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McCain Opens His Fundraisers to the Press

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain and wife Cindy walk into Shockoe Espresso & Roastery in Richmond, Va. on Monday June 9, 2008. McCain was in town for a fund-raising appearance. (Associated Press)

By Michael D. Shear
RICHMOND -- John McCain's campaign likes to brag that he is the best free-media candidate ever, a master at getting the press to pay attention without spending a lot of money.

So how to grab the spotlight when all you're doing is a bunch of fundraisers?

Let the press in.

For months, McCain has blocked access to his fundraisers, shuttling reporters and TV cameras to nearby hotels while holding closed-door luncheons with donors. That policy persisted, even as his
rivals in the Democratic party allowed some limited access to their fundraisers.

But now, with the general election engaged, the campaign can't allow a day to go by without trying to get into the news. Today's schedule, with several fundraisers, had no public events that could
grab attention.

But that's set to change. According to the campaign, any fundraiser where McCain gives remarks will now be open to a press "pool," a small group of journalists (picked on a rotating basis) who report back to their colleagues about what happened.

At today's fundraiser in Richmond, which was a joint event with the Republican National Committee's Victory operation, McCain and the party raised about $800,000, aides said.

McCain gathered first in a small function room with about 40 movers and shakers in the Richmond Republican scene. He mingled in a group that included former Lt. Gov. John Hager, former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, Del. Chris Saxman, current Attorney General Bob McDonnell, former Sen. Walter Stosch, Rep. Eric Cantor, and former Vietnam POW Paul Galanti, a man whom McCain called a "dear and beloved friend from long ago and far away -- an American hero."

Later, at a larger luncheon in front of about 240 people, McCain gave a standard stump speech, touching on his offer to hold joint town hall meetings with Sen. Barack Obama and pledge not to take Virginia for granted in the general election.

"I will be here. I will be here," he said to applause.

McCain's decision to open his fundraiser takes away an issue for Obama, whose fundraisers have been open to pool coverage for some time. It was also important for McCain, who made his reputation on his fight to reform the campaign finance system, not to appear to be the
more secretive of the two candidates, GOP strategists said.

But it also highlights the difference between the two fundraising operations. McCain's schedule is packed with gatherings of wealthy donors in every city he visits. Obama, by contrast, has to date held relatively few such events, preferring to raise money on the Internet, where he has been very successful.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 9, 2008; 3:08 PM ET
Categories:  John McCain  
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