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WASHINGTON (AP) House Republicans on Wednesday were expected to raise more than $15 million to defend their majority during a dinner with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The haul tops previous fundraising at the National Republican Congressional Committee's dinner, the group's largest fundraiser of the year. It also suggests Rice is willing to increase her political role during this election year to help fellow Republicans.

"This outstanding fundraising effort will enable the NRCC to stay on offense against House Democrats who continue to support the failed policies and leadership of Nancy Pelosi," said Rep. Greg Walden, the campaign committee's chairman. "We've never had such enthusiasm from our donors from all around the country."

The event, closed to reporters and scheduled at the National Building Museum in downtown Washington, typically gives potential presidential contenders a turn speaking to the party's biggest donors. Last year, for instance, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker spoke at the event, raising a then-record $14.4 million.

Rice is not expected to seek office herself but has indicated she's willing to help GOP candidates, both at campaign events and through advice on international affairs.

Rice, President George W. Bush's national security adviser during his first term and secretary of state during his second, has kept an intentionally low political profile since returning to Stanford University.

But Rice has started increasing her political role, speaking at the Republicans' nominating convention in 2012 and working with ShePAC, a group that helps to elect Republican women to office. The former Stanford provost has also led education reviews, including a much-noticed report for the Council on Foreign Relations that links national security with U.S. schools.

This year, Rice already has helped Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell raise money for his primary challenge from a tea party challenger. She also has appeared in a campaign commercial for former White House and State Department official Dan Sullivan, who is seeking the GOP nomination in the Alaska Senate race.

Rice's appearance could help House Republicans' campaign committee narrow its fundraising gap with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The GOP ended February with almost $25 million saved, while Democrats had more than $34 million in hand.

So far this cycle, House Republicans' campaign committee has raised $71.8 million. House Democrats' campaign committee has raised $89 million.

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