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GOP leaders courting donors at $6-million fund-raiser

Wasting no time preparing for next year's election, the Republican Party is throwing an extravaganza today to raise $6-million from donors who will get the chance to hobnob with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and other GOP leaders.

Donors of $1,000 get to attend a fancy dinner, but those who give more are going to receptions, luncheons, workshops and photo sessions with influential lawmakers.

Single events rarely yield so much money. Last weekend President Clinton helped raise half of what the GOP will _ about $3 million _ at a two-day fund-raising retreat with wealthy donors at a Florida golf resort.

The GOP fund-raiser comes just days after Lott and other Republican leaders succeeded in beating back a Senate vote on campaign finance reform legislation. The bill would end the kind of big "soft money" donations from corporations and wealthy businesspeople that will be raised at the black-tie meal.

The Third Annual Senate Majority Dinner and a series of workshops with GOP leaders beforehand offer contributors close contact with Republican policymakers. About 2,700 donors have signed up.

Donors of at least $5,000 were being introduced to Lott and lawmakers who sit on key Senate committees at a reception Tuesday night. They also will attend a morning workshop on tax reform featuring Steve Forbes and Sen. Connie Mack.

The workshops will "give you time to share your personal ideas and visions" with GOP leaders, said an invitation from Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, chairman of the Republican Senatorial Committee and an opponent of campaign-finance reform.

Other donors were paying $10,000 or $25,000 to attend the meetings at Washington's cavernous Union Station. For $15,000, corporations could buy a table for the dinner at a Washington hotel. For $100,000, donors get a photo opportunity and six tickets to a luncheon and two receptions with party leaders.

All events but the dinner are closed to the press.