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National NOW Times >> Winter 2003/2004 >> Article

Inside the Bush Administration: Cronyism Despite the Human Cost

by Linda Berg, Political Director

Thumbing his nose at the rest of us, George W. Bush is merrily distributing the spoils of political war to his big money, big business supporters. At last count, more than three dozen of Bush's largest campaign contributors stand to reap financial windfalls—from the energy bill alone—apparently as a reward for raising extraordinarily huge campaign contributions.

"Bush is using this country's political system, and his current residence in the White House, to help make his rich supporters even richer," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "His cronies are ensuring that Bush will have an obscene amount of cash to spend on the 2004 campaign, while Bush signs into law legislation that gives those dollars back thousands of times over."

According to the Washington Post (Nov. 22, 2003), the energy bill will award about 30 billion dollars in benefits to companies that are controlled by (or clients of) more than 37 Bush campaign "Pioneers" or "Rangers."

As of the end of November the Bush campaign had qualified more than 300 Pioneers (supporters who bring in at least $100,000 in campaign contributions) and Rangers (who bring in at least $200,000 in campaign contributions). Public Citizen has denounced the energy bill as policy "developed in secret by corporate executives and a few members of Congress who are showered in special interest money."

And it is not just energy companies who are lined up to feed at the taxpayer trough. Pharmaceutical, hospital, and insurance company executives and their lobbyists have been openly involved in drafting and supporting Bush administration bills which guarantee for them huge financial benefits.

Republican handprints are all over the AARP's endorsement of the Medicare Act, which will reap millions of dollars for its insurance program at the expense of older Americans. The close ties between Bill Novelli, CEO of AARP since 2001, and Newt Gingrich certainly bore fruit for the Bush administration and was obviously intended to help Bush's 2004 election bid (see Medicare, p.11). An examination of the list of Pioneers and Rangers includes many officials of health care associations and companies that will benefit handsomely from this sellout of seniors.

The chair of Pfizer Inc. (maker of Viagra) has pledged to become a Ranger. The chief operating officer of HCR Manor Care, a chain of more than 500 nursing homes, is another Pioneer. And Pioneer Munr Kazmir runs a direct-mail drug company.

And then there is Rupert Murdoch and his media mogul buddies. After it appeared that Congress, responding to a huge public backlash, was about to prevent the deregulation of media ownership that was being engineered by Michael Powell (who was appointed by Bush to chair the Federal Communications Commission), Republicans sprang into action and negotiated a "compromise," which preserved Murdoch's massive telecommunications empire. Why would the administration and Republican House leaders ignore the more than 2 million messages from constituents decrying increased media concentration? Common Cause reports that "media companies and their allies have given more than $29 million in political contributions since 1995, and spent nearly $95 million lobbying Washington during that same period."

"Who loses when Bush and his buddies scratch each others' backs?" asks Gandy. "The most vulnerable in our society, those without a voice—the poor, the elderly, the young. Groups which are disproportionately women and people of color. The only way to stop Bush and his money-grabbing patrons is to make sure his misdeeds are made public—and make sure that women go to the polls in 2004!"

Read about NOW's organizing efforts for the November 2004 elections and beyond, and find out what you can do to help.

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