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Fashion Helps Fill Coffers As Bush Aims for $200M And Dean Leads the Dems

Industry executives are doing their part to fill presidential campaign coffers - and their loyalties are as divided as the Democratic field.

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WASHINGTON — Industry executives are doing their part to fill presidential campaign coffers in an election season that’s entering high gear — and their loyalties are as divided as the Democratic field.

Although physician and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean appears to have a lead track to the Democratic presidential nomination, political forecasters and party loyalists aren’t ready to close ranks behind him. As for President Bush’s chances of being re-upped on Election Day, Nov. 2, there’s also reluctance, even among the GOP, to give the incumbent an all-out edge.

“Anything could happen,” said Larry Sabato, a respected political forecaster and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “We don’t know the state of the economy one year from today or the state of the war in Iraq. Only a fool would predict this.”

However, there’s substantial retail industry support for the president, with officials from Limited Brands and Target Corp. providing the industry’s largest per-company-executive show of financial support for Bush this election cycle, according to the latest Federal Election Commission records for the third quarter.

Longtime Republican booster Leslie Wexner, chief executive officer and chairman of Limited Brands, is joined by Bruce Soll, the apparel retailer’s senior vice president and general counsel, in giving Bush $2,000, the maximum individual contribution for a primary election. Timothy Faber, Limited’s vice president for mergers and acquisitions, gave $250.

Contributions like these, although seemingly small, are the building blocks of campaign war chests, and the president’s is bulging, with $84.6 million through the third quarter. By Election Day, Bush expects to amass close to $200 million, and he can count on a traditionally strong GOP base among business executives to help meet that goal.

Five front-office executives at Target Corp., including chairman and ceo Robert Ulrich, have each given Bush $2,000. Other Bush backers from Target are vice chairman Gerald Storch, executive vice presidents Todd Blackwell and Michael Francis and chief financial officer Douglas A. Scovanner, each contributing $2,000.

Also filling Bush’s campaign coffers from the retail industry during the third quarter were Federated Department Stores ceo Terry Lundgren, Wal-Mart chairman David Glass and Sears, Roebuck marketing and customer vice president Janine Bousquette, each giving $2,000; Dennis Adomaitis, president of J. Jill Retail, who gave $4,000 for the primary and general elections; Belk Stores president H.W. McKay Belk, Beall’s department store ceo Robert M. Beall, each contributing $1,000; and eBay Inc. president and ceo Meg Whitman writing a check for $2,000.
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