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|For Immediate Release:
May 5, 2003
Contact: Craig L. McDonald,
Texans for Public Justice, PH: 512-472-9770, or
John C. Bonifaz, National Voting Rights Institute
Lawsuit Reveals 312 New Bush
* Meanwhile, the Bush Campaign Says It Can’t Locate Key Financial Data.
Austin & Boston: Newly released Bush presidential campaign documents reveal 312 previously unknown members of Bush’s record-breaking “Pioneer” fundraising network. Participants volunteered to help the campaign circumvent a $1,000 federal campaign contribution limit by pledging to bundle checks from family, friends and associates (most Pioneers pledged to raise at least $100,000). Combined with previous disclosures, the new data publicly identify 538 participants in the Pioneer program. Yet the new documents still do not reveal what each participant raised nor the total amount of Pioneer money raised. Indeed, there is some evidence that the campaign has yet to disclose everyone who answered the “Pioneer” call.
The new disclosures come in response to a legal challenge to a provision of the McCain-Feingold 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act that doubled the limit on individual contributions to federal candidates to $2,000 and up to $12,000 in races involving a self-funded candidate. Represented by the National Voting Rights Institute (NVRI), the plaintiffs, known as "the Adams plaintiffs," argued that the increased limits would open the floodgates to donations from the wealthy and make it impossible for candidates without large networks of maximum donors to run for office. The Pioneer program is a leading example of the way that wealthy interests are able to bundle together large contributions to influence elections. A federal court panel ruling on May 2 rejected the arguments made by the Adams plaintiffs.
In response to a September 2002 subpoena from the plaintiffs requesting complete contribution data and other information on the Pioneer program, representatives of the campaign claimed to possess only limited information. For example, Bush attorneys claimed that they could not locate an accounting of the total amount of money raised by each Pioneer fundraiser. Bush lawyers provided only limited financial data on just 212 of the 538 disclosed Pioneer fundraisers. The total amount attributed to these 212 fundraisers through some unknown date in the campaign is $24.9 million, far short of the $60 million to $80 million that observers suspect that the program raised.
“It’s time to end the secrecy over who bankrolled the Bush campaign,” said Craig McDonald, an expert witness for the plaintiffs and director of Texans for Public Justice, a research organization that has tracked Bush’s fundraising since his gubernatorial days. “It just isn’t believable that the President’s campaign lost most of a $60 million fundraising list. Has anyone checked Donald Evans’ laptop?”
“These documents reveal the disproportionate power gained by those who can bundle huge sums of hard money for political campaigns,” said NVRI Executive Director John C. Bonifaz. “With the hard money increases in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, elite donors such as the Bush Pioneers will achieve a stranglehold over the electoral process and ordinary voters will be locked out. This offends the basic constitutional promise of political equality for all.”
The newly released information and an accompanying Texans for Public Justice (TPJ) analysis reveals the identities of previously unknown Pioneer fundraisers. Key facts about the newly released Pioneer volunteers include:
Critics have long contended that Bush’s Pioneer disclosures were incomplete—if not selective. Bush campaign officials told the media that almost 400 individuals already had taken the Pioneer pledge by July 1999. An April 2000 article reported that the campaign had revealed just one-third of the names that appeared on campaign Pioneer lists obtained by The Nation. In fact, six of the eleven Pioneers that The Nation reported by name did not appear in the newly released documents (all of these happen to be current or former corporate lobbyists).1 Prior to the latest disclosure, the Bush campaign had revealed just 226 Pioneers whom it said had raised at least $100,000 each.
- The campaign credited each of 21 super Pioneers (or partnerships in which two or three participants shared one Pioneer tracking number) with raising more than $200,000 through some unknown date in the campaign. Topping the list are business partners William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds, whom the new records reveal supported Bush to an extent rivaled perhaps only by Enron. Sharing the same Pioneer tracking number, these two men—who bailed out Bush’s hemorrhaging Bush Oil Co. in 1984 and invested in the Texas Rangers venture that made Bush a millionaire 15 times over—delivered a minimum of $605,082.
- The largest known single individual Pioneer was Michigan real estate magnate Ronald Weiser, who was credited with delivering at least $588,309.
- At least 49 of the newly identified fundraisers are Lawyers & Lobbyists, including lobbyist Randy DeLay, brother of House Majority Whip Tom DeLay.
- At least 44 of the just-disclosed fundraisers come from the Energy and Natural Resources industry, including former Dynegy CEO Chuck Watson and former El Paso Energy CEO William Wise, whose companies were battered by Enronesque allegations of accounting fraud and “round-trip trading.” The oil company of Pioneer Ray Hunt has teamed up with Halliburton to build a gas pipeline through a fragile Peruvian rain forest that is home to remote indigenous tribes.
- Former Enron chief Ken Lay was credited with raising at least $112,050.
- Two-thirds of the new fundraisers (201) come from Bush’s home state of Texas, followed by 18 from California and 16 from Washington, D.C.
Materials related to the new Pioneer disclosures made available at the TPJ web site include:
- Previously sealed depositions of Bush for President Committee Finance Director Jack Oliver;
- A sample of the more than 300 Pioneer tracking forms produced by the campaign;
- A campaign spreadsheet tracking 505 Pioneer program participants (including limited contribution data on 212 of them);
- A TPJ-compiled list of all 538 known Pioneer program participants; and
- A preliminary TPJ analysis of the newly revealed Pioneer participants.
1 Charlie Black (Philip Morris); Nick Calio (who since has exited the White House lobby’s revolving door), C. Boyden Gray (Citizens for a Sound Economy); J. Steven Hart (AT&T, DuPont, Genentech), W. Henson Moore (American Paper & Forest Assoc.) and Deborah Steelman (health care industry lobby).
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