Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Who says money and politics don't mix?

Over the summer, I reported on a remarkable day at the Texas Capitol when vouchers were barely defeated in the Texas House of Representatives. That day, James Leininger, a man reported to have contributed over $10 million over the last 10 years to Republicans, reportedly stalked the halls of the Capitol to twist arms and threaten wavering R's with primary challengers. It didn't work. But now, the editor of the Texas Observer wants indisputable proof of Leininger's dealings (from the Dallas News):

Jake Bernstein, executive editor of the Observer, used the state's open records act to seek videos of a hallway behind the House chamber.

He asked for tapes recorded between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. on May 23 – the day the House narrowly rejected legislation that would have allowed some students to transfer to private schools at state expense.

Mr. Bernstein said Monday he hoped to verify or refute reports that wavering House members "were pulled off the floor to meet with" Dr. James Leininger, a San Antonio businessman and major GOP donor who has strongly advocated vouchers.

On May 23, The Dallas Morning News reported that Dr. Leininger had met with House members at the Capitol on the night before the voucher issue was debated, urging a "yes" vote.

This would be a PR coup if he could get the tapes. It would create quite a bit of press if released at the right time as newspapers and local TV stations would no doubt want to report on the donor who, with the Speaker's help, had individual consultations with numerous state Reps. It would be a stark presentation of how big money attempts to corrupt legislators.

In this case, thanks to the courageous and principled stand of a dozen Republicans, it didn't work.


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