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Voucher Contributions Tally: Repubs $587,445 Dems Ai $8,500 4*. Kevin Kreneck least $5,000 to Senator Steve Ogden, who trounced a woefully underfunded Democratic opponent. The total amount A+ contributed to Senate campaigns can’t be precisely determined from Ethics Commission filings, because Mansour and Leininger played a PAC shell game that makes it impossible to follow their money. For example, they funneled $100,700 through Leadership Texas ’96, a Republican Party funding mechanism that no longer exists and which never filed any disclosures with the Ethics Commission. They gave at least $73,000 to the Republican Party of Texas, and contributed $25,000 to 76 in 96. Seventy-six is the number required to hold a majority in the 150-member House; and 76 in 96 directed by Milton Reisner, aide to Midland Representative Tom Craddick, who chairs the House Republican Caucus was one of the “big three” Republican Party PACs that spent several million dollars on elections. \(Besides directly electing Republican candidates in the past two sessions, the PACs’ targeting of vulnerable incumbent Democrats has driven the cost of campaigns so high . that the limited funding resources of Texas Democrats are conNot only did A+ contribute $25,000 to 76 in 96, it provided $10,000 to the campaign of Representative Carl Isset, a freshman Christian Coalition candidate who –:— remained just outside the right mar gin of House politics during the last session. A+ and Leininger himself gave at least $18,784 to Hollis Cain, who spent $70,000 in a futile attempt to defeat House Speaker Pete Laney in 1996, and who is Laney’s Republican opponent in 1998. \(The exact totals are uncertain, because once A+ money was commingled with moneys of Leadership Texas ’96, 76 in 96, and the Republican Party of Texas, it couldn’t be separately followed. And far more money was spent on Cain’s race by various interest groups working to deSo it should not have been surprising to Lieutenant Governor Bullock that Mansour would write to Betsy DeVoss, sitting atop Amway’s corporate pyramid, to ask for $125,000, to help “ensure a new speaker of the house who will not attempt to block our legislation.” \(In the aftermath of Bullock’s resignation, Mansour now denies that he wrote the letter, and his various public relations subcontractors, which include Temerlin McClain Public Relations and McDonald and Associates, spent the week following the resignation working on a credible account of who did. Readers might ask themselves one question: How likely is it that an employee of a political action committee would send out a letter to a major corporate funder, over the signature of the PAC’s director without informing the “I trust.” wrote Mansour in an underlined postscript that also referred to an enclosed summary of races on the “targeting list” “that you will keep the information in this letter totally confidential.” A similar letter went to Wal-Mart heir John Walton, who responded with a $100,000 check. As Putting Children First has raised only $100,190 thus far, Walton is its sole funder. Walton, who has supported voucher programs in other states, also owns interests in private schools. In 1996, Walton contributed $100,000 to the A+ PAC, which was largely funded by Mansour and Leininger. “This is not about the A+ PAC and it’s not about any [funding] lineage,” said Chuck McDonald, in response to a question about the funders and policy agenda shared by A+ and Putting Children First. McDonald, who worked as spokesperson for Ann Richards when she was governor, now owns a public relations firm, also among those hired by Putting Children First. “They formed a group in January of ’97 to go out and do one thing and one thing only,” McDonald said. “The PAC had one purpose and still has one purpose. It exists to give equally to Democrats and Republicans” who support school voucher legislation. McDonald said the PAC gave to candidates of both parties in this year’s pri -manes, focusing on incumbents who had supported vouchers in the past and who had drawn primary opponents. “Ron Wilson [a Houston Democrat] had an opponent and he got funding. And t: Ken Grusendorf [an Arlington Republican] had an opponent and he got funding.” “Our contributions were bi-partisan,” McDonald insisted. Public disclosure forms filed with the Ethics Commission do indicate that Putting Children First gave $13,500 to thirteen Republican incumbents and $8,327 to seven Democratic incumbents. All the Democrats are either black or Hispanic, and represent inner-city urban districts \(with the exception of the indicted and all-but-conDonald also said there will always be some imbalance in contributions, “as more Republicans than Democrats support vouchers.” At this point in the election cycle, Putting Children First’s current contributions are almost irrelevant. The PAC raised $100,190 and spent $20,313 on administrative costs and candidates in the ;Al MARCH 27, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5