WASHINGTON, May 21 — Vice President Dick Cheney opened his official residence tonight for a reception of hundreds of Republican donors, an event that drew criticism from Democrats and campaign-overhaul advocates who said it was improper for Mr. Cheney to use government property for gatherings linked to political fund-raising.
The Republican National Committee, which organized the reception, would not release the guest list. But Republican Party organizers said it included energy-industry lobbyists and executives who had helped Mr. Cheney shape the energy plan President Bush introduced last week.
Many of the same Republican donors are in town this week for a huge black-tie fund-raising gala to honor President Bush on Tuesday.
Vice President Al Gore came under similar criticism for using government property for political activities, notably when he made fund-raising calls from the White House. He used the official residence for fund-raising on at least a handful of occasions in the mid-1990's.
But Democratic officials say there were no further fund-raising events in the residence or in any other government building after 1996, when the Clinton administration barred all such activities, largely in response to criticism from Republicans.
"With this event at the Naval Observatory, it's as if a wave of selective amnesia has set in, wiping away the memories of the scandals involving the sale of the Lincoln Bedroom and the White House kaffeeklatsches," said Scott Harshbarger, president of Common Cause.
The event, Mr. Harshbarger said, "is something that makes much of the Republican Party's justified criticism of the Clinton-era excesses ring hollow."
The vice president's office referred all inquiries about the event to the Republican National Committee.
Trent Duffy, a committee spokesman, said that all costs associated with the event would be paid by the committee and that about 400 people would attend, with the guest list drawn from longtime supporters of the party.
Unlike Tuesday's dinner, Mr. Duffy said, the reception tonight was not a fund-raiser, and guests were not being asked to make any new donation to the party.
"It's apples and oranges," he said, drawing a distinction between Mr. Cheney's reception and the sort of fund-raising events held on government property in the Clinton administration. Under President Bill Clinton, he said, "there were prices associated with events. There was a much closer relationship between a contribution and a meeting."
The guest list for Mr. Bush's dinner at the D.C. Armory on Tuesday, which is also sponsored by the Republican National Committee and is expected to raise more than $15 million, continued to be scrutinized by Democrats.
The party's organizing committee included dozens of corporate lobbyists and executives whose industries stand to benefit from early moves by the Bush administration, including many from the oil and gas industry.
Local news reports from Ohio said a deputy chairman of the gala committee, Bill Gunlock, an Ohio businessman, pleaded no contest to money-laundering charges in 1993 involving $12,000 in campaign donations to the Republican Party of Franklin County, Ohio.
The reports said Mr. Gunlock, the former president of a real-estate appraisal company, was fined $30,000 for illegally funneling money to the party in support of a county auditor who had awarded millions of dollars in contracts to his company. Mr. Gunlock, who agreed to raise at least $100,000 for the presidential dinner on Tuesday, did not return phone calls today for comment.
Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company