American democracy in action

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Wed Jan 19 17:18:31 PST 2000

------------------------------->$$$$$<-------------------------------- OUCH! A Regular Bulletin on How Money in Politics Hurts You

#38 Public Campaign January 19, 2000 ------------------------------->$$$$$<-------------------------------- BUSH FOLLOWS THE MONEY If you've ever doubted that campaign contributions buy influence with politicians, check out this revealing fact, uncovered by Michael Isikoff in Newsweek: George W. Bush's massive fundraising operation has given its top money men individual tracking codes for donors to write on their checks. An internal memo written by the head of electric power industry's main lobbying group explains to potential donors why the code is important, with capitalization used in the original document for emphasis: "IT DOES ENSURE THAT OUR INDUSTRY IS CREDITED, AND THAT YOUR PROGRESS IS LISTED AMONG THE OTHER BUSINESS/INDUSTRY SECTORS."

If there's no quid pro quo connected to contributions, why else should Bush keep track which industries are favoring him and by how much? Bush's tracking codes give new meaning to the phrase "follow the money."

In fact, as governor of Texas, George W. has well-proven record of rewarding big contributors with big favors. Take two examples from "The Buying of the President 2000," a new book from the Center for Public Integrity: In 1995, he vetoed a Patient Protection Act that would have allowed patients to see doctors outside their HMO networks. This provision would have hurt the for-profit hospital chain Columbia/HCA, which was co-founded by Richard Rainwater, a long-time Bush business partner who has given at least $100,000 to his campaigns for office, according to the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice.

In 1997, Bush stepped in when Texas state regulators were on the verge of requiring hundreds of aging power plants, refineries and chemical plants to reduce their toxic emissions. The voluntary compliance plan Bush came up with did little to clean up Texas's air, which is among the most polluted in the country. During Bush's tenure as governor, the Houston area surpassed Los Angeles as the nation's dirtiest city. But Bush's plan did make the polluting industries happy, and they've rewarded him with close to a million dollars in contributions for his gubernatorial and presidential campaigns.

Of course, Bush isn't the only one keeping track of which industries are showering him with cash. According to a series of reports by the New Hampshire Citizens Alliance and the Iowa Citizen Action Network, Bush is the favorite of many industries. In the first nine months of 1999, the securities and investment industry has given $5.6 million to the major presidential candidates; $2.6 million to Bush alone. Members of the Edison Electric Institute, the American Petroleum Institute and the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, gave him $521,714, 79% of the total contributed by companies belonging to these trade organizations and almost four times what all other candidates combined have received from them. The biggest credit card issuers, who together hold more than half of all credit card debt, contributed $611,911 to the major presidential candidates. Seventy-one percent has gone to Bush. The pharmaceutical manufacturers have given $279,469, with $115,084 going to Bush.

Right now George W. Bush is favored in the polls to win the Republican nomination and the presidency. If you don't think, when it comes time for a possible President Bush to choose on such matters as privatizing Social Security, weakening the Clean Air Act, making it harder to declare bankruptcy, or protecting drug company monopolies, that Bush's money will matter, think again. Just check the industry tracking code. He will. ------------------------------->$$$$$<-------------------------------- OUCH! is a regular e-mail bulletin on how private money in politics hurts average citizens, published by Public Campaign, a non-partisan, non-profit organization devoted to comprehensive campaign finance reform. Every day, we pay more as consumers and taxpayers for special interest subsidies and boondoggles because of our system of privately financed elections. It's time for a change.

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