Bush first embarked on the deal to buy the Texas
Rangers in 1988, he already had his eye on the
governor's mansion in Austin. But he knew that
to have a shot at winning, he would need better
credentials than a string of unsuccessful oil
companies and a failed bid for a seat in the
U.S. House of Representatives. In 1989 he told
Time magazine, "My biggest liability
in Texas is the question, 'What's the boy ever
done?' He could be riding on Daddy's name."
But his father's connections were instrumental
in helping Bush overcome that perception. Back
in 1973, when his father was the chairman of
the RNC, Bush befriended one of his father's
assistants, Karl Rove. Rove cut his teeth alongside
the senior Bush's chief political strategist,
Lee Atwater. Rove would become George W.'s own
Atwater, helping to run his 1978 bid for Congress
and laying the groundwork for his 1994 run for
governor. As the Rangers deal got underway,
Rove told Bush that baseball was his ticket
to the big-time. "It gives him . . . exposure
and gives him something that will be easily
recalled by people," Rove said.
Rove's calculation turned out to be right on
It all began in fall of 1988, when William DeWitt,
Jr., Bush's partner in Spectrum 7, called to
let him know that Eddie Chiles, the owner of
the Texas Rangers, was looking for a buyer.
Chiles, a family friend who called Bush "Young
Pup" when he was a kid, was eager to sell
to Bush. And so Bush and DeWitt quickly assembled
a team of investors. They hit a snag when Peter
Ueberroth, the commissioner of Major League
Baseball, told them he wouldn't approve the
sale without more investors from Texas. Ueberroth
believed that local owners would be less likely
to relocate the team. The commissioner, a GOP
donor himself, wanted the deal approved before
his term expired at the end of 1989, and so
he and American League president Bobby Brown
took it on themselves to line up Fort Worth
financier Richard E. Rainwater.
Rainwater and Bush weren't exactly strangers.
Rainwater was a contributor to his father's
presidential campaigns and, later, an overnight
guest in the Bush White House. Until 1986 he
was the chief money manager for the Bass brothers,
the Fort Worth billionaires who financed Harken's
drilling in Bahrain. By 1988, Rainwater was
managing his own fortune. He agreed to put money
in the Rangers, but only if his trusted associate,
Edward "Rusty" Rose, was installed
as general managing partner along with Bush.
With this arrangement in place, Bush and his
partners bought the team from Chiles on April
21, 1989, for $86 million. To scrape together
his $500,000 stake in the Rangers, Bush borrowed
the money from a bank in Midland where he once
was a director. He owned 1.8 percent of the
Rangers. (He later invested an additional $106,302).
Bush made up for his minor stake by taking more
than his share of credit for bringing the owners
together. "I wasn't going to let this deal
fail," he said last year. "I wanted
to put together the group. I was tenacious."
Others close to the deal paint a different picture.
W. Bush deserves great credit for the development
of the franchise," Ueberroth said. "However,
the bringing together of the buying group was
the result of Richard Rainwater, Rusty Rose,
Dr. Bobby Brown, and the commissioner."
Nonetheless, Bush's partners rewarded him by
upping his ownership stake in the Rangers, giving
him another ten percent of the team.
"He had a well-known name, and that created
interest in the franchise," Tom Schieffer,
the Rangers president, said last year. "It
gave us a little celebrity."
Usually parked in a front-row seat by the dugout,
with his feet up and a bag of peanuts perched
in his lap, Bush put a congenial face on a crooked
deal, at the heart of which lay a complicated
When they bought the team, the Rangers were
playing in an old minor-league stadium. It didn't
have the fancy sky boxes and other amenities
that helped make other franchises much more
profitable. As a result the team couldn't compete
with other big-city teams for good players.
But the new owners weren't willing to finance
the construction of a new ballpark. They decided
to hit up taxpayers for the money.
First, the new owners threatened to move the
team out of Arlington, Texas, sending local
officials scurrying to put together a deal they
couldn't refuse. Under the resulting agreement,
the taxpayers of Arlington would raise $135
million, the bulk of the cost of construction,
through a hike in sales taxes. During a campaign
to sell the sales tax increase to Arlington
voters, Mayor Richard Greene said the team owners
would put $50 million of their own money into
the deal up front. It didn't quite work out
that way; the owners raised a hefty portion
of their down payment from fans, through a one
dollar surcharge on tickets.
The city spent $150,000 on an advertising campaign
to persuade voters.. Opponents of the deal couldn't
compete with glossy brochures, telemarketing
calls, and a "Hands Around Arlington Day."
On January 19, 1991, citizens of Arlington voted
two-to-one to approve a sales-tax increase dedicated
to building the new park.
Between the sales tax revenue, state tax exemptions,
and other financial incentives, Texas taxpayers
handed the privately owned Rangers more than
$200 million in public subsidies. Taxpayers
didn't get a return from the stadium's surging
new revenues, either. The profits went almost
exclusively to the team's already wealthy owners.
The stadium's lease is a case in point. Unlike
an apartment tenant, the rent that the team's
owners pay is applied toward purchasing the
stadium. The maximum yearly rent and maintenance
fees for the Rangers are $5 million; the total
purchase price for the Ballpark at Arlington
is $60 million. Thus, after twelve years the
owners will have bought the stadium for less
than half of what taxpayers spent on it.
But Bush and his partners weren't satisfied
lining their pockets with average Texans' hard-earned
cash. They wanted land around the stadium to
further boost its value. To that end, they orchestrated
a land grab that shortchanged local landowners
by several million dollars.
As part of the deal, the city created a separate
corporation, the Arlington Sports Facilities
Development Authority (ASFDA), to manage construction.
Using authority granted to it by the city, ASFDA
seized several tracts of land around the stadium
site for parking and future development.
While on paper ASFDA was a public entity, in
practice it was merely a puppet for Bush and
his partners. According to documents obtained
by the Center, the owners would identify the
land they wanted to acquire. A Rangers owner,
realtor Mike Reilly, would then offer to buy
the parcels for prices he set, which in several
cases were well below what the owners believed
their property was worth. If the landowners
refused to sell to the Rangers at the offered
price, AFSDA could take possession of their
land and leave the price to be determined in
Several of the landowners took ASFDA to court
over the seizures and won settlements totaling
$11 million. In a final insult to taxpayers,
the Rangers resisted paying the settlements,
trying to pass off yet another cost to Arlington
residents. (In 1999 the Rangers, under new ownership,
finally agreed to pay up.)
When confronted with the seamy details of the
land grab, Bush professed ignorance. But Tom
Schieffer, the team's president, has testified
that he kept Bush aware of the land transfers.
In October 1990, Bush also let slip to a reporter
for the Fort Worth Star- Telegram, "The
idea of making a land play, absolutely, to plunk
the field down in the middle of a big piece
of land, that's kind of always been the strategy."
It was a strategy that would have an enormous
payoff for Bush personally.
After he became governor of Texas, Bush put
his all of his assets into a blind trust, with
one notable exception: his stake in the Rangers.
Schieffer kept Bush apprised of the owner's
efforts to sell the team to Thomas Hicks, the
chairman of Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst, Inc.,
a firm that specializes in leveraged buyouts
and owns AMFM, Inc., the nation's largest chain
of radio stations. Hicks and employees of his
companies are Bush's No. 4 career patron, having
given him at least $290,400.
In 1998, Hicks helped provide Bush with an even
greater windfall. He bought the Texas Rangers
for $250 million, three times what Bush and
his partners had paid ten years earlier. The
new stadium and the real estate around it greatly
boosted the final sale price. And, since his
partners had upped Bush's stake in the team
from 1.8 to 11.8 percent, his cut from the proceeds
of the sale was $14.9 million, a twenty-five-fold
return on his investment of $606,302. Rainwater,
who had put far more money into the team than
Bush, made $25 million.
Just as important as the cash, however, was
the cachet that came with the deal's success.
The Ballpark at Arlington finally opened in
April 1994, just as Bush was running for governor.
He touted the new stadium as a win-win proposition
for taxpayers and the team. "Am I going
to benefit off it financially?" he asked
reporters. He answered his own question: "I
hope so." Four years later, everyone would
know by how much.
his first race for political office in sixteen
years, Bush showed that he had learned a lot
all those years on the sidelines of his father's
campaigns. He went up against Governor Ann Richards,
a sharp-tongued Texas Democrat who, at the 1988
Democratic National Convention, took a shot
at his father by saying, "Poor George,
he can't help it, he was born with a silver
foot in his mouth." She gave the younger
George much the same treatment with nicknames
like "shrub" (little Bush). But Bush
didn't respond. Instead he stayed on four themes:
frivolous lawsuits, welfare reform, juvenile
justice, and education. His focus prompted Richards
to comment years later, "If you said to
George, 'What time is it?' he would say, 'We
must teach our children to read.'" But
his message reached voters, and in November
they elected him with nearly 54 percent of the
When Bush moved into the governor's mansion
in January 1995, he arrived indebted to dozens
of industries and wealthy patrons. He repaid
some of his supporters with choice political
One of the most prestigious of political appointments
in Texas is a seat on the University of Texas
Board of Regents. The board is filled with Bush's
top-dollar donors. The chair of the U.T. Regents
is Donald Evans, Bush's old friend and longtime
fund-raiser who, as the finance chairman for
Bush's presidential bid, has overseen the campaign's
record-shattering fund-raising drive.
Evans is the chief executive officer of Tom
Brown, Inc., an oil and gas company based in
Midland, Texas. In 1989, Bush joined the board
as an outside director. He received $12,000
a year plus stock options for attending several
meetings and participating in conference calls.
He also sat on the compensation committee that
boosted Evans's salary by $75,000 and awarded
him a bonus of $35,000 before Bush left the
company in 1994.
after he was elected governor of Texas, Bush
sold his Tom Brown holdings for a profit of
Another regent and top Bush patron is A.R. "Tony"
Sanchez, the chairman and chief executive officer
of Sanchez-O'Brien Oil and Gas Corporation.
Sanchez started the company with his father
and his father's business partner in 1974 after
they discovered a major natural-gas source.
Sanchez and his mother also own a controlling
stake in International Bancshares Corporation,
the holding company of International Bank of
Commerce, a Texas banking chain founded by his
father in 1966. Over Bush's career, Sanchez,
members of his family, and employees of his
companies have given him at least $320,150,
making them his No. 2 career patron.
But Bush owed few people more than Richard E.
Rainwater, the Fort Worth financier. "[Rainwater]
just loves to make people rich," observed
Alfred Checci, the former chairman of Northwest
Airlines, who worked with Rainwater in the early
1980s. That's a passion Rainwater has had ample
opportunity to indulge. When Rainwater started
with the Bass brothers in 1970, they had an
inheritance of $50 million. When he left in
1986, the family fortune had grown to at least
Rainwater provided much the same service for
Bush. He was the man behind the Rangers deal
that would ultimately net Bush a profit of more
than $15 million. And when Bush was first elected
governor, more than 60 percent of his income
came from businesses in which he and Rainwater
were partners, according to his 1994 financial
Rainwater himself hails from modest roots. His
father was a wholesale grocer and his mother
worked at JC Penney to put him through school.
At fifty-five, he still likes to cut million-dollar
deals in faded jeans, tasseled loafers, and
a baseball cap rather than a business suit.
Getting his name on a plaque wasn't going to
cut it for the governor's personal rainmaker.
With Bush in Austin, Rainwater soon found himself
awash in potential windfalls. While some never
materialized, many did.
One of Rainwater's first ventures after leaving
Bass Enterprises was the creation of Columbia/HCA,
Inc., which is now the nation's largest for-profit
hospital chain. Columbia/HCA's operations were
controversial from the start. Physicians at
the hospital chain have a financial stake in
the operation, which critics say carries the
risk that they will put their own profits ahead
of patient care. In 1997, federal agents raided
Columbia/HCA facilities in Florida, Texas, and
other states as part of an investigation, still
ongoing, into whether the company had defrauded
the federal government out of millions of dollars
in Medicare reimbursements. The FBI, the Internal
Revenue Service, and the Department of Health
and Human Services are all involved in the probe.
In 1995, Bush vetoed a Patient Protection Act
that, among other things, spelled out the obligations
hospitals and health-care providers have to
those who need medical care. In a written statement
explaining his veto decision, the governor argued
that the bill "unfairly impacts some health
care providers while exempting others."
He ultimately instructed his Insurance Commissioner
to implement many of the bill's provisions as
new state regulations. One notable exception
was a provision that would have cut into the
profits of Columbia/HCA.
The provision in question would have required
health maintenance organizations to let patients
see doctors outside their own networks. Giving
patients this choice would undermine Columbia/HCA's
ability to hammer out agreements with health
maintenance organizations (HMOs) and preferred
provider organizations (PPOs).
In 1997, Bush proposed in his biannual budget
that the state look into privatizing Texas's
mental-health hospitals, just as Rainwater was
in the midst of building a mental-health-care
chain. Rainwater launched an investment company
in 1994, Crescent Real Estate Equities Company.
Besides Rainwater, Crescent's management team
included Bush's fellow Rangers owners Gerald
Haddock and John Goff and Rangers lawyer William
Miller. In 1997, Crescent purchased ninety-five
mental-health hospitals from Magellan Health
Care Services of Atlanta and also became a fifty-fifty
partner in Magellan's Charter Behavioral Health
Systems. It quickly became the nation's largest
provider of private mental-health-care services.
The governor's proposal was never enacted. Charter
Behavioral struggled for profitability, and
Crescent's plan to buy out Magellan for sole
ownership of the chain soon collapsed.
In 1997, Bush backed a plan to cut state property
taxes that would have saved Crescent some $2.5
million in state taxes. Though the Texas House
passed the proposal, the Texas Senate ended
up scuttling it and passing a scaled-back version.
Later that year, however, Bush signed a bill
into law that produced a $10 million windfall
for Crescent, and millions more for Ross Perot,
Jr., and Thomas Hicks, the leveraged buyout
expert who bought the Rangers from Bush and
his partners in 1998. Perot, who owns the Dallas
Mavericks basketball team, and Hicks, who owns
the Dallas Stars hockey team, wanted to build
a new stadium to enhance the value of their
Just as with the Rangers deal, Dallas taxpayers
were to foot most of the bill for the new sports
arena. But before city officials could negotiate
with the team's owners, the state legislature
had to pass a bill allowing cities to raise
taxes to finance the project. While the bill
wended its way through the Texas Legislature,
Rainwater, through Crescent, bought a 12 percent
stake in the Mavericks. Under the purchase agreement,
Crescent will get the $10 million when the arena
is completed in the fall of 2001. Then the legislature
passed the bill allowing the sales-tax hike
and Bush signed it in June 1997.
When it comes to taxpayer money, Bush has been
more than willing to use it to repay the largesse
he's received over the years from his patrons.
The Texas Teachers Retirement System, which
manages the pension fund for the state's 800,000
public school teachers, sold two office buildings
and a mortgage on a third to Crescent in 1996
and 1997 at a $70.4 million loss. As first reported
by R.G. Ratcliffe of the Houston Chronicle,
two of the sales were done without public bids,
and the Teachers Retirement System refused to
disclose what the initial bids were on the third.
At the time of at least one of the sales, Bush
owned about $100,000 worth of Crescent stock.
The University of Texas Investment Management
Company, which manages the state university
system's $12 billion worth of assets, sank at
least $8.9 million into Crescent Real Estate.
The company's chairman is none other than Hicks.
Under Hicks's watch, UTIMCO has steered close
to $1.7 billion of its assets into private investments;
a third of that money has gone into funds run
either by his business partners or by Bush patrons.
In July 1998, a month after Hicks purchased
the Rangers from Bush and his partners, he led
a meeting of UTIMCO directors hundreds of miles
away from UTIMCO's office, in the boardroom
of the Ballpark at Arlington. There, they approved
a $96 million investment into Maverick Capital
Fund of Dallas, a hedge fund run by Sam and
Charles Wyly of Dallas. The Wyly brothers are
ninth on Bush's list of career patrons.
Finally, nine years after its investment in
Harken helped save Bush from financial ruin,
Harvard Management Company got a deal on a piece
of real estate it bought from the Texas Teachers
Retirement System. In 1995 the TRS sold the
Anatole Hotel in Dallas to a partnership that
included the Crow family, which owns a controlling
interest in Trammell Crow Company, one of the
nation's top real estate management companies,
and Harvard Management. Without taking bids,
the TRS reportedly sold the hotel for $27 million
less than it had spent to make improvements
on the structure.
Harvard, Rainwater, and Hicks are not alone
among Bush patrons who have received favors
from the governor. Industries that have provided
the bulk of Bush's campaign contributions have
gotten his help in a variety of endeavors, from
staving off pesky environmental regulations
and shielding themselves from consumer lawsuits
to driving off meddlesome investigators.