Saturday, May 31, 2008

Former Bush donors now giving to Obama

WASHINGTON -- Beverly Fanning is among the campaign donors who'll be joining President Bush at a gala at Washington's Ford's Theater Sunday night, but she says that won't dissuade her from her current passion: volunteering for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

She isn't the only convert. A McClatchy computer analysis, incomplete due to the difficulty matching data from various campaign finance reports, found that hundreds of people who gave at least $200 to Bush's 2004 campaign have donated to Obama.

Among them are Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the daughter of the late GOP President Richard Nixon and wife of late GOP President Dwight Eisenhower's grandson; Connie Ballmer, the wife of Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer; Ritchie Scaife, the estranged wife of conservative tycoon Richard Mellon Scaife and boxing promoter Don King.

Many of the donors are likely ''moderate Republicans or independents who are dissatisfied with the direction of the country now and are looking for change,'' said Anthony Corrado, a government professor at Colby College in Maine who specializes in campaign finance.

''There is a large bloc of Republicans, particularly economic conservatives, who just feel that the Republican Party in Washington completely let them down'' by failing to control spending and address other problems, Corrado said. ``The Republicans have really given these donors no reason to give.''

Lawyer Allen Larson of Yarmouthport, Mass., a political independent, contributed $2,000 to Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, but said he gave Obama the maximum $2,300 in hopes he can use his ''unique skills'' to rebuild fractured foreign alliances.

Larson said he's ''not anti-Iraq war,'' but he said that Bush promised to bring people together when he ran for president and has failed to do so, while Obama has demonstrated in his campaign ``that he has the ability to connect in ways that no other candidate can.''

While they represent a tiny slice of Bush's 2004 donors, he said, a shift of longtime Republicans committed enough to write checks reflects ''a real strain'' in the GOP.

Detroit attorney Michael Lavoie, a moderate Republican who backed Bush in 2000 and 2004 with $3,000, said he donated to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time this year because Obama offers ''the greatest hope for healing divisions'' at home and abroad............

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