The Bucks Stop Here
What the campaign-finance reports say about the 1998 elections.
What do colonel Garry Zarybnicky of Oketo, Kansas, and K. R. Murdoch of Los Angeles, California, have in common? Both want to see George W. Bush reelected as governor of Texas, and both have dipped into their wallets to prove it. Colonel Zarybnicky has the distinction of making the smallest contribution to the Bush campaign: $1. Murdoch has the distinction of being publishing magnate Rupert Murdoch. He gave $10,000. Their presence on the roster of Bush donors indicates why Bush’s fundraising effort has been so successful: It is national, it is all-encompassing, and it includes people who are looking beyond 1998 and beyond Texas.
Between July 1997 and July 1998, Bush outraised Garry Mauro, his Democratic opponent, $12.3 million to $2.2 million. (In the race for lieutenant governor, Republican Rick Perry and Democrat John Sharp each claim to be outraising the other.) Even those numbers, which include the latest round of campaign-finance disclosures filed in mid-July, don’t reveal the full extent of Bush’s dominance in fundraising. Mauro has had to rely entirely on traditional Democratic sources like plaintiffs’ attorneys and unions. The only professional or corporate political action committee (PAC) to give to Mauro in the past twelve months was Texas Commerce Bank. The amount: a paltry $250. The same PAC gave $15,000 to Bush but favored Sharp over Perry, $11,000 to $6,750.
Bush’s biggest contributors are the Hicks brothers, financier Tom (Dallas) and radio mogul Steve (Austin). Together they have given $112,500, $62,500 of which came from Tom. Number two on the list is Laredo oilman Tony Sanchez, a onetime Ann Richards supporter who split with her over a local fight and supported Bush in 1994. Rewarded with an appointment to the University of Texas Board of Regents, Sanchez is now thanking Bush to the tune of $80,000, including $25,000 from the PAC of the International Bank of Commerce, of which he is a co-owner. Other Bush appointees who’ve showed their appreciation include Don Powell (the chair of the Texas A&M Board of Regents, $10,000), Don Evans (UT regents’ chair, $10,000), James Sowell (a Texas Tech regent, $10,000), Harriet Miers (the chair of the lottery commission, $10,000), and David Laney (the chair of the highway commission, $5,000).
Bush has made a clean sweep of the Texas establishment: $25,000 from former governor Bill Clements and his wife, Rita; $25,000 from Dallas oilman Ray Hunt; $25,000 from Enron CEO Ken Lay; $25,000 from Lowry Mays of San Antonio, another radio mogul; $25,000 from Houston financier Charles Miller; $22,500 from the campaign coffers of retiring Democratic lieutenant governor Bob Bullock; $10,000 from Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher; $10,000 from Charles Hurwitz of Houston, the controversial cutter of redwoods; $10,000 from former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker; $10,000 from Trammell Crow’s son Harlan; $10,000 from Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons; and $25,000 from Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane, who still had plenty left over in his bank account to sign Randy Johnson.
The state’s big law firms have likewise lined up behind Bush, led by two Houston firms: Baker and Botts, which gave $35,000, and Vinson and Elkins, which gave $25,000 (in the lieutenant governor’s race, V and E gave to both Perry and Sharp). All together more than a dozen large firms have given Bush a total of more than $150,000. Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer, and Feld, the Dallas firm that counts former Democratic National chairman Bob Strauss among its partners, contributed $10,000. The big banking companies have given at least $65,000, led by $20,000 from NationsBank. The farmers and the cowmen should be friends, according to the old song, and they are—friends of Bush. The Farm Bureau led the way with $25,000; the cattle raisers came in with $10,000. The biggest-spending PAC was the CPAs, who gave $40,000. (Now, why would accountants have such an interest in politics? Might they be concerned that if Bush runs for president, he will have to take a stand on simplifying the federal income tax rules that only they understand?) Realtors were the next most prolific donors at $35,000.
In addition to all this Texas money, the governor has been extremely successful in raising campaign cash from out of state. Murdoch’s contribution was part of a California fundraising effort; David Rockefeller gave $10,000 from New York. Members of President Bush’s administration turned out at a Washington fundraiser, including former U.S. trade representative Carla Hills ($10,000).
And what of poor Mauro? He has had to go to the Democratic well and has found it all but dry. His biggest benefactor, though with an asterisk, is Houston lawyer Billy Goldberg; $100,000 of the $125,000 he contributed to the Mauro campaign was a loan. Alice oilman Lucien Flournoy is the next highest individual contributor at $95,000. Tilman Fertitta of Galveston, the CEO of Landry’s Seafood Restaurants, follows with $85,000. Longtime Democratic donors Bernard Rapoport of Waco and Walter Hall of Dickinson gave $75,000 and $50,000, respectively. Significantly, Fertitta is the only newcomer if you don’t count the Indians, who turned to politics when Bush opposed their gambling operations. The Tigua tribe of El Paso bestowed $39,000 upon Mauro; the Kickapoos of Eagle Pass, $15,000. Mauro’s celebrity list is pretty thin too. Singers Don Henley and Larry Gatlin gave $15,000 and $10,000, respectively, while author and playwright Larry L. King donated $1,000.
The “trials,” as plaintiffs’ lawyers are known around the Capitol, have had their tribulations lately as tort reform has swept through the state, but fortunately for Mauro they are back in force in this election. Well-known plaintiffs’ firms and lawyers have given him $250,000; counting their lesser-known brethren, the total swells to at least $400,000. Walter Umphrey and Harold Nix, two of the attorneys who represented the state in the recent tobacco litigation and were criticized by Bush for legal fees that he regarded as excessive, together gave Mauro $60,000.
Mauro has gotten $20,000 from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the hope that propping him up will help congressional candidates, who will appear immediately above him on the ballot. The Texas State Teachers Association has also given him $20,000, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gave $10,000. But the circle of donors remains small, and the financial position of the campaign remains precarious. In 1997 Mauro’s fundraising efforts exceeded his campaign expenditures by a mere $15,000. For the first six months of 1998, Mauro raised $1.5 million but spent almost $1.8 million.
The lesson is simple: Money follows the polls. With Bush holding what appears to be an insurmountable lead, only the most die-hard Democrats are willing to donate money to what looks for all the world like a lost cause.