Aug. 24–Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise rallied 140 Republican donors Thursday night in New Orleans by repeatedly warning about the specter of a Congress led by Nancy Pelosi, the former Democratic speaker of the House.
Two names got no mention from Scalise and Pence: Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, two former associates of President Donald Trump whose legal problems have dominated headlines this week.
The fundraiser at the National World War II Museum took place at a time when many analysts believe that Democrats can win enough seats — they need 23 — to take control of the House, with women and college-educated voters turning against the president, many polls show.
Pence and Scalise told the well-heeled crowd that would be bad for America.
With Pelosi as speaker again, they said, Democrats would try to roll back the tax cuts passed by the Republican-controlled Congress last year that Trump eagerly signed into law.
Pence and Scalise credited the tax cuts and other moves by the Trump administration with generating the country’s current strong economic growth, including what they said are record low unemployment rates among African-Americans and Hispanics.
Pence and Scalise both said the tax cuts have helped all Americans, but independent analysts have said the benefits skewed toward the wealthy.
Pence noted that he served in the House when Pelosi was speaker.
“You don’t want to go there again,” he said, prompting laughter from the crowd. “The stakes in this election couldn’t be higher.”
Pence and Scalise both said the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress are rebuilding the nation’s military through increased funding.
“In a word, America is back, Louisiana, and we’re just getting started,” Pence said.
Pence and Scalise noted that they became friends when they served in the House together for five years.
During his remarks, Scalise said the event raised $1.2 million. The money will go to Republican congressional candidates facing tight races around the country.
Scalise told the crowd that he had visited four different states over the previous 30 hours to raise money for Republican candidates.
Left unmentioned Thursday night were Cohen and Manafort. On Tuesday, a jury found Manafort guilty on eight counts of fraud. He served as Trump’s campaign manager for three months during the 2016 presidential election.
Meanwhile, Cohen, who served for years as Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, pleaded guilty to paying hush money at Trump’s direction to keep a pornographic movie actress and a former Playboy centerfold from going public in 2016 with claims of their affairs with Trump.
A spokeswoman said Scalise was too busy during Thursday night’s event to discuss the developments involving Manafort and Cohen with a reporter.
The event took place in the museum’s United States Freedom Pavilion. Five World War II-era warplanes hung over the crowd.
Scalise, first elected to the House in 2008 and now the chamber’s third-ranking Republican, represents his home parish of Jefferson, a piece of New Orleans and six other suburban parishes.
Before the speeches, Pence and Scalise toured the museum for 30 minutes, seeing a corroded steel fragment of the U.S.S. Arizona — which was sunk at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941– while viewing exhibits and meeting five WWII veterans.
“I got a free trip across the Pacific,” Sidney Flynn, a Navy sailor from Alexandria, told Pence and Scalise. “It was a great experience for an 18-, 19-year-old kid.”
Another of the five was Wilson Robertson, who at 103 is the oldest living veteran in Louisiana.
Jerome Black, who arranged USO tours to provide entertainment for soldiers in Italy in 1944-45, noticed Scalise using a walker cupped under his left forearm and asked how he is faring, 14 months after being shot by a gunman in Virginia.
“I’m getting better every day,” Scalise replied with a smile.
Pence and Scalise spent more time in a private session with big donors, including oil company owner Phyllis Taylor, oil pipeline owner James Davison, attorney Fred Heebe and businessmen Alan Franco, Joseph Canizaro and Eddie Rispone.
Trump has caused revulsion among many progressives with his polarizing activities and comments. But only a handful of protesters showed up outside the National WWII Museum.
One reason may have been that the group Take ‘Em Down NOLA had already scheduled a march at the same time to demand the removal of additional Jim Crow-era statues in the city, and that event’s organizers decided not to cancel it. About 70 people attended that march.
Police blocked off streets around the museum Thursday afternoon, causing traffic snarls.
Pence came to New Orleans after 24 hours in Texas where he received an update on Houston’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey one year ago, toured Houston’sJohnson Space Center and headlined a fundraiser for a congressman in a tight re-election battle.
On Thursday night, deep-pocketed fans of the state’s Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, also lightened their wallets as Edwards held a long-scheduled fundraiser at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel in the French Quarter.
Dan Robin Sr., a lobbyist and political consultant who organized the event, said it would raise more than $1 million at $5,000 per donor.
“He’s taken the $2 billion deficit and brought it back to where we’re even, with the help of legislators,” Robin said of Edwards. “He can walk across the aisle and work with everybody. He’s doing a great job.”
Advocate reporter Jeff Adelson contributed to this article.
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