Washington Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot pledged aggressive efforts to raise money and attract minorities to the GOP after President Bush moved Wednesday to install the loyalist as head of the Republican National Committee.
Racicot said he will keep his job with a Washington law firm, making him a lobbyist with an open door to the White House.
He did not promise to step away from cases that could present a conflict of interest, but said he would disclose "occasions where you may intersect, either with a courtroom, or a commission, or an executive branch agency."
Racicot said he is "very, very keenly sensitive to making certain that the president's goals and objectives are never compromised, or placed in a light that would not meet with his very, very high standards of conduct." He called the Republican committee job "volunteer work" for which he will not be paid.
Bush tapped Racicot as part of a move to strengthen the party heading into next year's elections, when control of Congress and three dozen statehouses are at stake. Party leaders are expected to endorse the selection next month.
"He has got a fine history of winning races and he'll translate that into practice come next fall, the 2002 races," Bush said in an Oval Office meeting with Racicot and the outgoing chairman, Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
Gilmore resigned Friday amid friction with the White House.
"Marc has got a history of success, he knows how to build grass-roots organizations, he's going to reach out to members of the labor unions and the minorities, just like Jim Gilmore did, to continue to take our positive, optimistic message to all neighborhoods around the country," Bush said.
Racicot said his mandate was to be a team player to work "very aggressively, all the way across the country to make certain that we are fundamentally sound and financially healthy, and reaching out in as many different directions as we possibly can."
Racicot (pronounced RAHS'-koh) is a partner in Bracewell & Patterson, a Texas law firm with an office on Washington's lobbyists' row, K Street.
It promotes itself as a lobbying and law firm that minimizes "obstacles that individuals and institutions must overcome if they are to attain their goals."
The firm did not return a message Wednesday inquiring about the nature of Racicot's work there.
Asked whether it was appropriate for Racicot to earn money as a lobbyist, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said there was "ample history on both the Democrat and Republican side" of such outside activities.
But Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said the post and the lobbying "raises serious concerns about conflict of interest."
"I know that members of the Democratic Party would not stand for it," she said, though she acknowledged that Democratic committee chiefs have lobbied in the past. The current Democratic committee chairman, Terry McAuliffe, is retired from his banking and law careers.
Racicot, 53, was elected governor of Montana in 1992 and 1996.
He was one of Bush's earliest supporters, helped the Texan gain the backing of a majority of GOP governors in the late 1990s and served as a spokesman for Bush during the recount a year ago.