Dec. 11, 2003
Public Interest Groups Bash Bush’s Big Donor Fundraising from Perilous Polluters and Influence-Peddlers in Virginia
Virginia Is for Lobbyists: 10 Local Rangers and Pioneers Work on K Street
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Environmental and public interest groups gathered today near the site of an exclusive Virginia fundraiser to protest President Bush’s practice of paying back his biggest contributors with weakened environmental regulations, pork-barrel projects and plum presidential appointments.
The $2,000-a-plate luncheon in McLean is the 43rd and final fundraiser headlined by Bush this year. After Thursday’s event, the Bush-Cheney campaign is expected pass the $111 million mark for a primary contest in which the president is running unopposed. Averaging nearly $5 million a week in contributions, the campaign has held 91 events headlined by Bush, Vice President Cheney or First Lady Laura Bush since June, according to WhiteHouseForSale.org, a Web site created by Public Citizen.
“In exchange for millions in campaign cash, the Bush administration has rewarded its rainmakers with environmentally destructive policies that include a radical alteration of clean air laws and a pork-laden energy bill filled with billions in handouts to polluters,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.
Leaders from the electric utility industry, for example, were regularly consulted by Cheney’s secretive energy task force and received key appointments within the administration. Ultimately, they helped rewrite a key Clean Air Act rule that had required polluters like Virginia’s Dominion Power to retrofit their plants with pollution controls when making plant modifications. Future legal actions against such polluters are blocked under the new rule. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it is considering weakening regulations governing mercury emissions as well.
“The Bush administration’s mercury plan is just another example of their catering to big polluters who make big campaign contributions,” said Pamela Irwin of the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter. “Instead of supporting weak standards, the administration should require existing technology that reduces emissions of toxic mercury by 90 percent.”
Public Citizen, a national consumer group with more than 3,000 Virginia members, launched WhiteHouseForSale.org to track contributors to Bush’s 2004 re-election fund, particularly those dubbed “Rangers” and “Pioneers” for steering $200,000 or $100,000, respectively, to the campaign. The Web site features an updated, searchable database of all 309 individuals named Rangers or Pioneers by the Bush campaign.
So far, 15 Virginians have been identified as Rangers or Pioneers (this includes two married couples who raised money together). Two-thirds of these top fundraisers work as Washington lobbyists, representing a wide range of corporations seeking special favors from the Bush administration. They include:
- Former U.S. Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) of Akin Gump, who has become an influential lobbyist. Corporations such as Bechtel, Boeing and Pfizer pay big money to take advantage of Paxon’s close ties to Bush. Not only was Paxon named a Pioneer in 2000 and 2004, but he served as chairman of the Bush-Cheney transition team.
- Lobbyists Leslie J. Brorsen, a Pioneer from the accounting firm Ernst & Young, and Richard F. Hohlt, a Ranger whose clients include Altria, Cinergy and J.P. Morgan. Both served on Bush’s transition team at the Treasury Department. Pioneer David A. Metzner of American Continental Group, a member of Bush’s Commerce Department transition team, represents Exelon, PepsiCo and Siemens. Metzner’s partner, 2000 Pioneer Peter Terpeluk, was appointed as ambassador to Luxembourg by Bush last year.
- Husband-and-wife Pioneers Charlie and Judy Black, both lobbyists. Charlie Black is a former senior adviser to former President Reagan and spokesman for the first President Bush. Charlie Black now works on behalf of companies like AT&T, GM and NBC. Judy Black is a former Reagan aide who represents Comcast, Merrill Lynch and Ticketmaster.
- Pioneer Mark Holman, who left his position as the top aide to Tom Ridge at the White House Office of Homeland Security last year to become a lobbyist for Blank Rome. His clients include Boeing, BearingPoint, the Homeland Security Corporation, and DestiNY USA, a project aiming to build the country’s largest shopping mall in upstate New York. Buried in the massive energy bill is a $2 billion tax break earmarked for DestiNY, the brainchild of fellow Bush Pioneer Robert J. Congel.
Other Rangers from Virginia are developer Dwight C. Schar, a part owner of the Washington Redskins, and Marvin P. Bush, the president’s brother. Thursday’s event is expected to add more names to the list of top fundraisers when the campaign releases an update in mid-January. In the 2000 election, 15 Virginians pledged to raise at least $100,000, although campaign officials did not confirm if they all raised the full amount.
“This elite group of super-lobbyists understands the value of having special status with the administration,” Clemente said. “These influence-peddlers buy insider access with generous campaign contributions. Then they turn around and sell that access to their clients. This system is destroying our democracy.”