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FEATURE Bush’s Bounty Hunters Elite Texas Rangers pursue fortunes through Team Bush BY ANDREW WHEAT rir hree years later, it’s still hard to believe that the heavyweight political fundraising champ of the world had to win his POTUS title in a December 2000 split decision rather than a November knockout. George W. Bush could not have won that squeaker but for the 241 elite “Pioneer” fund raisers who supplied at least one-fourth of his record $100 million war chest. The president all but ensured that he would double his purse this next round when he signed the 2002 “McCainFeingold” campaign finance reform. While McCain-Feingold curbs certain abuses, it also doubled the value of Bush’s Pioneer fundraising operation overnight by increasing federal contribution limits. A Bush Pioneer who raised $100,000 in 2000by bundling $1,000 checks from 100 peoplenow can obtain $2,000 from those donors and enter Bush’s new elite club of $200,000 “Ranger” fundraisers. In other Bush advantages this round, Democrats are divided, while Bush lacks a meaningful primary challenge \(a president at a time of skyrocketing federal spending and spectacular corporate corruption. Anyone seeking federal dollars, appointments, or regulatory relief knows that George W. Bush is The Man. And what The Man demands is campaign cash. By the end of 2003, Bush already was $31 million beyond the record $100 million campaign kitty he amassed during the entire 2000 campaign. The 392 elite Pioneers and Rangers that the campaign had identified by January 2004 easily supplied $54 million of this total, with two-thirds of Bush’s money arriving in the new legal maximum amount of $2,000. With nine months more to dial for dollars in campaign 2004, many more high rollers will invest $100,000 in the promise of another Bush Administration, even as current Pioneers upgrade to Team Bush’s Ranger class. This Bush campaign is expected to shoot the moon by raising more than $200 million. In dubbing the new class of super donors “Rangers,” Bush’s campaign evoked the men who extended the longoften racistarm of the law across Texas’ frontier. More aptly, the term calls to mind the Texas baseball franchise that hit up Arlington taxpayers to help finance Bush’s $15 million their candidatewho once faced a Harken Energy insidertrading probethe typical elite Bush donor commands money and clout far beyond the reach of ordinary citizens and leverages these assets to amass even more money and clout. Tax cuts and liability limits are some of the biggest hunks of red meat that Bush throws to these donors en masse. Industry-specific handouts are legion and include gutting pollution controls on utilities, easing mountaindecapitation rules for coal mines, deregulating broadcasters, rejecting prescription price controls, and for Wall Street. 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 2/13/04