CRAWFORD, Tex., Aug. 8 -- The economic forum President Bush is staging in Texas next week will feature several wealthy Republican donors and will exclude vocal opponents of his policies, administration officials said today.
The forum, to be held at Baylor University in Waco on Tuesday, is part of an intensive White House effort to portray Bush as engaged in the nation's concerns during his month-long working vacation at his ranch here. Administration officials had acknowledged earlier that Democratic congressional leaders, who began suggesting an economic summit in January, would be left out.
The administration released further information about the invitees today that could provide ammunition for the Democrats' contention that the forum is more of a public relations gesture than an attempt to elicit rigorous give-and-take about the economy, which has shown increasing signs of trouble.
The White House said the 250 invitees from around the country will represent all walks of life and will include labor union members, small-business owners, middle-class investors, business ethicists and students. Most of the participants will pay their own way, but the White House will fly in a few, including a waitress, to provide diversity, officials said.
But several of the featured participants are generous backers of Bush and Republican causes. The chairman of a panel on technology and innovation will be E. Floyd Kvamme, one of Bush's "Pioneers," who raised at least $100,000 each for his presidential campaign. Kvamme, a well-known venture capitalist from Silicon Valley, is also co-chairman of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
The guest speaker at a panel on trade will be Glen A. Barton, chairman and chief executive of Caterpillar Inc. Caterpillar's political action committee has donated more than $600,000 to Republican candidates during the past six years, and 94 percent of its gifts have gone to the GOP, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
At a panel on small investors and retirement security, the guest speaker will be Charles R. Schwab, founder and chairman of the discount brokerage Charles Schwab Corp. Schwab has given $975,000 in soft money, the unlimited contributions that are to be banned after the November elections, to Republican committees in the past four years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
A White House official said contributions were not considered when participants were chosen. "The people were picked because they were credible," the official said.
Other participants include Vice President Cheney and most Cabinet members; Douglas J. McCarron, president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America; Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Charles M. Vest, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and John Chambers, chief executive of Cisco Systems Inc., who has donated heavily to Republicans.
A media guide says the participants on the eight panels will have "diverse points of view," but the White House official acknowledged that there are limits. "I don't think there's any point in picking someone who has the opposite point of view," the official said.
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