President Bush will swoop into Boston for a quick fund-raiser this afternoon that could net his campaign $1 million and also draw several thousand protesters, force the closure of a school, and disrupt traffic near the Park Plaza Hotel.
Tracey Ganiatsos, a spokeswoman for the Boston Transportation Department, said the US Secret Service told the city it intends to close several streets near the hotel "for a good portion of the day," but the streets involved will not be disclosed publicly for security reasons. Special parking restrictions will also be in effect.
The president's visit unexpectedly canceled classes for 1,425 children at the Boston Renaissance Charter School, a K-8 institution on Stuart Street a block away from the hotel. The Boston Public Schools system, which provides about 30 buses to transport Renaissance students, said it could not guarantee timely pick-up of students at dismissal time, said Dudley Blodget, chief operating officer of the Renaissance School's foundation. The school also feared that the 300 parents who pick up their children would not be able to reach the school.
"It's a sad situation that you have to close off school because of a fund-raising event," said Roger F. Harris, Renaissance headmaster.
Jonathan Palumbo, spokesman for the Boston Public Schools, said his transportation director only found out about the visit yesterday. The school department has few schools in the area, and they will not be directly affected, Palumbo said, although school officials anticipate delays at dismissal time.
The Bush campaign has invited about 500 people to the late afternoon event, all of whom are being asked to contribute $2,000, the individual maximum for the 2004 election cycle. The president will deliver a speech, but in order to hold down costs there will be no food or entertainment.
The Boston Fire Department's a cappella group will not be part of the program, however. The mayor's office did not feel it was appropriate for uniformed officers to perform at a political function, spokesman for the mayor Seth Gitell said. The Fire Department was unable to be reached for comment.
Massachusetts has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984, and the state definitely is not in play this year, especially with US Senator John F. Kerry as the presumptive Democratic nominee.
"This is a state where they go to get money, not votes," said Rob Gray, a Republican political consultant.
Several groups are planning protests to mark Bush's visit. United for Justice with Peace, an antiwar group based in Boston, is hoping for a crowd of at least 2,000, according to Gavin Sherman, a letter carrier who is on the coordinating committee. The Massachusetts AFL-CIO expects up to 500 people at its "Welcome to George Bush" rally, which will focus on jobs and the economy. Boston-based Alternatives for Community and Environment will be protesting against a proposed federal bioterrorism lab at Boston University, and the Student Global AIDS Campaign will be demonstrating in favor of more federal AIDS funding, employing scythe-wielding Grim Reapers to dramatize its point.
"It's going to be a menagerie down there," said Sherman, whose group will gather in Boston Common and walk to the area of the hotel. "I don't expect Bush to come back for the rest of this election cycle, so I have a feeling a lot of people are going to want to be visible down there."
Kathleen Casavant, treasurer of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, said the union's rally will be in the Public Garden, across the street from the hotel. "We're not sure how close we'll be able to get," Casavant said. "It's more about sending the message, `Where are the jobs, George?' than anything else."
In a conference call with reporters yesterday, members of the Bay State's congressional delegation, all of whom are Democrats, used Bush's fund-raising visit as an opportunity to criticize his policies and to tout those of Kerry.
"While the president comes to Massachusetts and rakes in campaign contributions at $2,000 a pop, there are workers all across this state who are struggling to make ends meet," said US Representative Martin T. Meehan, a Lowell Democrat. "Bush is losing credibility with voters not only in Massachusetts, but across the country, because he doesn't share their priorities."
Bush can bank on a loss in Massachusetts in November, but he has been able to bank on impressive donations.
Notable among the contributors is Richard J. Egan, founder of
Another steady Bush supporter is Christopher Jenny, senior partner at Parthenon Group, a consulting firm based in Boston. In the fall of 1999, Jenny hosted Bush, President George H.W. Bush, and Governor Jeb Bush of Florida at a fund-raiser in his Wayland home. In June 2000, Jenny hosted Bush at a Republican Party fund-raiser at his company offices, and last June he welcomed Vice President Dick Cheney to Wayland, raising $1.4 million for the reelection campaign.
Egan chairs the Bush-Cheney '04 Inc. Massachusetts Finance Committee, which is hosting today's event, and Jenny is a cochairman.
Globe correspondent Suzanne Sataline contributed to this report.