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The Privileged Class III:
Bush Contributors Back
Audit Privilege Law

In the first chapter of the Privileged Class, we showed that audit privilege legislation signed into law by Gov. George W. Bush, allowed hundreds of violations of state environmental laws to be hidden from the public. We also showed how the Governor and his appointees at the TNRCC fought the EPA's efforts to bring the law into compliance with federal statutes. Last week we examined the motives of polluting industries for pushing the bill, and looked at the practical outcomes of the legislation.

In this final installment of The Privileged Class, PEER examines the links between Bush's gubernatorial fundraising and the audit privilege law he supported during the early months of his first term.

In May 1995, four months after being sworn into office, Governor George W. Bush signed into law the Environmental Health and Safety Audit Privilege Act, the most industry friendly of more than a dozen state-level polluter immunity laws in the United States.

The backers of Texas' audit privilege legislation numbered among Governor Bush's most generous campaign contributors from a wide array of polluting industries. At the House Environmental Regulation Committee hearing on April 25, 1996, the following businesses and industry groups actively lobbied for the bill:

  • American Electronics Association
  • Association of Electric Companies of Texas (investor-owned utility group)
  • Eastman Chemical/Texas Eastman
  • General Motors Corp.
  • Monarch Paint Company
  • Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce
  • Texas Cattle Feeders Association
  • Texas Chemical Association
  • Texas Automobile Dealers Association
  • Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association
  • Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Assn. (now Texas Oil & Gas Assn.)
  • Texas Natural Gas Pipeline Association

All told, over 472 Bush donors are linked to these industries, including 402 individuals and 70 political action committees. Collectively, these donors gave more than $4 million in contributions to Bush's two gubernatorial campaigns, well over 20 percent of his total. And all of them can be linked to industry groups that lobbied for the bill or to companies which have submitted privileged audits. In fact, we should mention that $4 million is almost certainly a low-ball figure since it only includes contributions of $1,000 or more.

The list of Bush donation amounts attributable to various industries that lobbied for Texas' audit privilege legislation:

Business Association

Money to Bush

Texas Oil & Gas Assn.

$1,394,204

Texas Chemical Council

$589,200

Texas Assn. of Business & Chambers of Commerce

$567,750

American Electronics Assn.

$483,623

Texas Automobile Dealers Assn.

$467,700

Companies which submitted audits

$274,000

Assn. of Electric Companies of Texas (represents investor-owned utilities)

$215,250

Texas & Southwest Cattle Feeders Assn.

$26,000

TOTAL

$4,017,727

Among these 472 donors were some of the largest donors to Bush's campaigns for governor. We found that no fewer than 86 of these contributors gave $10,000 or more to Governor Bush.

Moreover, seven of the 23 individual donors who gave at least $100,000 to Bush's gubernatorial campaigns were affiliated with industry groups that lobbied for the polluter immunity law. Seven men and their spouses alone gave more than $800,000 to Governor Bush's 1994 and 1998 campaigns.

Contributions to Governor Bush's 1994 and 1998 campaigns
Individual Company Type of Interest $ to Gov. Bush
M/M Louis Beecherl Beecherl Investments Tx Oil & Gas PAC donors $146,000
Kenneth & Linda Lay Enron Corp. Tx Chemical Council $122,500
M/M Peter O’Donnell O’Donnell Investments Tx Oil & Gas PAC donors $118,500
M/M Charles Wyly Sterling Software American Electronics Assn. $111,773
M/M Ray Hunt Hunt Oil Company Tx Oil & Gas Assn. $105,000
M/M A. Sanchez Sanchez-O’Brien Oil & Gas Tx Oil & Gas Assn. $101,000
M/M William McMinn Sterling Group Tx Oil & Gas Assn. $100,000

In addition to backing from powerful individuals, the 70 PACs which supported both Bush and audit privilege interests included the Governor's most generous PAC contributors. Only three PACs gave Bush more than $100,000 in his campaigns for governor, and all three belong to industry associations that supported Texas' polluter immunity legislation:

PAC Contributions of over $100,000
Governor Bush' 1994 and 1998 campaigns

Political Action Committee

Role in Audit Privilege Lobbying

Amount to G. W. Bush Gubernatorial Campaigns

Farmers Employee and Agent PAC

Donor to Business & Commerce PAC

$121,000

Texas Automobile Dealers Association PAC

Texas Automobile Dealers Association lobbied for audit privilege

$114,500

International Bank of Commerce/IBC PAC

Donor to Business & Commerce PAC

$106,000

Thirty-six percent of the Bush donations from audit privilege interests came from just 11 PACs or companies: $1,452,273.

Company/Association

Business Interest

$ to Gov. Bush

Enron

Tx Chemical Council

$301,500

Sterling Software

American Electronics Assn.

$212,273

Beecherl Investments

Tx Oil & Gas Assn.

$146,000

Farmers Insurance

Tx Assn. of Business and Chambers of Commerce

$121,000

O’Donnell Investments

Tx Oil & Gas Assn.

$118,200

Sanchez O’Brien Oil & Gas Corp

Tx Oil & Gas Assn.

$115,000

Tx Automobile Dealers Assn.

Tx. Automobile Dealers Assn.

$114,500

Wagner & Brown

Tx Oil & Gas Assn.

$112,500

International Bank of Commerce

Tx Assn. of Business & Chamber of Commerce

$106,000

Hunt Oil

Tx. Oil & Gas Assn.

$105,000

Sterling Group

Tx. Oil & Gas Assn.

$100,000

TOTAL

 

$1,452,273

As reported last week, it's important to understand that these companies affiliated with Governor Bush's contributors utilized the law's immunity provisions far more frequently as a group than did other Texas companies.

On 246 occasions, Texas companies disclosed on average four or more violations of Texas environmental laws for which they requested immunity. Companies affiliated with Bush contributors filed only 17 percent of all privileged audits. By comparison, that same group reported 48 percent of all requests for immunity for violations of environmental laws.

Company Contributions to G.W. Bush Campaigns for Governor 1993-98 Number of Privileged Audits Numbers of Disclosures of Violation

Air Products Inc.

$1,000 2 1

ALCOA

$1,000 2 1

American Airlines

$19,500 1 1

ARCO

$27,500 63 33

ASARCO, Inc

$1,000 9 5

Aviall, Inc. Texas

$1,000 3 0

Bell Helicopter/Textron

$25,000 10 4

Burlington Northern

$6,000 43 15

Central & Southwest Corp

$27,000 60 1

Champion International Corp.

$4,500 4 2

Chemical Lime Co

$4,000 2 2

Chevron

$4,000 4 2

Coastal

$30,000 7 0

Compaq

$17,000 7 2

Crown Central Petroleum

$4,000 1 0

Dow Chemical

$30,000 1 0

Eastman Chemical Company

$7,500 6 0

Enron

$301,500 5 1

Exxon

$14,000 18 0

FINA Inc.

$9,000 2 0

General Electric

$2,000 9 3

General Motors

$7,000 5 2

Greenhill Petroleum Corp.

$4,000 4 0

Huntsman Corp

$5,000 47 4

Koch Industries

$34,000 1 0

Lockheed Martin

$20,000 1 1

Louisiana Pacific Corp.

$2,000 17 10

Lyondell Petrochemical

$3,500 15 2

Marathon Oil Company

$4,000 1 0

Monsanto/Solutia

$1,000 58 0

Northcutt Woodwork

$5,000 3 0

Norton & Co

$1,000 1 1

Occidental

$21,000 29 3

Owens Corning

$36,500 6 3

Phillips Petroleum

$23,000 47 0

Shell Oil

$42,700 7 1

Sterling Chemical

$87,000 7 2

Structural Metals Inc

$11,500 1 0

Tenneco

$5,000 6 4

Texas Instruments

$35,500 9 0

Ultramar Diamond Shamrock

$7,500 7 4

Union Carbide

$3,500 15 2

Union Pacific Resources

$13,000 9 6

Valero Energy

$32,500 11 0

Vastar

$1,000 12 0

TOTAL

$942,700 578 118

In other words, the companies that funded Governor Bush's campaigns and backed Texas' audit privilege laws benefited disproportionately from the immunity privileges for environmental lawbreakers.

Why would Governor Bush go to bat for Texas' polluter immunity legislation? Given the enormous political backing Bush received from the legislation's proponents, a more appropriate question might be "How could he not?"

Sources:

  • The political donations were made by association and company Political Action Committees, or by employees of member companies in the associations. This total also includes contributions from 22 company PACs (and employees of those companies) that submitted audits but were not linked to the groups that lobbied for the legislation. However, this study did not tally donations from individuals who gave less than $1,000 to Bush's gubernatorial campaigns. There are many other contributors who work in the industries on the list but who could not be linked to the associations which advocated for the legislation. Therefore, the totals are minimum amounts.
  • Total number of violations comes from TNRCC Environmental Audit Log, 10-29-99. An average of 4.3 violations per date of disclosure comes from statistics given by TNRCC Chairman Barry McBee to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, 10-30-97.
  • Source of information on audits and disclosures by company: TNRCC Environmental Audit Log, 10-1-99. Source for Bush contributors: analysis performed by PEER and Public Research Works.


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