Austin: San Antonio tycoon Dr. James Leininger, aka “God’s Sugar Daddy,” looks to have his prayers answered as acolyte Rick Perry assumes the office of Lt. Governor.
Insiders expect Perry, who has always counted on Lein-inger to answer his financial needs, to advance Leinin-ger’s right-wing agenda.
In the 1998 election cycle, Leininger and his family showered Perry with $97,047 in direct cash contributions.
Leininger was also one of three high-rollers who backed a $1.1 million last-minute loan to the Perry campaign. This loan financed a huge media buy that ensured Perry’s victory.
According to reports Perry filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, Leininger joined fellow school voucher advo-cate Jimmy Mansour and toxic titan William McMinn (Sterling Chemical Co.) in guaranteeing the $1.1 million loan to the Perry Campaign on October 26.
The loan was made by Hart-land Bank of Austin. Hartland is owned by David Hartman, a former GOP party official and a voucher advocate.
Leininger has made a fortune through his flagship company, Kinetic Concepts Inc. (KCI). KCI manufacturers high-tech, oscillating hospital beds designed to prevent bedsores.
Apparently, KCI’s beds don’t always function as planned. The firm has been hit with lawsuits and FDA complaints that say its mechanical beds have thrown, crushed and strangled patients.
Since taking KCI public, Leininger has diversified his holdings, including
ownership of a new cable news network, a direct mail shop, real estate,
the Promised Land Dairy, and an interest in the San Antonio Spurs.
No one but Leininger knows the full extent of his political spending in 1998, but a TPJ study showed that by March 1998, he had made $595,000 in political contributions to his four pet PACs and favorite candidates.
Leininger’s entrepreneurial spirit has benefited Perry in other ways. In 1996, Perry cleared $4,487 from the sale of 2,800 KCI shares bought under suspicious cirum-stances.
On Jan. 24, 1996 Perry saw Leininger in San Antonio. That same day Perry’s stock broker bought 2,800 shares of KCI for Perry. Later that day, a California investment group began buying 2.2 million shares of KCI, boosting the stock’s value.
Perry denied receiving inside information, a potential felony. “I certainly didn’t talk to him about the stock price or anything like that,” he told the Dallas Morning News.
Perry also said he had no knowledge of his broker’s transactions. “I could tell you I have plenty of time every day to watch the stock market and make stock choices, but that is a managed account,” he told the Morning News.
But a week later Perry re-versed himself, telling the Houston Chronicle
that his broker had reminded him that Perry himself had ordered the KCI
“I may have called and said sell something that’s not performing and buy some more KCI stock. It was a stock that was going up at the time,” Perry then said. He also stated that he began investing in KCI in 1994 against the ad-vice of his broker because he knew the Leiningers.
Perry has also benefited great-ly from a murky arrangement whereby the Leiningers heavily subsidized his access to a private plane.
In October 1996, the Perry campaign bought a 10% in-terest in a small
plane owned by Leininger and his brother Peter. The trio bought the plane
from Covenant Aircraft Investments, a firm run by Leininger’s brother Daniel.
“Rick’s the guy who talked me into getting an airplane,” Leininger told the Chronicle.
The Perry campaign bought out the Leiningers’ share of the plane in July 1997 for $346,500. The Chronicle reported that identical planes of the same age were selling for $550,000 or more, meaning the Leiningers’ share was worth at least $495,000.
With Perry taking control of the Senate, Leininger’s rad-ical agenda is expected to meld with the Lt. Governor’s. Perry will try to kick start a school voucher program, despite most Texans’ opposition to the idea.
“Education is my No. 1 budget and policy priority,” says Perry. And his plans for bolstering education begin with sending public funds to private and religious schools.
But Perry’s not likely to get much support for his plan from Speaker Pete Laney.
Laney was secretly targeted for extinction by Putting Children First,
a PAC that promotes pro-voucher candidates. The PAC, run by Jimmy Mansour
and heavily funded by Leininger, conspired with Texans for Lawsuit Reform
top dog Dick Weekley to oust Laney.
In a stealth letter to right-wing millionaire contributors, PCF revealed that it was coordinating efforts with TLR to win a Republican House majority and topple Laney, whom they see as insufficiently supportive of school vouchers.
Shortly after news of the letter broke, then—Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock resigned as honorary chairman of PCF, protesting the group’s bald partisanship.
Unlike Bullock, few expect Perry to distance himself from the top dogs
of Texas’ far right.
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