HIGHTOWER: Bush's Bundlers

"Behind every check, there's a willing heart," says Don Evans, chief fund-raiser for George W. Bush. "To me, it's not a check, it's a person, someone who cares about this great country."The Bush campaign is raising money faster than a John Deere bales hay, but Bush claims that these are not special interests, just ordinary people who are experiencing a Hallmark moment, opening up their hearts and their checkbooks because they so love this great country.Yeah, "ordinary people" like Kenneth Lay, CEO of the energy giant Enron; Fred Webber, head of the Chemical Manufacturers Association; and Bill Paxson, former New York congressman who's now a Washington lobbyist for the superpowered firm of Akin Gump. These are but a few of Bush's "Pioneers" -- about 400 corporate executives, lobbyists, and Republican fat cats who have pledged to collect at least $100,000 each to help put him in the White House, where he could do a world of good for them and/or their clients.Since, technically, a person can give no more than $1,000 to a presidential primary candidate, those who want to have real influence with Shrub volunteer to join his $100,000-plus "Pioneer" clan, then they go around collecting up $1,000 checks from other executives in their company, from their firms' client lists, from their country club pals, and elsewhere. This is called "bundling," for it lets the "Pioneers" get credit for having delivered a bundle of cash to The Man, and it buys them an insider seat at the policy table. Bush's staff keeps meticulous records through an internal coding system that tracks each check the Pioneers are bringing home to Shrub: "Anybody who is a volunteer fund-raiser has a number," concedes a campaign staffer. "They are not Pioneers until they raise $100,000."This is Jim Hightower saying ... of the record-setting $37 million that Bush has raised so far, 40 percent of it has come from these "Pioneers." It's the buying of the Bush presidency.

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