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"Local Control"- Texas Style, Part II:
Special Favors for Special Interests

In last week's installment of "Local Control" - Texas Style, PEER examined Governor George W. Bush's support of corporate legislation to strip communities of their ability to address environmental issues in their backyards - and hand the power over to special interests.

This week PEER will document the campaign contributions to Gov. Bush from the industries that sponsored the "anti-local control" legislation. The segment will also provide a resource list of other sites on the World Wide Web documenting the appearance of a relationship between special interest campaign contributions and political support from Gov. George Bush.

Big Guns Prevail: The Private Real Property Rights Preservation Act

During Gov. Bush's first legislative session in 1995, The Private Real Property Rights Preservation Act (SB14) was promoted by agricultural and business groups to thwart the Endangered Species Act and other environmental initiatives. The groups that supported the bill contributed more than $1.3 million to Governor George W. Bush's gubernatorial campaigns.

Lobby Groups Supporting SB 14
Contributions to Gov. Bush
National Federation of Independent Business 8,700
TX & Southwest Cattle Raisers Assn. 387,100
TX Assn. of Business & Chambers of Commerce 795,750
TX Landowners Council 1,500
TX Farm Bureau 100,500
TX Wildlife Assn. 53,209
Other supporters 3,500
Total 1,350,279
(Source: Public Research Works)

(These figures include contributions from the PACs, PAC donors and lobbyists of these associations to the Gubernatorial campaign fund of George W. Bush. They do not take into account the funds spent by these groups in their lobbying efforts or contributions to other Texas politicians.)

A Who's Who of Industry Support

Many of the organizations on the frontline of the SB 14 program were business associations and corporate think tank groups rather than individual companies.

The Texas Wildlife Association PAC was one of the major forces behind its passage. Donors of the group include Dr. Peter Leininger, the brother of Dr. James Leininger. These brothers are major underwriters of conservative causes and candidates. Another Texas Wildlife Association PAC donor is Texas Automobile Dealers Association head Gene Fondren. According to a Texans for Public Justice study, Fondren "never stops raising money for power brokers [and] threw a fundraiser for ethics-tainted ex-Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis in 1992, hours after Lewis announced that he would not seek re-election." Gib Lewis has been a lobbyist for the Texas Wildlife Association since 1993.

(For the complete text of the report see "The Governor's Gusher: The Sources of George W. Bush's $41 Million Texas War Chest")

Other groups that appeared to help Gov. Bush "Let Texans Run Texas" was Take Back Texas and the Southwest Texas Property Rights Association.

Finally, another of the many groups lobbying on SB 14 was the Texas Landowners Council, represented at the Capitol by Terral Smith. Smith was an early supporter of George W. Bush's gubernatorial ambitions, giving Bush $500 in 1993. (Bush was first elected in November 1994.) He was later hired by the Governor and is currently Governor George Bush's Legislative Director.

National Industry Groups Get In the Act

One of the major supporters of this anti-environmental legislation was the new Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy. The national parent group of this association was profiled recently in a January 29, 2000 article in The Washington Post entitled "Think Tanks: Corporations' Quiet Weapon." The reporter obtained an internal document from CSE, which had "the most precise illustration yet of the close fit between CSE funding and corporate interests." Gary Ruskin of the Congressional Accountability Project characterized CSE as "a rent-a-mouthpiece…There are mercenary groups that function as surrogates when industry feels it's not advantageous for it to speak directly."

Losing Control to Special Interest Legislation

Austin, Texas is home to Barton Creek and historic Barton Springs. These environmental jewels - a limestone-cliff ringed creek and the largest urban natural springs in America are the city's pride and joy. Concerned about the impact of upstream development on the creek and springs, Austin voters passed the Save Our Springs (SOS) water quality ordinance by a 3 to 1 margins in 1992.

Developers weren't happy with Austin exercising its rights of local control. Leading developers Gary Bradley and James 'Jim Bob' Moffett wanted to build out their thousands of acres of development over the sensitive watershed without following the local water quality regulations.

During 1995, Gov. Bush's first session, SB1017 and HB 3193 were filed. These bills were written solely to benefit specific developers and overturn local environmental regulations. One bill removed up to 20,000 acres from the City of Austin's environmental controls. The other set up a new governmental entity, carved out of the City of Austin's jurisdiction, with the force of law but run by a non-elected board.

Despite questions about the constitutionality, opposition from surrounding jurisdictions, and wide community condemnation, Gov. Bush allowed both bills to become law. Support for Local Control, and "Letting Texans Run Texas", seemed to have run a distant second, to the industry interests in the Texas Legislature.

Bush Donors Associated with
Circle C/FM Properties
Contributions to Gov. Bush
Armbrust & Brown (lobbyists) $1,000.00
Gary Bradley $3,500.00
Jim Bob Moffett $21,000.00
Stan Schlueter (lobbyist) $5,000.00
Strasburger & Price (lobbyists) $2,500.00
Total $33,000.00

A Resource Guide to Gov. Bush's Special Interest Contributions on the Web

"The Money Machine"

Recent reports have detailed Governor George W. Bush's fundraising at the national level. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff was able to get an inside peek at the "heart of [Bush's] operation…a handful of GOP kingmakers who placed their bets early" on the presidential campaign of George W. Bush. This small group was later then expanded to a circle of more than 150 "Bush Pioneers," mainly industry leaders, who would raise at least $100,000 in contributions of $1000 or less. Memos show that business leaders want the money they raised marked with tracking codes so as to "insure that our industry is credited."

"Political Pollution" Report

Campaign finance reform advocates in New Hampshire and Iowa researched the campaign contributions of employees of companies which belong to three trade associations - Edison Electric Institute, the American Petroleum Institute and the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers. These organizations are often opposing legislative and regulatory effort to pass stronger laws on air pollution. They found that Gov. George W. Bush received 79 percent of all the money donated to presidential candidates by these interests.

(To read that report visit http://www.moneywatch2000.org/political_pollution.htm.)

What's an Open Secret?

Finally, for a detailed look at the industries and individuals which are funding Gov. Bush's presidential campaign (as well as his opponents), The Center for Responsive Politics web-site is continuously updating its website with lists of the top donors to the campaign and its searchable database of campaign contributors.

PEER's Toxic Texas, The Environmental Legacy of Governor George Bush

PEER's Toxic Texas website had detailed a number of areas in which campaign contributions appeared to play a role in actions and decisions by Gov. George Bush. To read the complete episodes see:

Bush Home

The Bush Legacy Stories

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