Bush is the daddy of all warbucks

Two San Antonians rank among President Bush's elite corps of fund-raisers, pulling in a minimum of $100,000 for Dubya's re-election campaign. Local attorney John Steen debuts on the Pioneer list, while Tom and Nancy Loeffler return for an encore performance; they also shook the couch cushions for Bush's 2000 presidential campaign.

As governor, Bush appointed Steen to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which is apparently what a $6,000 campaign contribution is worth. Lording over Texans' drinking habits must have eased Steen's pain of losing the 1981 San Antonio mayoral race to Henry Cisneros.

While in the governor's mansion, Bush also appointed ex-Congressman Tom Loeffler to the University of Texas Board of Regents, which oversaw UT's endowment funds. Such a lofty position comes at a price: According to the Center for Public Integrity, Loeffler's law firm ranks No. 10 among Bush's "career patrons," and Loeffler himself contributed $141,000 to the governor-to-be, as well as thousands to fellow Republicans and the party's National Committee.

Texans for Public Justice, a non-profit, non-partisan group that tracks money in politics, has compiled quite an extensive résumé on Loeffler. His law/lobbying firm convinced the Texas Board of Health to kill proposed rules that would have restricted sales of an ephedrine-based diet remedy linked to eight Texas deaths. TPJ also reports that Loeffler topped a list of five members of Congress whose campaigns received illegal corporate money from Vernon Savings & Loan, which failed at a taxpayer cost of $1.3 billion. A Vernon officer told an 1989 grand jury that Loeffler offered to set up a meeting with then-Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III if they helped pay Loeffler's debt from a failed '86 gubernatorial bid. Four Vernon executives then moved $8,000 in laundered corporate money to Loeffler's campaign, this officer testified, just before federal regulators forced them to resign. 

Nine high-rollin' Texans, including State Senator Teel Bivins, made the roster of 45 Pioneers. Yet, however generous, the Pioneers can't compete with Bush's Rangers, cash wranglers who must raise at least $200,000 for the prez' '04 race to qualify for Ranger status. The Rangers' star pitcher is Michael Boone of the Dallas law firm Haynes & Boone; he has been lining Bush's pockets since he gave $9,000 to Dubya's gubernatorial campaign. One other Texas family is corralling the cash for Bush: Houston's Richard and Nancy Kinder of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners; they donated $119,000 to get Bush elected as governor, and now are helping to finance his second term in the White House. •