- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002

Republican fund-raisers, relatives and golfer Ben Crenshaw are among dozens of White House overnight guests that President Bush and first lady Laura Bush have played host to since moving in last year.
The Bushes' roughly 160 guests include at least six of Mr. Bush's biggest fund-raisers and their families. White House spokeswoman Anne Womack said she didn't know whether donors, or any other Bush guests, have slept in the Lincoln Bedroom.
"They sleep in a variety of guest rooms in the White House," Miss Womack said. "The president and Mrs. Bush enjoy spending time with their friends and family, and have invited friends and family to stay as guests in the White House."
The issue of White House sleepovers arose in the Clinton administration when it was learned that the Democratic Party was rewarding big donors with overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom.
A half-dozen Bush donors and fund-raisers known as "pioneers" are among the guests on a list released late yesterday by the White House. Each raised at least $100,000 for Mr. Bush's 2000 campaign, helping him take in a record $100 million for the primary.
They include Roland Betts, a Yale classmate of Mr. Bush and a former partner of his in the Texas Rangers baseball team; venture capitalist and Republican National Committee fund-raiser Brad Freeman; Texas rancher and state Sen. Teel Bivins; Boston businessman Joe O'Donnell; and Joe O'Neill of Midland, Texas, an oilman and childhood friend of Mr. Bush credited with introducing him to Laura Bush.
Miss Womack said the Bush fund-raisers are also longtime friends of the Bushes.
Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group, said that whether the Bushes are letting contributors stay in the Lincoln Bedroom "matters symbolically," regardless of whether the donors are also family friends.
"The Republicans made a very big deal about it during the Clinton administration," Mr. Noble said. "In this whole business, the whole issue is perception."
The halting of White House tours for the public since the September 11 attacks might present a new issue for the Bushes, he said. Only children's groups, veterans and guests of members of Congress are allowed on tours.
"The American public's access to the White House has been severely restricted," Mr. Noble said. "So you may have an increased perception problem if in fact large contributors are getting access to the White House."
Mr. Bush has said he wouldn't use overnight invitations to the White House in any quid pro quo with donors.
"There's something sacred about the Lincoln Bedroom," Mr. Bush told the Associated Press in an interview last year.
In contrast with the star-studded guest list Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton compiled Barbra Streisand and director Steven Spielberg, and actors Jane Fonda and Tom Hanks no members of the Hollywood elite have stayed overnight in the Bush White House.
But there are some famous names in the crowd, including Mr. Crenshaw, a Bush family friend from Austin, Texas; country music performer Larry Gatlin; and Texas musician and author Kinky Friedman. Interior designer Ken Blasingame, who decorated the Bushes' private quarters in the Texas governor's mansion and the White House and their ranch in Crawford, Texas, has also been a guest.
Republican governors, including Pennsylvania's Tom Ridge, now Bush's chief adviser on domestic security; Jane Dee Hull of Arizona; George E. Pataki of New York and Michigan's John Engler have also been guests.

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