By Tim Reid
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hundreds of officials who worked for former Republican President George W. Bush are set to endorse Democratic White House hopeful Joe Biden, people involved in the effort said, the latest Republican-led group coming out to oppose the re-election of Donald Trump.
The officials, who include Cabinet secretaries and other senior people in the Bush administration, have formed a political action committee – 43 Alumni for Biden – to support the former vice president in his Nov. 3 race, three organizers of the group told Reuters. Bush was the country’s 43rd president.
The Super PAC will launch on Wednesday with a website and Facebook page, they said. It plans to release “testimonial videos” praising Biden from high-profile Republicans and will hold get-out-the-vote efforts in the most competitive states.
The group is the latest of a number of Republican organizations opposing Trump’s re-election, yet another sign that he has alienated some in his own party, most recently with his response to the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality against Black Americans.
“We know what is normal and what is abnormal, and what we are seeing is highly abnormal. The president is a danger,” said Jennifer Millikin, one of the 43 Alumni organizers, who worked on Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign and later in the General Services Administration.
The other two members who spoke to Reuters are Karen Kirksey and Kristopher Purcell. Purcell worked as a communication official in the Bush White House. Kirksey was on the Bush 2000 campaign, and later in the Agriculture and Labor Departments.
Millikin said the group was not yet ready to name all its members or its donors. It has to provide a list of initial donors to the Federal Election Commission by October.
Bush’s office has been informed about the group, but the former president is not involved and has not indicated if he approves of its aims, she said.
Freddy Ford, a spokesman for Bush, said Bush had retired “and won’t be wading into this election.”
Bush, who is still admired by many moderate Republicans, won praise for saying the May 25 death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in police custody reflected a “shocking failure”, and urged that protesters be heard.
Earlier, he released a video calling for Americans to unite in the face of the pandemic.
‘COUNTRY OVER PARTY’
Despite policy differences with Biden, “hundreds” of former Bush officials believe the Democrat has the integrity to meet America’s challenges, the 43 Alumni members said.
“This November, we are choosing country over party,” said Purcell. “We believe that a Biden administration will adhere to the rule of law… and restore dignity and integrity to the White House.”
“We really have had overwhelming support for our efforts,” Kirksey said.
As a Super PAC, the group’s members are forbidden by law from working with or communicating with the Biden campaign, but can raise unlimited amounts of money and run ads or hold events to support the candidate.
The Biden campaign declined to comment.
Erin Perrine, a Trump campaign spokeswoman, said of 43 Alumni for Biden: “This is the swamp – yet again – trying to take down the duly elected President of the United States.”
Dozens of Republican former national security officials are set to back Biden, claiming that Trump is a threat to U.S. security, people involved in the effort told Reuters.
Trump has also drawn sharp criticism from retired military leaders over his apparent attempts to involve the armed forces in efforts to quell the anti-racism protests.
Other Republican groups opposing his re-election include the Lincoln Project, co-founded by George Conway, husband of Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway.
Trump has expressed contempt for Republican and conservative figures who oppose him, saying on Twitter that “Never Trumper” Republicans are “human scum.”
Reporting by Tim Reid, Editing by Soyoung Kim and Sonya Hepinstall.