White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr., forced to abandon his presidential bid when he joined President Reagan's staff three weeks ago, has turned over his political action committee to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.).
Lugar, an ambitious, second-term senator sometimes mentioned as a GOP vice presidential prospect, said he intends to continue Baker's practice of using the Washington-based Republican Majority Fund to help reelect incumbent Republican senators.
Baker was understood to be on the verge of announcing his candidacy for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination when he was asked by Reagan in late February to replace Donald T. Regan as White House chief of staff. Baker assumed the job March 2.
Considering 1992 Bid
Although the Republican Majority Fund also served as a base for Baker's unannounced presidential bid, Lugar said he has no interest at present in running for President. Lugar is up for reelection in Indiana in 1988, but he is known to be considering a run for the White House in 1992.
Baker decided to relinquish control of the fund, according to Lugar, "so that he would not be accused by anybody of keeping a viable opening for his campaign." Lugar said Baker's decision is irrevocable and that Baker cannot reclaim control of the fund.
The Republican Majority Fund has $280,000 in assets--most of it deposited in banks in Baker's home state of Tennessee--and a valuable mailing list, Lugar said. Since it was founded by Baker when he became Senate majority leader in 1981, the fund has averaged about three direct-mail fund-raising drives a year.
Initially, Lugar is likely to use the fund as a power base in a quest for a position in the Senate Republican leadership in 1989. He lost a bid to replace Baker as Senate majority leader in 1984 and served instead for two years as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In January, after the Republicans lost control of the Senate, Lugar was ousted by Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina as ranking Republican of the Foreign Relations panel.
Although Lugar chaired Baker's 1980 reelection campaign and headed the Senate Republican Campaign Committee while Baker was majority leader, Lugar for many years was viewed as the much more conservative of the two. However, Lugar enhanced his reputation as a moderate last year when he authored sanctions against South Africa that were enacted over a presidential veto.