WHERE DOES GEORGE W. GET HIS CAMPAIGN FUNDS?
George W. Bush's top campaign contributors enjoy some hifalutin' perks from the Texas
gubner, including appointments to state posts, sleep-overs at the governor's mansion, and
lots of corporate welfare, according to a new report from
TEXANS FOR PUBLIC JUSTICE.
The 212 leading fundraisers -- affectionately known as "Pioneers" -- have
delivered at least 24 percent of Bush's $90 million war chest. "Thanks to this
small group of business tycoons and lobbyists, Bush has raised more money than any other
political candidate in history, twice as much as any presidential candidate before
him," said TEXANS FOR PUBLIC JUSTICE Director Craig
L. McDonald. "If you can judge a candidate by his big donors, a Bush presidency will
bring more corporate welfare, more pollution, less consumer regulation, and more business
lobbyists to the White House."
The leading Pioneers, according to the report, include Charles J. Wyly, Jr. (brother of
Sam Wyly, founder of Green Mountain Energy), $210,273; businessman Dennis R. Berman,
$175,000; investment banker Louis A. Beecherl, Jr., $154,000; and cosmetics tycoon Richard
Heath, $124,449. Profiles of all 212 Pioneers are available on the TPJ site. See a
summary of their findings below.
At crucial moments in the presidential campaign, George W. Bush has also benefited from
millions of dollars in advertising paid for by mysterious groups and secret donors.
It's a new form of political warfare that's quickly becoming the tool of choice for people
looking to influence Election 2000, made possible by a once-obscure provision in the tax
code that lets anyone form a group and spend money on campaign-style ads without saying
who's paying for them.
``I think it's the most dangerous loophole that's ever come along, period,'' said Larry
Makinson of the Center for Responsive Politics, which advocates tighter campaign finance
laws. ``It offers the ability, for the first time, for groups to have complete
Until this year, advocates like Makinson were mostly disturbed by ``soft money,'' the
unlimited, unregulated donations to political parties, the details of which are publicly
Other nonprofits face restrictions on their political activities; these new groups do not.
The Federal Election Commission is considering a proposal to require the new groups, known
as 527s, to disclose their contributors. Democrats on the panel welcomed the potential
change, while their Republican counterparts ranged from skeptical to outright opposed.
The groups were named after section 527 of the tax code, created in 1974 for political
groups to enjoy certain tax advantages without publicly disclosing anything about
themselves. These groups fall outside the purview of the FEC by declaring that they engage
in issues, not politics.
To operate legally, they cannot coordinate their activities with candidates who benefit
from their ads, and all sides insist there is no communication between them.
``There is no connection between us and the Bush campaign -- none, zero, nada,'' said
Diana Banister, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Protect Americans Now, which is funded
by a wealthy conservative activist, Helen Krieble.
Banister said it was a coincidence that a day before Bush gave a major speech promoting a
missile defense system her group began running $200,000 worth of ads with the same message
and criticizing Gore for not supporting the program.
Democrats don't buy the denials.
``Clearly there's been such advertising on the other side,'' Gore said Monday when asked
about sniping over which party was taking advantage of ad loopholes, such as 527s.
``That's a loophole that they've been exploiting that we have not.''
So far for Gore, the Sierra Club, an environmental group and one of the first to create a
527 spin-off, is in the midst of an $8 million ad campaign aiding Democrats running for
Congress and attacking Bush on the environment.
The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, another well-established
group, also has run anti-Bush ads and plans more.
For Bush, the missile defense ads weren't the only ones to come at a convenient time.
Early in the Republican primary contest, Bush backers braced for a barrage of negative ads
from Steve Forbes, who had used his personal fortune in a similar fashion against Bob Dole
In a pre-emptive attack, the moderate Republican Leadership Council aired $100,000 of ads
warning Forbes not to go negative and followed with another $100,000 buy later on.
Forbes noted that the RLC included many Bush supporters and donors, and he complained to
the FEC that it must have been a coordinated effort. The RLC maintains it was not.
Fast forward to March 7 and the Super Tuesday contests that would probably settle what had
become a fierce fight between Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain.
That's when Republicans for Clean Air surfaced with $2.5 million in ads in New York, Ohio
and California supporting Bush and bashing McCain on the environment. The group, which had
not previously existed, was funded by Texas entrepreneurs Sam and Charles Wyly -- brothers
who had donated more than $200,000 to Bush and helped him raise even more.
Both sides said there was no coordination with Bush's campaign, but McCain complained to
the FEC. He stands by the complaint, despite his recent endorsement of Bush.
``They should be ashamed,'' McCain said. Asked if he was sure the Bush camp had
coordinated with these other groups, he said: ``I'm positive of it.''
McCain said he has not discussed the issue with Bush; they disagree on campaign finance
reform. The FEC is still investigating the McCain and Forbes complaints.
Bush's outside support has continued beyond the primaries as well.
Soon after wrapping up the GOP nomination, a group of California Republicans calling
themselves Shape the Debate began running TV ads accusing Gore of being a hypocrite. Led
by former Gov. Pete Wilson, the group includes several Bush supporters.
McCain said. ``There will always be smart, unscrupulous people who will find ways around
campaign finance laws.''
THE TEXAS FOR PUBLIC JUSTICE FINDINGS:
The 212 identified Pioneers have raised a minimum of
$21.2 million in hard money for Bushs presidential effort. These 212 individuals
also contributed; $2.3 million to Bushs gubernatorial campaigns, $7.1 million in
hard money to federal candidates and PACs and $4.1 million in soft money contributions to
federal political party committees since the 96 election cycle.
The top 5 individual money movers among the Pioneers
(total federal money since the 96 election cycle plus money to Bushs
gubernatorial campaigns) are: Alex G. Spanos , $877,450; Sam Fox, $831,733; Kenneth Lay,
$574,550; Tom Loeffler, $495,424; and, Louis A. Beecherl, Jr., $446,350.
Among the 212 Pioneers, the top overall contributors to
Bushs gubernatorial campaigns are: Charles J. Wyly, Jr., $210,273; Dennis R. Berman,
$175,000; Louis A. Beecherl, Jr., $154,000; Tom Loeffler, $141,000; and, Richard Heath,
Eighty-four companies controlled by or employing these 212
individuals contributed an additional $21 million in soft money contributions to political
party committees since the 96 election cycle, $15.5 million to the Republicans, $5.5
million to the Democrats.
Like their companies, 73 of the individual Pioneers also
support candidates of both parties. These 73 Pioneers gave Democrats a total of $390,000
in hard and soft money since the 96 election cycle. The biggest Pioneer givers to
Democrats are: Robert Day, Jr., $45,420; Kenneth Lay, $39,000; Randall D. Hubbard,
$20,000; Larry Ruvo, $15,000; and Joseph C. Canizaro, $14,750.
Lawyers and lobbyists lead the Pioneer pack when the 212 are
identified by their primary economic interest or profession. Forty-four of the Pioneers
are classified as Lawyers & Lobbyists, 38 represent the Financial sector, 28 are from
the Energy & Natural Resources sector (dominated by oil and gas), 24 are from the Real
Estate sector, and 23 represent Miscellaneous Businesses.
Sixty-six of the Pioneers hail from Texas. The other Bush
state, Florida, claims the next largest batch with 21. California has produced 14 and
Michigan 12. No other state is in the double-digits.
133 Pioneers are business executives, George Bush
appointed 16 Pioneers to state government posts, 14 have spent the night at the
Governors mansion in Austin, 13 represent polluter interests, 35 have benefited from
corporate-welfare, 26 have been involved in one or more campaign finance-related scandals,
and 20 Pioneers have kept the revolving door
between government and industry spinning.
The Pioneer network is the embodiment of special
interests, said Andrew Wheat, author of the report. Pioneers give big money to
get special favors from government, usually at the expense of the rest of us.
The Bush Pioneers in all likelihood may have delivered
much more than $100,000 each. But Bushs campaignwhich painstakingly tracks the
amount of money raised by each Pioneer and even by each industryrefuses to make this
information public. Similarly, the only Pioneers that the campaign has outed are those
whom the campaign says already have delivered the requisite minimum of $100,000 apiece.
Back in July 1999, Pioneer coordinator Jim Francis said that almost 400 individuals had
taken the Pioneer pledge. Bush, who views disclosure as the cure to all that ails the
campaign finance system, will not say how many individuals are being tracked and how much
each has bundled for the campaign.
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