By
CNBC
updated 8/8/2003 9:56:03 AM ET 2003-08-08T13:56:03

The Bush re-election campaign has recruited a number of highly-placed and well-connected businesspeople to raise money, and early estimates indicate the president is well on his way to raising more money than any other politician in history.

WITH OVER A YEAR to go before the election, President Bush has raised a boat load of campaign cash — more than all the democratic candidates combined.

Brad Freeman of Freeman Spogli & Co is a member of an elite group dubbed the “rangers” — super-fundraisers who have rounded up big bucks for Bush.

“Ranger status is raising $200,000, which is double pioneer status, which is $100,000,” Freeman said.

The Los Angeles investment firm founder proudly displays Bush mementos tacked to his office wall, which is proof of his insider status and fundraising prowess.

Who does he call for donations?

“Everyone I know. If they are 18 or over and the check clears,” he said.

As of June 30, Bush raised $34 million — compared with $31 million raised by the nine Democrats vying to oust him in 2004 — much of it from individual contributions of a maximum of $2,000.

The core of Bush’s fundraising strategy is a relatively small number of well-heeled, well-connected donors — proudly listed on the Bush campaign Web site — who round up contributions from employees, colleges, business contacts and clients.

The list includes people like Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal, AIG Insurance magnate Maurice Greenberg, and New York Jets owner Robert Johnson IV.

“These are competitive people who feel the competitive urge to beat the other CEO,” said Steven Hess of the Brookings Institution.

The battle for contributions intensifies prior to big fundraising dinners.

“I was contacted by people who I frankly hadn’t heard from in years, all of whom asked if I was going and could I please put their number down on the form,” said GOP Political Consultant Rich Galen.

Freeman says that rivalry helps rangers rustle up the bucks.

“It’s very healthy — people are anxious to become pioneers or rangers and they know several people will be going after the same logical suspects.”

In return for their efforts, rangers and pioneers get access, and the most precious of commodities — face time — with Bush.

This weekend, president and Mrs. Bush host a big get-together for top fundraisers near his ranch in Texas.

The Bush campaign plans to raise at least $170 million all together, and there is still 15 months to go before election day.

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