Page 20


Pho to by Ran da ll Alha de ff The Checkered Career of H. Ross Perot Austin HROSS PEROT’S name has dotted the newspapers at various times over the past fifteen years. He is famous as a Texas Horatio Alger. He is famous for his ability to manufacture patriotism. And he is on his way to becoming famous for having a role on all the major appointed committees in Texas government. Perot’s newest committee is Governor Mark White’s Select Commission on Education. White named Perot to chair the committee, though little in Perot’s past qualifies him as an expert on education, a trait he shares with other committee members. White says he chose Perot because of his leadership and organizational abilities two qualities he’ll need to keep the committee focused on what many believe is its main purpose: pay raises for teachers. Yet, questions remain about the choice of Perot to head this commission. While his financial commitment to education has not been insubstantial, it has been no greater than his commitment to other areas. He has given $2.5 million to an experimental public school for disadvantaged children, primarily blacks and hispanics, in Dallas. He also gave $150,000 to a Dallas Catholic high school, though he is a Presbyterian. And he once instituted a monetary award for excellence in teaching in the Dallas Independent School District. But he has also given $1 million to promote Boy Scouts in the ghetto and 20 Tennessee walking horses, complete with special saddles and bridles, to the New York police department. Ross Perot has said again and again that he plans to spend his money solving the nation’s problems. He said once that he felt he had “an obligation to the American people,” an obligation that Texas teachers hope includes them. Like most everything about Perot, his history is checkered. Just about everyone knows the story of how Perot was the reason behind IBM’s setting commission ceilings for its sales staff and how Perot reached that ceiling within three weeks. Chan McDermott is an Observer intern this summer and editor of The Daily Campus, the student newspaper of Southern Methodist University. 4 JULY 8, 1983 By Chan McDermott In his spare time, and with a minimum of savings, Perot then set up Electronic Data Systems, an electronics computer company that he began with his wife, mother, and sister as board members. Since then, both Perot and EDS have ex H. ROSS PEROT perienced their share of good and bad times. EDS fortunes have gone up, down, and back up again. What began as a small Dallas-based company now has three divisions: one for the insurance market, one for federal government contracts, and one for financial institutions, retailers, and commercial customers. Just one of the ironies of Perot’s life is that this firm believer in self-starting and selfsufficiency has made much of his money off welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. But, the road to success has not always been as clean-cut as Perot’s image. The company was investigated by the Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Operations during the Nixon administration. When EDS was not picked to administer New York’s $3.7 billion welfare and Medicaid operation, Perot appealed to Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The company was later awarded a $125,000 consultant contract. More recently, when the Texas State Board of Human Resources awarded a Medicaid contract to the Bradford National Corporation of New York instead of renewing the Perot-owned National Heritage Insurance Corporation contract, Perot again made use of an appeal, this time to the Department of Human Resources. Touche Ross and Co. was assigned to examine the bids. The company decided to go through the entire bidding process again, and Perot’s original contract was extended for the duration. Perot made a few enemies on Wall Street with his 1969 merger of two firms: duPont Glore Forgan, Inc., and Walston Co., Inc., to form duPont Walston, Inc., a company which later failed; despite the $100 million Perot invested in the merger. DuPont Walston was also responsible for 18 % of EDS’ gross revenues. The merger required a $50 million loan that was put together by several banks headed up by Chase Manhattan, chaired by David Rockefeller. The collateral was $55 million dollars worth of EDS stock instead of the $157 million typically required by Federal Reserve Board regulations. There was some speculation at the time that then Attorney General John Mitchell helped get the regulation waived. Perot had used Nixon and Mitchell’s New York law firm for personal matters. Perot’s enemies, though, are not nearly as interesting as his friends. Perot claims he is an independent, although his image and politics are primarily right wing. His campaign contribution record, however, gives no clues to Perot’s real perspective. In 1974, the Minneapolis Tribune reported that Perot and/or EDS executives had contributed $73,000 to political campaigns $15,000 of which went to members of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee both of which oversee Medicaid and Medicare legislation. Lloyd Bentsen received $3,000 each from Perot and former EDS president Milledge A. Hart III. Barbara Jordan received $2,500 after the election, Omar Burleson received $5,000 on Nov. 20, Jim Collins received $2,500 on Oct. 30, and Charles Wilson received $2,500 on Dec. 23. Later reports say that Perot was responsible for more than $90,000 in contributidns. In a curious twist of events in October of 1975, the House Ways and Means Committee passed a tax reform provision that allowed those who had carried losses for three years to offset taxes paid on capital gainsduring that period. The provision, which would cost the United States Treasury $165 million per year, also provided Perot with a $15 million