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With rare exceptions, Bush’s press coverage has been timid and respectful, generally confined to starry-eyed celebrity profiles or GOP candidate handicapping. One of those rare exceptions was an August 16 Houston Chronicle piece by R.G. Ratcliffe, which summarized the Bush business history, and also raised questions about certain more recent state government actions and proposals which just happen to provide considerable benefits, actual or potential, to several of Bush’s supporters and business partners. Ratcliffe wrote, “The benefits may be the result of business deals crossing paths with a businessfriendly administration. “But a pattern emerges: When a Bush is in office, Bush’s business associates benefit.” Ratcliffe raised numerous questions about state government policies that either have enriched or would enrich Bush friends and business partners, most notably his Texas Rangers partners, and especially Fort Worth billionaire Richard Rainwater, a major Bush funder. The questionable actions include: State buildings sold at substantial losses to Rainwater’s real estate company; University and school funds invested in Rainwater’s company; State medical privatization initiatives that would benefit Rainwater interests; Property tax-cut initiatives that would greatly benefit Rainwater and other real estate interests; Bush-supported legislation that enabled additional sales-tax financing of sports stadiums, and will result in a $10 million bonus payment to a company owned by Rainwater and other Bush associates. Bush’s opposition to Texas Indian, gambling casinos, which potentially compete with Rainwater’s growing casino interests. Questioned about these and related state actions, Bush angrily denied any collusion or conflicts of interest, saying, “I didn’t .I swear I didn’t get into politics to feather my nest or feather my friends’ nests…. Any insinuation that I have used my office to help my friends is simply not true.” In the simplest sense, as Ratcliffe’s article acknowledged, Bush’s protestations of innocence are probably accurate. While specific state transactions might indeed be subject to conflict-of-interest inquiries, the state policies Ratcliffe describes privatization; regressive taxation; state subsidies and tax abatements for corporations; the systematic use of public resources for the benefit of private power represent not a conflict, but a confluence of interests, between the state’s major business entities and the politicians they support and underwrite. The fact that among those entities are corporations and businessman with whom Bush himself has done particular deals well, that’s not corruption, exactly. It’s just business as usual. When the lobbyists come to the Capitol demanding “tort reform” \(that is, diminished legal liability for corporate wrongdostate subsidies to private social service shifting the tax burden downward and the less demothe name of the people who employ them, and they expect the 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER politicians they support to respond in kind. Governor Bush has been very responsive, often merely by staying out of the way. If his friends have benefited from his actions, it’s just the mysterious workings of the invisible hand of the political marketplace. But as the Ratcliffe article suggests, the ongoing connections social, political and financial among Bush’s friends and associates are intriguing. The partners who helped Bush dig himself out of the oil patch \(William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds of Speca bundle in the Texas Rangers deal. \(Another noteworthy Rangers investor was Fred Malek, once a campaign manager for Bush’s father, but most famous for dutifully fulfilling President Richard Nixon’s demand for a list of Jews then employed at the Bureau of “Rusty” Rose were also brought into the Texas Rangers deal, to a handsome return, and under the Bush administration, their companies came to benefit from the investment policies of the Teacher Retirement System, the Permanent School Fund, and the Permanent University Fund. By the way, the Permanent University Fund is managed by the University of Texas Investment Management Company, whose chairman is Tom Hicks, now owner of the Texas Republican donor and a member of the U.T. Board of Regents, whose chairman is Donald Evans, treasurer of the Bush campaign. Funny how things work out. There are even more curious historical footnotes. One of the particularly interesting names that recurs in the Bush history is James R. Bath, a Houston businessman whom Bush apparently first met when they were in the same Texas Air National Guard Unit. The 147th Fighter Group was a politically distinguished unit it also boasted Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen’s son, Lloyd Bentsen III. A coincidence, no doubt. Bush reportedly told his friend Roland Betts that while he wasn’t particularly eager to enlist, he “felt that in order not to derail his father’s political career he had to be in military service of some kind.” Numerous questions remain about just how the Congressman’s son was able to join the Guard despite long national waiting lists, but Bush served from 1968 to 1973. He was said to be eligible for Vietnam, but those lucky stars again was never called. James Bath contributed to Bush’s 1978 congressional campaign, and later invested $50,000 in Bush’s first oil company, Arbusto EnTime magazine described Bath as “a deal broker whose alleged associations run from the CIA to a major shareholder and director of the Bank of Credit & Commerce International. Bath was never directly implicated in the BCCI banking scandal, but according to a book by Times reporters Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynn \(The Outlaw Bank, “made his fortune by investing money for [Sheikh Kalid bin] Mahfouz and another BCCI-connected Saudi, Sheikh bin-Laden.” “Sheik bin-Laden” is otherwise unidentified, but the name may be familiar from more recent news reports; the Sheikh was most likely the father of none other than Osama bin Laden, the man accused by the United States government of ordering the terrorist bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Beaty and Gwynne suggest See “Bush,” page 19 OCTOBER 23, 1998 ‘el4,..*010141.P.m.rvev.wvemer ,…a