Armenian Americans Among Top GOP Supporters

*Michigan Armenian donates $300,000 to RNC; $100,000 to Bush Campaign

WASHINGTON–With the single largest soft-money donor to the Republican Party and individual contributions already totaling over a hundred thousand dollars to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign–Armenian Americans have emerged as a leading force in the GOP’s drive to recapture the White House.

A search of public Federal Election Committee records reveals that–as of the end of last September – more than a year before election day–more than a hundred Armenian Americans had already made sizable contributions to the Bush campaign.

Armenian American involvement in fundraising for Governor Bush has been led by Michael Kojaian–a successful Detroit-area real estate developer–who has given three hundred thousand dollars to the Republican Party and raised an additional hundred thousand dollars for Bush 2000. The New York Times–in a November 15–article on the Bush campaign–described Kojaian as a "top fund-raiser for a succession of Republicans," and noted that "a year ago–Mr. Kojaian and a business associate visited Austin to meet with Mr. Bush. They flew in Mr. Kojaian’s personal jet." The Times cites Kojaian as "the biggest individual soft-money contributor to the Republican Party in the first half of the year," noting that "only four corporations gave more: AT&T–American Financial Group–Philip Morris and United Parcel Service."

Armenian Americans have also played key roles in the Bush campaign elsewhere in the country. Fresno Bee political editor Phoebe Wall Howard has written about the leadership of two California Armenia’s in Bush’s campaign in California’s Central Valley: regional chairwoman Debbie Poochigian–"a relentless fundraiser and wife of state Sen. Chuck Poochigian,’ and Steve Samuelian–District Director for Congressman Radanovich–who serves as the campaign’s regional co-chairman. Howard described Samuelian–who serves on NORA’s executive committee–as the "go-to guy for the area’s most influential players." This past December–Armenian community leader Edgar Hagopian from Michigan and New York businessman–and Bush’s Harvard classmate–Vasken Setrakian traveled to Houston to consult with Governor Bush regarding his presidential bid. Also–Washington lawyer and Armenian community activist Joseph Boghosian has played a leadership role nationally in organizing young professionals for Bush.

Republican candidate Elizabeth Dole’s recent announcement that she will support Governor Bush has raised hopes that she will press Governor Bush to address issues of special concern to Armenian American voters–particularly Turkey’s ongoing campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide. Her participation in the Bush effort also offsets concerns regarding Bush’s choice of senior foreign policy advisers–such as Richard Armitage–Paul Wolfowitz–and Richard Perle–many of whom have actively opposed Congressional efforts to commemorate the first genocide of the twentieth century. Dole raised more than $120,000 last year in a single night at an Armenian American event in Glendale–Calif.; overall–she collected more than $150,000 from Armenian Americans prior to calling an end to her presidential bid last year.

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