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A season for giving

Forty-eight families donated $34 million to the Texas GOP this year, more than half of the $64 million total that the state party raised.

I’m not going to act all shocked and indignant about this. “GOP gets big bucks from rich folks” is as much a secret as Trent Lott’s despicable racism. It isn’t even news any more.

So, I’m going to focus on a couple of interesting bits in this story. I’ll start by quoting Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, one of the five biggest GOP benefactors:

[McNair] said the way to improve the campaign finance system is to require greater transparency and timely reporting of who donates to political funds.

“That’s the answer, because you smoke everybody out and you know who is putting the money up,” he said. “If I’m in the construction business and there’s construction legislation up there, then it’s clear.”

I agree. It surely would have been nice for this story to have been written in October rather than December, for example. Consider this little nugget:

The second-largest donor to Texans for a Republican Majority was the Farmers Insurance employees committee, which gave $150,000.

Farmers’ threats to pull out of the Texas homeowners insurance market have led Gov. Perry to say he will declare insurance reform an emergency legislative issue in January.

I suspect that might have been a campaign issue had it been known before the election. It may not have made any difference, but it would have been nice to know.

Former #1 giver James Leininger was #2 this year, but he’s already had plenty of influence. Be sure to read the linked stories, or do a Google search on “James Leininger”. It’s an eye opener. One word of advice: If you’re a Democrat, don’t buy any products from Promised Land Dairy.

Then there’s Bo Pilgrim. What can you say about a man who once handed out $10,000 checks on the state Senate floor when a bill on workers’ compensation insurance was being discussed? Here’s what he says for himself:

Pilgrim now says that money was not donated for the good of his company but for the good of all Texas workers whose jobs might have moved out of state if the workers’ compensation system had not been overhauled.

“I’m a large contributor, but I have 24,500 employees,” Pilgrim said. “I’m contributing for them. I know they are not able to contribute, some of them.

“It’s my responsibility to support the right candidates for the right reasons. It’s not selfish. It’s interpreted that way by the individual who doesn’t have or can’t have the same input.”

Yes, that really was selfless of him. I should be ashamed of myself for being snarky about it. Maybe if I’d get off my butt and become a millionaire so I could do what he does I wouldn’t be such a crab.

The big winner this year was Houston’s own Bob Perry, the man behind the evil soulless townhome development company Perry Homes. The sidebar story gives some background on him. I have a strong dislike for Perry Homes because of what they’ve done to Montrose, the neighborhood I used to live in. Now I have even more reason to feel this way.

The last of the Top Five is a Dallas dusinessman named Wayne Huddleston. The article refers to hims as a “different kind of Republican”, and for once I actually agree with that assessment:

A resident of Highland Park, a Dallas enclave that is home to the state’s wealthiest school district, Huddleston wants to get rid of the “Robin Hood” school finance system that takes money from rich districts and gives to poor ones. But he also is willing to propose the usually unthinkable in Texas politics — a flat state income tax to pay for schools.

“Ultimately, no one can argue with educating every child in the state of Texas,” Huddleston said. “My goal is not to do it well in the short term but to put something into play in the long term that does the job.”

Anyone who’d advocate a state income tax is definitely not a conformist. I can’t say he’ll get much return on his investment, though.

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One Comment

  1. Emma says:

    And I used to think Molly Ivins was a humorist…