Bob Feldman : Texas Governors Bush and Perry, and Their Network of the Ultra-Rich, 1996-2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry with then President (and former Texas Governor) George W. Bush at a 2002 campaign event in Dallas. On the left is Texas Sen. John Cornyn. Photo by Larry Downing / Reuters.

The hidden history of Texas

Conclusion: 1996-2011/1 — Bush, Perry, and their network of Texas ultra-rich

By Bob Feldman | The Rag Blog | May 20, 2013

[This is the first section of the conclusion to Bob Feldman’s Rag Blog series on the hidden history of Texas.]

When George W. Bush became the Republican Governor of Texas, “he arrived indebted to dozens of industries and wealthy patrons” and “repaid some of his supporters with choice political appointments,” according to the Center for Public Integrity’s The Buying of the President 2000.

The same book indicated what the political situation was like in Texas state politics in 2000 — before Texas’s governor moved into the White House in 2001 after receiving fewer popular votes than the Democratic Party candidate in the 2000 U.S. presidential election:

One of the most prestigious political appointments is a seat on the University of Texas board of Regents. The board is filled with Bush’s top-dollar donors. The chair of the UT Regents is Donald Evans, Bush’s old friend and longtime fund-raiser who, as the finance chairman for Bush’s presidential bid, has overseen the campaign’s record-shattering fund-raising drive. Evans is the chief executive officer of Tom Brown, Inc., an oil and gas company based in Midland, Texas .

In 1989, Bush joined the board as an outside director. He received $12,000 a year plus stock options for attending several meetings and participating in conference calls… Shortly after he was elected governor of Texas, Bush sold his Tom Brown holdings for a profit of $297,550.

Another regent and top Bush patron is A.R. `Tony’ Sanchez, the chairman and chief executive of Sanchez-O’Brien Oil and Gas Corporation… Sanchez and his mother also own a controlling stake in International Bancshares Corporation, the holding company of International Bank of Commerce, a Texas banking chain founded by his father in 1966. Over [George W.] Bush’s career, Sanchez, members of his family, and employees of his companies have given him at least $230,150, making them his No. 2 career patron…

Bush owed few people more than Richard Rainwater, the Fort Worth financier… Rainwater launched an investment company in 1994, Crescent Real Estate Equities Company… In 1997, Bush backed a plan to cut state property taxes that would have saved Crescent some $2.5 million in state taxes… Later that year,…Bush signed a bill into law that produced a $10 million windfall for Crescent… Dallas taxpayers were to foot most of the bill for the new sports arena…Rainwater, through Crescent, bought a 12 percent stake in the Mavericks. Under the purchase agreement, Crescent will get $10 million when the arena is completed…

The Texas Teachers’ Retirement System…sold two office buildings and a mortgage on a third to Crescent in 1996 and 1997 at a $70.4 million loss… At the time of at least one of the sales, Bush owned about $100,000 worth of Crescent stock… The University of Texas Investment Management Company [UTIMCO]…has steered close to $1.7 billion of its assets into private investments; a third of that money has gone into funds run either by…[UTIMCO Chairman Hicks]’s business partner or by Bush patrons…

Industries that have provided the bulk of Bush’s campaign contributions have gotten his help in a variety of endeavors, from staving off pesky environmental regulations and shielding themselves from consumer lawsuits to driving off meddlesome investigators… According to a study by Public Research Works, Bush raised $566,000 from…polluters for his two gubernatorial campaigns. And from March 4, 1999 to March 31, 1999 Bush raised $316,300… They included: Enron ( Bush’s No. 1 career patron); Vinson & Elkins (Bush’s No. 3 career patron), a law firm that represents Enron and Alcoa, a…polluter; and companies owned by the Bass family (Bush’s No. 5 career patron).

And, coincidentally, some of the same ultra-rich folks who bankrolled former Texas governor Bush’s campaigns in the 1990s have apparently been donating a lot of money in the 21st-century to fund the campaigns of the current governor of Texas, former 2012 GOP presidential primaries candidate Rick Perry.

Between 2001 and Oct. 23, 2010, for example, Perry (a former U.S. Air Force officer who is the son of former Haskell County Commissioner Ray Perry) received $337,027 in campaign contributions from Lee Bass, $100,000 in campaign contributions from Sid Bas, and 265,000 in campaign contributions from Ray Hunt, according to the Texans for Public Justice website.

The same website also recalled that “as Texas’ longest-serving governor, Rick Perry raised $98.9 million from 2001 through Oct. 23, 2010,” and that “Perry raised almost $49 million (or 50 percent of this money) from 193 mega donors who gave him $100,000 or more.”

Between 1990 and 2000, the number of people who lived in Austin increased from 465,622 to 656,562; and the number of people who lived in the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area increased from 846,227 to 1,249,763 during the same period.

According to the “Forty Acres and a Shul: `It’s Easy as Dell’” essay by Cathy Schechter that appeared in Lone Stars of David: the Jews of Texas, between 1990 and 2000,  Austin ’s Jewish-affiliated population also increased from 5,000 “to more than 10,000,” and “by 2002, the American Jewish Yearbook estimated the city’s Jewish population at 13,500.”

But “the appearance of young `Dellionaire’ Jews who made millions in the brave new world of high-technology took the mellow Austin Jewish community by surprise.” Yet by 2007, Texas billionaire Michael Dell — with an estimated personal wealth that year of $17.2 billion — was the wealthiest ultra-rich person in Texas .

But in 2007 Robert Bass was still worth $5.5 billion, Ray Hunt was worth $4 billion, Sid and Lee Bass were worth $3 billion, and Ed Bass was worth $2.5 billion, according to Bryan Burrough’s The Big Rich. The same book also noted that in 2007, coincidentally, “Hunt Oil received a lucrative concession to drill in northern Iraq,” and “Sid Bass, whose family, along with the Hunts, ranked among Bush’s largest financial backers, was photographed alongside the president, Laura Bush, and the queen of England…”

[Bob Feldman is an East Coast-based writer-activist and a former member of the Columbia SDS Steering Committee of the late 1960s. Read more articles by Bob Feldman on The Rag Blog.]

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