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Bush Raises Money for Minnesotan

July 11, 2002

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)_ President Bush raised more money Thursday for Norm Coleman, the Republican in Minnesota’s hard-fought Senate contest, but Democrats used the occasion to charge both politicians are too cozy with big business.

Bush, looking to counter the criticism, renewed his demand for high ethical standards from corporate executives and praised Coleman’s record combatting corporate corruption during his 17 years in the state attorney general’s office. ``Norm’s got a record of prosecuting white-collar crime,″ Bush said. ``Corporate America must be responsible for its behavior.″

Bush also came to prod Congress toward his point of view on helping older Americans get prescription drugs. He addressed hundreds of health care workers in a hotel ballroom on a day when legislation to do just that was advancing in the Senate.

``The key is to make sure that we advance medicine in a way that makes sure our citizens get access to new drugs, new lifesaving drugs, unbelievably innovative drugs that have changed medicine as we know it,″ Bush said.

``And it starts with making sure our seniors have got a guarantee of a prescription drug coverage in Medicare,″ he said.

The president was plugging his domestic agenda on a day when he was shadowed by fresh reports on his record as a businessman in the 1980s.

On Tuesday, in a speech to business leaders on corporate corruption, Bush called on companies to halt the practice of lending money to corporate officers and directors. But Bush himself took loans of $180,000 from a Texas oil company where he was a director in the 1980s.

Bush did not address the subject Thursday; aides kept him well out of range of journalists. In the Coleman fund-raiser, Bush renewed his broader call for ethics in corporate accounting. ``We expect balance sheets to be fair and open, we expect transparency,″ he said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan did not dispute that Bush’s challenge to companies Tuesday contradicted his own actions.

Recent corporate accounting scandals justified Bush’s call this week for an end to such loans, McClellan said. ``Sometimes when a legal practice _ when abuses start to emerge, that’s when you look at the need for reform,″ McClellan said.

Aides to Sen. Paul Wellstone, the Democrat whom Coleman is trying to unseat, seized on the stories to charge that Bush and Coleman are both too cozy with corporate America.

Two days in a row this week, Coleman has returned campaign donations from major corporations plagued by accounting scandals _ Global Crossing and WorldCom.

The $3,000 he returned was pocket change compared with the more than $300,000 Bush helped Coleman bring in Thursday night. Another $300,000 went to the GOP, which will probably channel some of it back to Coleman.

Bush helped raise $2 million in March for Coleman _ a Democrat-turned-Republican who was the White House’s hand-picked Senate candidate. Coleman was co-chair of former President Clinton’s re-election campaign in Minnesota in 1996, and backed Wellstone that year. He then switched parties and was a Bush campaign chairman in 2000.

Wellstone’s campaign communications director, Jim Farrell, said the money Bush raised Thursday would surely help Coleman in what is projected to be Minnesota’s most expensive political contest ever.

``It’s hard to go up against the president in fund raising,″ Farrell said.

But, he said, between the decade-old stories dogging Bush on his corporate past, and Coleman returning corporate donations, the presidential visit could hurt Coleman.

Coleman works for a legal and lobbying firm that lists many corporations as clients. His list of political donors is heavy with businessmen and corporate political action committees.

``This race may come down to a question of who will be a real watchdog for pensions and investors and consumers, in which case, appearing with Bush at this time may hurt him in the state,″ Farrell said.

The Coleman campaign did not respond directly to the charge that he cannot be a watchdog but reiterated its accusation that Wellstone is ``a hypocrite″ because he took $2,000 from a former Global Crossing chief executive, Leo Hindery, whose trading in the company’s stock through a private partnership was not reported publicly.

Farrell said Wellstone has not received and will not accept donations from individuals or political action committees tied to companies charged with accounting misdeeds. Farrell defended the Hindery donation by pointing out that Hindery left Global Crossing in October 2000, before the company’s accounting scandal came to light.

Another $300,000 Thursday went to congressional candidate John Kline, a retired Marine who is facing off for a third time against Democratic Rep. Bill Luther.

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