November 3, 2000
Funding Reveals Class Struggle
For Priciest State Senate Seat

Business Gives Staples $2.4 million; Trial lawyers, Unions Back Fisher’s $1.7 million

Top funders of the priciest senate race in Texas history fall into two camps, with a business-backed Republican raising almost 50 percent more money than a Democrat backed by trial lawyers and unions.

Rep. Todd Staples raised $2.4 million since winning the GOP primary for East Texas’ state Senate District 3 in March. Democrat David Fisher—who faced no primary opponent—has raised $1.7 million since January. Both candidates owe more than half of their war chests to their top 30 donors.

Staples Backers
Staples’ top 30 contributors gave him $1.3 million to advance a big-business agenda. These donors fall into three related blocs.

In the top funding bloc are 18 business owners and business associations that have an interest in weaker tort laws. Drawn largely from dangerous or polluting industries, these donors gave Staples $611,750. Their lobby group, Texans for Lawsuit Reform ($97,139), led this bloc.

Four PACs that are Republican in name or deed gave Staples $421,754. Staples’ biggest overall giver, Associated Republicans of Texas, led this bloc with $198,899. Two official GOP committees at the state and national level chipped in $192,855 more. The ultra-conservative Free Enterprise PAC gave $50,000.

Providing $170,000, Staples’ final bloc consists of seven Texas Senate members, including Lt. Gov. Rick Perry. Five of these senators want to enhance their clout as Senate committee chairs. By helping elect Staples, they hope to preserve the Senate’s GOP majority and win an ally in Senate power struggles if Bush coattails make Perry Governor.

Fisher Backers
To a remarkable degree, the $982,113 supplied by Fisher’s 30 top donors came from contributors that have an interest in blocking the business agenda promoted by Staples’ top donors. Most of Fisher’s big donors fall into three related blocs.

Fisher’s top bloc—contributing $472,215—consists of trial lawyers who are at war with the tort-reform interests that dominate Staples’ funding. An Orgain Bell & Tucker attorney, Fisher got a total of $132,715 from this firm (including the $9,280 that he gave his own campaign). The Texas Trial Lawyers Association came next, giving Fisher $100,000.

As with Staples, Fisher’s next largest bloc came from PACs associated with his party. Democratic PACs dominated by two official state and national committees gave him $373,623.

Labor unions were Fisher’s last big donor bloc, giving at total of $102,400. The biggest union donor was the Texas State Teacher’s Association. It gave Fisher $25,000. •
Top Staples Guns
Contributor City
Associated Republicans of TX Austin
Republican Party of TX  Austin
†Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC Houston
†Bob Perry (Perry Homes) Houston
†Robert C.McNair (Cogen utility) Houston
†Kenneth L. Lay (Enron gas) Houston
Nat’l Republican Cong. Com. DC
TX Real Estate PAC Austin
Assoc. Builders & Contractors Irving
TX Medical Assoc. Austin
†Gordon Cain (Sterling chem.) Houston
†William McMinn (Sterling chem.) Brenham
†Michael S. Stevens (real estate) Houston
TX Oil & Gas PAC Austin
Free Enterprise PAC (libertarian) Dallas
•Sen. David Sibley Austin
TX Homebuilders’ HOMEPAC Austin
†Lonnie Pilgrim (Pil. Pride poultry) Pittsburg
†Larry J . Martin (USA Waste) Houston
•Sen. Jeff Wentworth San Antonio
Robert Graham (AIM mutual fund) Houston
•Sen. Robert L. Duncan Lubbock
•Lt. Gov. Rick Perry Austin
†Frank B. McGuyer (MHI homes) Houston
•Sen. Florence Shapiro Plano
†W. W. Negley (WWN fasteners) Houston
TX Dental Assoc. Austin
†Albert Huddleston (Hyperion oil) Dallas
•Sen. Bill Ratliff Mt Pleasant
•Sen. Teel Bivins Amarillo
†Texans for Lawsuit Reform backer
• Member of TX Senate’s slim GOP majority
Big Fisher Feeders
Contributor City
TX Democratic Party Austin
Democratic Legisl. Campaign Com. DC
*Orgain Bell & Tucker Beaumont
*TX Trial Lawyers Assoc. Austin
*Nix Patterson & Roach Daingerfield
*Wayne Reaud (Reaud Morgan Quinn) Beaumont
Lone Star Fund (Rep. M. Frost’s PAC) Dallas
*Williams Bailey Law Firm Houston
+TX State Teachers Assoc. Austin
*John O'Quinn (O’Quinn Laminack) Houston
+United Food & Commercial Workers DC
+TX AFL-CIO Austin
*J. Hoke Peacock (Orgain Bell Tucker) Beaumont
New Democrat Network DC
Arthur (Buddy) Temple (forestry heir) Lufkin
TX League of Conservation Voters Austin
*Ernest Cannon (& Assoc.) Houston
*Hubert Oxford (Beckstein Oxford) Beaumont
*Gilbert Adams (Law Firm) Beaumont
Roy Spence (GSDM advertising firm) Austin
*Helm Pletcher Bowen & Saunders Houston
+Int’l Brotherhood Electrical Workers DC
Joe Penland (Quality Mat Co.) Beaumont
*Moore Landrey LLP Beaumont
+Drivers Warehousemen & Helpers Dallas
Sen. David Bernsen Beaumont
*David Fisher (candidate: Orgain Bell) Silsbee
+Am. Fed. State Co. Munc’l Empl. DC
+TX State Assoc. of Fire Fighters Austin
*George Chandler (Law Offices) Lufkin
*Trial lawyer/firm
+Labor union

These data covers contributions that the two candidates raised in the period building up to the November 7th general election. The Staples data cover money he raised after his primary victory, from March 6, 2000 through October 27, 2000. Fisher did not have a primary opponent. His data cover January 2 through October 27, 2000.

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Texans for Public Justice is a non-partisan, non-profit policy & research organization
 which tracks the influence of money in politics.

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