Miami-Dade County

Dine with Bush for just $25,000 a plate

Between departing Air Force One and arriving at Miami-Dade College, Presi-dent Bush will raise about $1 million for the national Republican party at the Key Biscayne home of developer Edward W. Easton.

About 50 people, including U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez and the president's brother, for-mer Gov. Jeb Bush, are expected to attend the $25,000-per-person luncheon.

Easton said his support for the president is not flagging in the face of widespread criti-cism of his handling of the war in Iraq.

"I've got a lot of respect for

the president and the Bush family, and I'm glad to be able to help," Easton said in a tele-phone interview.

"I believe the president is a very trustworthy, caring and principled human being, and I believe that will pull him through in the end."

Though the GOP typically outpaces the Democratic Party in the money chase, Republican candidates, the national party and its con-gressional fundraising arms lagged behind their Demo-cratic counterparts during the first three months of this year.

"We've got a big agenda if we want to have a good shot at the White House," said for-mer Florida Republican

Chairman Al Cárdenas.

Easton is founder and chairman of The Easton Group, one of South Florida's most successful developers.

He has pushed to build beyond the longtime develop-ment boundary between the county and the Everglades.

He also chaired a state board charged with reforming the Miami-Dade County schools construction pro-gram.

The president appointed him last year to the board of trustees of the John F. Ken-nedy Center for the Perform-ing Arts in Washington. He also serves on the board of directors for the National Park Foundation.