laura Bush's classmates at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and classmates of the president at Yale and Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.