Long before George W. Bush began campaigning for the White House, his
family built a fund-raising network of wealthy supporters to bankroll his political
ambitions and propel him to the presidency.
The network - including oilmen, lobbyists, developers, and agricultural executives
- became accustomed to the Bush family's style of government, with George W.
Bush as governor of Texas and brother Jeb Bush as governor of Florida.
The political financiers made an investment in the Bush family, an
investment that paid off.
By 2004, President Bush's re-election campaign had assembled 66 elite fund-raisers
in Texas and 55 in Florida. Some of the supporters, known as Pioneers and Rangers
for raising at least $100,000 or $200,000, respectively, say they collected
contributions for Mr. Bush because he was a trusted friend with common political
Some, though, acknowledge that being a prolific fund-raiser translates into
access for those who want to influence government decisions.
"If you support someone, it's going to give you a leg up on getting an audience.
There's nothing wrong with that," said Pioneer Charles Beggs Moncrief of
Moncrief Oil in Fort Worth.
Since Mr. Bush took office in 2001, the federal government has awarded more
than $3 billion in contracts to the President's elite 2004 Texas fund-raisers,
their businesses, and lobbying clients, a Blade investigation shows. In Florida,
massive sugar companies and development firms led by Bush Pioneers and Rangers
have reaped millions of dollars from government policies, which environmentalists
say have sided with sprawl and development over the restoration of the Everglades.
The Bush strongholds of Texas and Florida became the roots of a fund-raising
tree that by 2004 had enlisted 548 Pioneers and Rangers nationwide - including
30 in Ohio.
A Blade report in October showed that Mr. Bush's top Ohio fund-raisers collected
more than $1.2 billion in taxpayers' dollars for their companies and lobbying
One Ohio "Pioneer," former Toledo-area rare-coin dealer Tom Noe,
was indicted in October on three felony charges that he illegally laundered
money into the Bush re-election campaign. The Blade first reported on April
3 that the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation gave Mr. Noe $50 million to
invest in his rare-coin funds. State officials accuse him of stealing millions
of dollars from the funds.
Supporting the 'cause'
Members of President Bush's prestigious fund-raising clubs in Texas and Florida
- who raised at least $17.1 million of the $40 million collected for his re-election
effort last year in the two states - stood to win millions of dollars through
federal energy, environmental, or agricultural policies. Others had federal
contracts to supply accounting services to government agencies or electricity
to the Department of Defense, while some won high-ranking appointments and ambassadorships.
Bill Ceverha, a Bush Pioneer and political strategist who spent 12 years in
the Texas Legislature, believes that most of Mr. Bush's key fund-raisers didn't
expect anything from the President besides sound governance.
"These are people of a stature that they don't want any appointments.
They don't need anything from the government," said Mr. Ceverha, who works
as a political adviser to Louis Beecherl, an oilman and Bush Pioneer who declines
to speak with the media. "They are just doing it because they believe in
In the early 1990s, Mr. Ceverha was among the Texans who helped persuade George
W. Bush to run for governor. Today, there are photos of Mr. Bush on the wall
of his Dallas office, and Mr. Ceverha says he and his wife are invited to White
House Christmas parties.
He said being a Bush Pioneer or Ranger provides access but no guarantees from
"I don't know any of them who are looking for anything in particular,"
Mr. Ceverha said. "They know they are going to get an audience when they
go to Washington, not necessarily with the President, but with this senator
or that senator, or this congressman."
As Texas's governor during the 1990s, Mr. Bush established a loyal following
that included deep-pocketed political financiers by selling them on his straight-forward
style of leadership and looking out for their interests in the statehouse, said
Tom Smith of the Texas chapter of Public Citizen, a nonprofit public interest
"The Texas Pioneers and Rangers learned through the Bush gubernatorial
era that their investments would pay off, so they were more than willing to
be leaders when Bush began to run for president," Mr. Smith said.
Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim, the chairman of Texas-based Pilgrim's Pride,
is adamant that his fund-raising activities aren't done for "selfish reasons."
"I do it, first of all, for what I believe is right and people I contribute
to have the same philosophy I have," said Mr. Pilgrim, a Bush Pioneer.
"You know, I'm a conservative. I believe in integrity. I believe in a minimum
of regulations. I don't believe in high taxes."
Mr. Pilgrim, who founded his company 60 years ago, has seen it grow into the
nation's second-largest poultry producer. Last year, the company posted more
than $5 billion in sales.
Since President Bush took office in 2001, Mr. Pilgrim's business collected
nearly $60 million from the federal government for selling poultry to the Agricultural
Marketing Service, a government agency that assists farmers and provides food
for the poor.
Mr. Pilgrim said he didn't know that his company had received federal money,
but he characterized the federal payments as a "small number," considering
his business does "$20 million a day."
He said he's only asked President Bush once for a favor - that he speak with
Russian President Vladimir Putin about stopping Russia's ban on the import of
U.S. chickens. In May, 2002, President Bush spoke with Mr. Putin about the so-called
"chicken war" - and the Russians eventually allowed the import of
the U.S. products.
The discussions came after the two presidents signed a historic nuclear arms
treaty at the Kremlin.
"President Putin and I also agree that we'll work to resolve disputed
areas of trading, such as poultry or steel, in a spirit of mutual respect and
trust," President Bush said at a news conference after the signing of the
Mr. Pilgrim, who said he requested Mr. Bush's intervention on behalf of the
chicken industry, called the process "slow and even discouraging"
"I think President Putin didn't have total control of many things down
there in Russia, just like politicians here in America don't have total control,"
said Mr. Pilgrim, who added that Mr. Bush, his wife, Laura, and his two daughters,
Jenna and Barbara, spent a night at his home while Mr. Bush was running for
governor in Texas.
Defense and accounting
Of the more than $3 billion in federal contracts awarded to President Bush's
key Texas fund-raisers and their lobbying clients, more than $1.7 billion went
to the customers of Tom Loeffler, a lobbyist, former Texas congressman, and
Two of Mr. Loeffler's clients, American Management Systems and Motorola, collected
the majority of the federal contract money. Motorola supplied security and communications
products to the Department of Defense and other agencies, while American Management
provided computer services to a number of agencies including the Coast Guard
and Defense Department.
Mr. Loeffler's clients, in total, collected more than $960 million in Department
of Defense contracts since Mr. Bush took office.
Julian Read, a spokesman for Mr. Loeffler, who is based in San Antonio, said
the lobbying clients might have "gotten the contracts whether or not he
Adding that Mr. Loeffler has been a friend and supporter of the President for
many years, Mr. Read said: "There are many, many factors involved in awarding
contracts ... They probably don't have anything to do with lobbyists."
Besides chicken and defense contractors, the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers
also helped keep President Bush in the White House.
The firm last year lent two of its top executives, Carter Pate and Richard
Kilgust, to the Bush campaign to raise money. The two men were so successful
they were named Bush Rangers.
Pricewaterhouse has collected more than $353 million for accounting and auditing
services from federal agencies since Mr. Bush took office in 2001.
To bolster its business with the government, the accounting firm in late October
hired a business strategy firm, California-based SM&A, as an adviser.
Mr. Pate, a Texas resident and managing partner of Pricewaterhouse's Washington
office, said in a statement: "SM&A's 22-year history of winning leadership
in federal business capture made them the logical choice for moving forward
A spokesman declined to comment on behalf of Mr. Pate and Mr. Kilgust, another
senior partner with the accounting firm.
Kingdom of sugar
For miles and miles, the land along U.S. 27 through Florida's Broward and Palm
Beach counties is barren, either under water, or black with a soil that locals
But about six miles south of Lake Okeechobee, the smokestacks of the massive
Florida Crystals refinery dominate the landscape, the smoke blending with the
And in the nearby town of Clewiston, which bills itself as "America's
Sweetest Town,'' workers stream out of the U.S. Sugar Corp.'s refinery as rain
falls on another humid, 75-degree day in December.
The federal and state governments call it the "Everglades Agricultural
It is the kingdom of the sugar giants.
Two of President Bush's top Florida fund-raisers in 2004 were Jose "Pepe"
Fanjul, president of Florida Crystals Corp., and Robert Edward Coker, senior
vice president of U.S. Sugar.
The sugar industry and developers have profited under President Bush and his
brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in part by gutting the purpose of the federal
Everglades Restoration Act, said Jonathan Ullman, Everglades field representative
for the Sierra Club.
The law was signed in 2000 by President Bill Clinton.
Under the Bush Administration:
The Army Corps of Engineers has weakened the rules governing the proposed
restoration of the Everglades, in part by restricting the Department of Interior's
In 2002, the federal government gave the green light to rock-mining companies
that want to destroy about 20,000 acres of wetlands. Environmental groups,
saying the mining would contaminate groundwater, have sued.
Two years ago, at the request of Florida sugar companies and several lobbyists
they hired, Governor Bush signed a bill into law to amend the state's Everglades
Forever Act, which has set a 2006 deadline for the cleanup of phosphorus.
Governor Bush signed legislation that delayed the planned cleanup of phosphorous
pollution from the sugar industry by another 10 years.
The administrations of both President Bush and Governor Bush have allowed
residential development on land environmentalists say is needed to restore
the Everglades. Critics also say the administrations have not provided enough
money for a proposal to replace a roadway in Miami-Dade County with an 11-mile
elevated skyway that would allow for natural flow of water into Everglades
In 2000, Mr. Coker and Mr. Fanjul were at Governor Bush's side at Everglades
National Park when he signed legislation into law implementing the federal Everglades
"There are certain milestones in our careers and lives where everything
comes together, and we recognize that we have actually done something of lasting
importance,'' Governor Bush said at the time.
The Sierra Club had generally supported the $8 billion blueprint, but the group
now only supports parts of it.
"We could see that both Bush administrations in Tallahassee and Washington
were abandoning the plan and it was being turned into a water-supply project
for the benefit of developers, specifically sprawl development," said Mr.
Ullman, the group's Everglades field representative in Miami.
Russell Schweiss, Governor Bush's senior press secretary, rejected the charge
and said environmental groups have distorted the governor's record.
"It is abundantly clear that Everglades restoration is one of his top
priorities, based solely on the investment he has committed to the project.
A lot of the governor's critics have argued that it is simply to get water for
South Florida, but the fact is you can't restore the Everglades without providing
a better water source to South Florida," said Mr. Schweiss, who added that
phosphorous levels have declined in the Everglades during Governor Bush's tenure.
Three Florida Bush Rangers - Al Austin, Alfred Hoffman, Jr., and H. Gary Morse
- served on Governor Bush's Council of 100, a business advisory group which
in 2003 recommended that water from rural northern parts of the state be moved
to urban areas in the south. Because of extensive opposition, Governor Bush
has shelved the recommendation.
Mr. Hoffman, chairman of one of the state's largest development firms, was
the council's chairman. In 2004, he was national co-chairman and Florida finance
chairman for President Bush's re-election campaign. President Bush in July nominated
him as ambassador to Portugal.
Mr. Austin, a Tampa-based developer, was a fund-raiser for Governor Bush's
Mr. Morse is a developer who gave more than $80,000 to the Florida Republican
Party when Jeb Bush ran successfully for governor in 1998.
Another Florida Bush fund-raiser, attorney C. David Brown - a Pioneer in 2000
and a Ranger in 2004 - helped convince the Scripps Research Institute of California
to locate a biotech research center on a 1,920-acre site in Palm Beach County
near the Everglades.
Governor Bush has supported the project. It is on hold, in part, because a
federal judge said the Army Corps of Engineers should have conducted a comprehensive
environmental review of whether the institute could use the site.
Mr. Brown's law firm received about $200,000 from the state of Florida for
working on the project.
Development of the land, now covered with orange groves, would damage the Everglades,
the Sierra Club's Mr. Ullman said.
President Bush faced criticism when he was governor of Texas for aiding his
Critics charged that his hands-off approach to the state's booming energy industry
was because he was beholden to oil and energy interests, which had provided
millions of dollars for his campaigns.
Tom Smith of the Texas chapter of Public Citizen said recently that Mr. Bush
had a record in Texas of deregulating utilities and allowing polluters to police
themselves - policies which would foreshadow the actions he would take in the
"His attempts to forgive utilities on every turn can only be figured out
in the context of its payback for their help in his election," Mr. Smith
After his election in 2000, President Bush assembled an energy transition team
that included a number of Bush fund-raisers, such as former Enron executive
Ken Lay, a 2000 Pioneer, and Erle Nye, a 2004 Pioneer and the former chairman
of TXU, a large Texas energy company.
Since Mr. Bush took office in 2001, TXU has collected more than $147 million
in federal contracts for supplying gas and electric services to several agencies,
including the Department of Defense. On Dec. 5, 2001, the Defense Logistics
Agency authorized a $71 million contract to TXU for fuel oils. TXU also received
a $600 million tax refund in 2003, according to the company's official filings.
During President Clinton's eight years in office, TXU received $69 million
in federal contracts.
Mr. Nye, who left TXU earlier this year, could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Nye was appointed by Mr. Bush to serve on the Texas A&M University System
Board of Regents.
Charles Beggs Moncrief of Moncrief Oil in Fort Worth, another Bush Pioneer,
said he's never asked for any favors from the Bush Administration.
Mr. Moncrief said being a Bush fund-raiser "obviously" could help
someone gain access.
"That works whether you are a Republican or a Democrat," he said.
Mr. Moncrief's father, W.A. "Tex" Moncrief, the longtime owner of
Moncrief Oil and a major Republican contributor, said he believes one of the
"big reasons" Mr. Bush decided to invade Iraq was oil. And the decision,
he said, will pay dividends for the U.S. oil market.
"The Iraq situation doesn't look good, but my honest opinion is that if
we hadn't gone into Iraq, then we would be in worse shape with the oil situation,"
he said. "The Iraqis probably would have gone into Saudi Arabia and certainly
gotten into a squabble with Iran or taken them over and have a lock on all of
the oil, which they don't have now."
Money: a loud voice
Texas is "a prime example of money running things," said Fred Lewis,
an Austin-based attorney and leader of Clean Up Texas Politics.
"Those that give money do well," he said. "Money speaks pretty
loud down here on all sorts of issues, whether it's consumer rights, environmental
The same is true in Florida, where the leading sugar companies have held on
to their "enormous power" by contributing millions of dollars to federal
and state candidates, said Nancy Watzman, senior analyst for Public Campaign,
which advocates public financing of political races.
In 1992, Alfonso "Alfy" Fanjul, an executive with Florida Crystals
Corp., was co-chairman of Mr. Clinton's presidential campaign in Florida.
Four years later, his brother, "Pepe," was national vice chairman
of finance for Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, the former Senate
GOP leader from Kansas.
After Vice President Al Gore suggested that a tax on sugar producers could
help pay for Everglades restoration, "Alfy" Fanjul called President
Clinton on Feb. 19, 1996.
Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who was having an affair with Mr. Clinton,
was in the Oval Office at the time and later told investigators that someone
named "Fanuli" had called while she was there. White House phone records
showed that the caller was "Alfy" Fanjul.
Mr. Gore's sugar-tax proposal never moved forward.
Also that year, J. Nelson Fairbanks, the president and CEO of U.S. Sugar, led
a successful effort to block a proposed state sugar tax.
In 2000, Mr. Fairbanks attained Bush Pioneer status, and when he retired in
2003, Robert Edward Coker, a senior vice president, took his place as a Bush
"If you wanted to have a textbook example of a business interest that
has learned how to work the system by giving campaign money, these folks would
be near the top of the list,'' said Ms. Watzman of Public Campaign. "They
know how to play the money and politics game to the max."
Michael M. Boone, a Bush Ranger and co-founder of the Dallas-based law firm
Haynes and Boone, said contributors who expect paybacks from the White House
for campaign contributions are not unique to Republicans.
"I'm sure a lot of people supported Clinton in hopes that they could get
something in exchange ... and I'm sure there's somebody like that for George
Bush," he said, adding that he's never asked for any favors.
"Knowing George Bush, I would never, ever trade on anything with him because
I think he'd throw me out of his office. He is as clean as I can think of as
a person on that kind of issue."
Contact Steve Eder at: firstname.lastname@example.org or
Read from Looking Glass News
Criminal probes entangle numerous fund-raisers