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Big Financial Firms, Including Enron,
Become Bush's Top Donors
Glen Justice
New York Times
January 9, 2004

WASHINGTON In one of the strongest indications yet of President George W. Bush's increasing support from the financial sector, a new study shows that brokerages, banks, and credit companies make up six of his top 10 career contributors.

In a similar study during the 2000 election, no major financial services firms were represented on Bush's list.

The study released Thursday by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, which is published as a book called "The Buying of the President 2004," looks at top contributors to Republican and Democratic presidential candidates over the course of their public careers.

"This money is not coming from backyard bake sales and barbecues," said Charles Lewis, the center's executive director. "It's coming from powerful special interests who want something."

Bush campaign officials could not be immediately reached to respond to the study.

Bush's top financial sponsor remains the Enron Corporation, the bankrupt energy trader that collapsed amid an accounting scandal. The company and its employees gave almost $603,000 to Bush, according to the study, which examined contributions to his campaigns for Congress, Texas governor and the presidency through the third quarter of this year.

Enron executives have continued to give to Bush, albeit in small amounts, even as some former employees continue to face prosecution. In 2003, the president received $3,000 from four officials, the study said.

Merrill Lynch was his second-largest career patron at roughly $505,500, followed by the MBNA Corporation at $493,000; the law firm Vinson & Elkins at $466,000; Credit Suisse First Boston at almost $445,000; Bass Brothers Enterprises at $392,000; the International Bank of Commerce at $371,000; UBS Financial Services at $353,000; the Goldman Sachs Group at almost $343,000; and the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers at about $341,000.

The state and federal contributions include money from the companies and their affiliates, as well as their employees and their political action committees.

The study examines Bush's record in many policy areas, from the environment to economics. Bush has championed several initiatives that were applauded by the financial community, including cuts in dividend and capital gains taxes, but the study took aim at his interest in introducing private investment accounts into the Social Security system.

Many firms have backed the idea because the boom in investment accounts from any such change "could generate untold billions of dollars in annual fees and commissions for Wall Street firms," the study said.

Though no such proposal has ever been enacted, Bush made reference to his support for this proposal as late as last year's state of the union address, the study said.

Bush has so far raised $130.8 million in this year's election, breaking the presidential record he set in 2000.

The New York Times

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