Asbury Park Press

Cheney At Rumson Picnic; Donors Fork Over $900,000

Asbury Park Press — Tuesday, July 8, 2003


RUMSON — Vice President Dick Cheney dropped by the West River Road home of a top Republican fund-raiser yesterday for a $2,000-a-plate barbecue that a campaign spokeswoman said netted $900,000 for the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.

Lewis M. Eisenberg, former Republican National Committee finance chairman and the co-chairman of the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, and his wife, Judy, played host to about 350 donors at the evening party at their home.

During his 90-minute stay, Cheney first conducted a private roundtable discussion with about 15 of the biggest donors, then gave a 20-minute speech touching on the economy and national security. Finally, he mingled among a crowd that dined on barbecued meats, among other dishes, said Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, who attended.

The fund-raiser was attended by new Monmouth University President Paul G. Gaffney II, state Senate co-President John O. Bennett III and state Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr., both R-Monmouth, state Assembly Majority Leader Paul DiGaetano, R-Passaic, and Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, R-Morris, among other state politicians and GOP donors, Azzolina said.

Azzolina said Cheney was a "dynamic individual and a strong leader" who was also "friendly," making a joke about the 20-20 split in the state Senate: "If you need any advice, I'll come down and give you a hand. I'm used to that," Azzolina quoted Cheney.

Kyrillos, who is the Republican state chairman, said the vice president also spoke of this coming November's legislative races.

"I appreciated that he brought up our important legislative elections," Kyrillos said. "He and the president want to be supportive of our efforts here and urged people to be mindful of the election."

The vice president flew into Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station and traveled the Garden State Parkway yesterday afternoon. He was to return to Washington before dark, Navy officials said.

Local police blocked off portions of River Road from Buena Vista Avenue to Third Street in anticipation of his arrival.

About 50 protesters from New Jersey Citizen Action, bearing signs regarding Cheney's connection to Halliburton Co., a company given reconstruction contracts for postwar Iraq, and chanting "Feed the Children, Not the Pentagon" stood on West River Road near Bellevue Avenue.

One protester was dressed in a skunk costume to illustrate that proposed Medicare reforms that would include prescription drug plans for seniors "stink," said Bridget Devane, an organizer for Citizen Action, a watchdog coalition.

"If they do pass a prescription drug plan, we want them to guarantee that it will be an affordable one," Devane said. "The current plans will force people into HMOs, will be too costly and there isn't a guaranteed set benefit."

The Rumson event was only the fifth fund-raiser at which Cheney had appeared for the coming campaign, said Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for Bush-Cheney '04. As of June 30, Bush-Cheney '04 had received $34.2 million in donations, Schmitt said.

His other personal appearances have been in Richmond, Va.; Boston; Akron, Ohio, and Grand Rapids, Mich., Schmitt said.

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