WASHINGTON, July 11 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush will woo Minnesota Republican donors Thursday with nearly 100 of them paying $10,000 per person to have their picture taken with the commander-in-chief as he raises campaign funds for two key Republican candidates.
Bush is in the Twin Cities where he is expected to raise campaign funds for St. Paul Mayor and Republican Senate candidate Norm Coleman, and U.S. House of Representatives candidate John Kline during a dinner at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.
The president's foray into the Minnesota is one of a long list of Republican fundraising hops around the country he's had undertaken in recent months. Those junkets have been typically tied to his promotion to some item on his domestic agenda -- in this case prescription drugs for seniors.
Bush is paying particular attention to Minnesota in hopes of tipping the scales of the closely divided Senate in the GOP's favor after the 2002 elections. This is Bush's fourth visit to the state to raise money for the contested Senate seat, according to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Democrat Sen. Paul Wellstone announced in January he would seek a third term. Wellstone is considered very liberal in the Senate and represents a state where Bush came within two percentage points of Gore in the 2000 presidential elections.
Wellstone faces former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, a former Democrat who switched parties and got the GOP's gubernatorial nomination in 1998 and was defeated by Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Wellstone campaign officials said they hoped the aggressive fundraising by Bush for Coleman might turn against the GOP in the wake of the mushrooming accounting scandal.
"Coleman has taken a lot of money from big corporations and the president is under fire right now on his response to the recent scandals," said Wellstone campaign spokesman Jim Farrell. "I think people will ask who will be a real watchdog for pensions and consumers."
In Washington, Democratic National Committee spokesman Bill Buck told United Press International that Bush's attention would be better directed towards concerns affecting America's families.
"President Bush has raised about $100 million so far this year. We feel his time would be better spent working with Democrats to solve problems of concern to families," said Buck.
Buck said Bush's fundraising trips are becoming an "expensive proposition" for U.S. taxpayers at a time when he has driven record federal budget surpluses back into deficits.
Buck pointed to the restart of the national "debt clock" one block away from Times Square in New York City. A real estate mogul restarted the clock as federal budget deficits are once again rising. The billboard-sized sign had been dark for nearly two years as the government experienced record federal budget surpluses.