Are The Bush Pioneers & Rangers?
The Scandal Sheet on Pioneers
At least 148
of the 642 elite 2000 and 2004 Bush donors (23 percent) have been
involved in corporate scandals or helped run companies involved in them.
At least 100 of the 2004 elite donors (19 percent) have corporate-scandal
Campaign Donor Scandals
The scandal poster boy is Enron
Pioneer “Kenny Boy” Lay, who was one of 22 wealthy business leaders
whom President Bush invited to lunch in 2001 to discuss his tax cut for
the wealthy. Later that year, disclosures about Enron’s conflicts of
interest and flimflam accounting reduced this $60 billion Wall Street darling
to bankruptcy. Enron’s colossal fraud would have been impossible without
the active or passive cooperation of Enron’s:
Auditor, Arthur Anderson, which
employed 2000 Pioneer Stephen Goddard as head of its Houston office;
“Outside” law firm Vinson &
Elkins, which employs two-time Pioneer Thomas Marinis; and
Such investment banks as Credit
Suisse First Boston, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch and UBS, which
collectively employ 10 elite Bush donors.
In 2002 10 top Wall Street banks
agreed to pay a record $1.4 billion to settle New York Attorney General
Eliot Spitzer’s charges that their analysts promoted stocks of companies
that kicked back lucrative underwriting contracts to the banks. Spitzer
next probed mutual funds that secretly granted special trading privileges
to large investors, thereby letting them profit at the expense of regular
investors. Finance companies hit by the mutual-fund scandal include Bank
of America, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS, which
employ a total of 13 elite Bush donors--none of whom were Pioneers in 2000.
Now Spitzer is probing insurance brokers to see if incentives they received
from insurers induced them to sell policies that were not in the best interest
of their customers. Brokers subpoenaed in the probe include Marsh &
McLennan (M&M) and Aon Corp, the president and CEO of which both became
elite Bush donors in the 2004 campaign. M&M, which also was slammed
in the mutual-fund scandal, employed Pioneer Craig Stapleton before Bush
appointed him to be Czech Ambassador.
John Stafford headed drug giant
American Home Products (AHP) from 1986 until 2001. At the FDA’s behest
AHP removed the diet drug fen-phen in 1997 after research showed that it
exposed millions of consumers to elevated risks of heart failure. An AHP
safety manager and the scientist who reviewed the drugs’s FDA application
said the company covered up these risks. Now called Wyeth, the company
is a top producer of estrogen replacement drugs. A 2002 study was halted
after women who took Wyeth’s Prempro suffered unacceptable increases
in their rates of breast cancer, strokes and heart attacks. Subsequent
studies have linked Prempro to elevated risks of dementia.
Chicken kingpin Lonnie Pilgrim
is the Bush Pioneer who heads Pilgrim’s Pride. It owns a processing plant
implicated in the 2002 Listeria meat infection that killed eight people
and caused three miscarriages. A federal meat inspector said his USDA superiors
previously overruled inspector recommendations to close the plant, which
had mold and algae growing on its walls and ducts that dripped on processing
Alabama homebuilder Mitchell Brothers,
Inc. (MBI), which accounts for three 2004 elite Bush donors, paid $1.75
million in 1996 to settle a class-action lawsuit by 16 African-Americans
who said MBI denied them housing based on their race. Ex-MBI leasing agents
complained to federal officials that MBI showed blacks the worst apartments
and flagged their names on a waiting list so they would not be called about
vacancies. MBI paid $900,000 to settle a related lawsuit by an ex-employee
who said she was fired for refusing to discriminate.
At least 82
of the 642 elite 2000 and 2004 Bush donors (13 percent) have been
involved in scandals that involve campaign-donor clout—either their own
or that of their employers. At least 53 of the 2004 elite donors
(10 percent) have ties to campaign-donor scandals.
MassMutual Financial Group CEO
Robert O’Connell became a Bush Pioneer for the first time in 2000 by
sending employees a letter noting that he had contributed $1,000 to Bush
and urging them to funnel their contribution checks to him to pass along
to the campaign. A Federal Elections Committee spokesperson said that this
strong-arm tactic is legal if it is confined to executive and administrative
staff and so long as the employees are not pressured to contribute!
Two-time elite Bush donor Munr
Kazmir may be America’s most powerful Pakistani Jewish immigrant. After
starting a company that supplied hospitals with respiratory therapists,
Kazmir co-chaired New Jersey’s GOP finance committee when future Ranger
Christine Todd Whitman was elected governor in 1993. The following year
state regulators probed allegations that Kazmir’s company: Helped respiratory
therapists cheat on exams; Sent hospitals unlicensed respiratory therapists;
and pressured a secretary to don a white coat to aid patients. This probe
sparked a protest from state lawmaker Patrick Roma--who took campaign money
from Kazmir. In 1998 Kazmir paid $26,000 to settle the charges and launched
a mail-order drug company. When the federal government granted disaster
loans to businesses harmed by the World Trade Center attack, Kazmir’s
Direct Meds was New Jersey’s top beneficiary.
2000 Pioneer Randall Hubbard stepped
down as chair of Pinnacle Entertainment after he and that gambling company
were fined more than $3 million in 2002 (a Pinnacle-chartered jet brought
hookers to its Indiana casino to entertain guests). While Hubbard still
owned Ruidoso Downs and a casino in New Mexico, in 2002 that state’s
gambling board had to overrule its own staff’s recommendation that his
casino license not be renewed. A year later the New Mexico Racing Commission
picked Hubbard over three competitors to open a new racetrack and casino.
This coup came after Hubbard amended his application to include a new partner—one
who ran a racetrack that contributed $100,500 to Governor Bill Richardson.
A 1998 Time Magazine expose
crowned Bush Ranger Jose “Pepe” Fanjul’s family “the first family
of corporate welfare” because federal funds drained the Everglades land
where the Fanjuls grow sugar and the feds guarantee their industry prices
that are double world market prices. This “first family” exercised
extraordinary clout in 1996. Shortly after Al Gore proposed taxing sugar
to fund Everglades restoration, President Clinton took an angry call from
Jose’s brother Alfonso--right in the middle of a tryst with Monica Lewinsky.
Gore's plan floundered.
At least 42
of the 642 elite 2000 and 2004 Bush donors (7 percent) work for
polluting companies or industries. At least 32 of the 2004 elite donors
(6 percent) have these polluter ties.
Two-time Pioneer Anthony Alexander
is president of FirstEnergy Corp. and sat on Bush’s 2000 Energy Department
transition team. FirstEnergy electric plants are major emitters of mercury
and sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain and respiratory disease. A federal
judge ruled in 2003 that the company broke the Clean Air Act by failing
to install modern pollution-control technology when it rebuilt a power
plant. Shortly after this ruling, the Bush administration released new
rules that gut the environmental law that FirstEnergy violated. A 2002
acid leak ate a hole almost all the way through a reactor cap at FirstEnergy’s
Davis-Besse nuclear plant. It was the worst nuclear-safety threat since
Three Mile Island in 1979.
Two-time Pioneer James “Buck”
Harless is a West Virginia coal baron. His industry’s support was crucial
to Bush’s narrow 2000 victory in that state. After Bush appointed Harless’
grandson to his 2000 Energy Department transition team, the Bush administration
reversed a campaign promise to support reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions
and eased rules that discouraged coal miners from shearing off mountain
tops and dumping the debris in river valleys. “We were looking for friends,
and we found one in George W. Bush,” James Harless told the Wall Street
2000 Bush Pioneer Fred Webber headed
the chemical industry’s trade group from 1992 until he retired in 2002.
With Bush in office it was a safe time to step down. That same year, two
big donors who had become Bush appointees, European Union (EU) Ambassador
Rockwell Schnabel and Commerce Secretary Don Evans, spearheaded U.S. opposition
to proposed EU rules to subject chemicals to environmental and health tests.
Internal documents reveal that the Commerce Department got snippy with
the U.S. chemical industry for not moving fast enough “to develop an
official position and strategy” to respond to the EU proposal. The EU
dramatically scaled back the scope of the rules in 2003.