Monday, April 17, 2006

Jason Atkinson's Sugar Daddy

Oregon's telegenic GOP goobernatorial candidate Jason Atkinson has got himself a Texas-style Sugar Daddy.

As we reported here on Saturday, Atkinson's campaign is reporting a hefty $50,000 contribution from Texas gajillionaire James Leininger.

Leininger (pronounced with a hard "g") is a big-time campaign donor in Texas. He's got no stomach for "moderate" Republicans and has gone out of his way to give copious amounts of cash to hard right candidates and causes in Texas.

Leininger accumulated his considerable wealth by inventing and selling upscale hospital beds. He's also extremely generous when it comes to doling out money to his pets causes:

Dr. Leininger poured at least $6,914,042 in contributions and personal loans into campaigns and political action committees from mid-1997 to December 2004.

A $1.1 million loan from Dr. Leininger in the final weeks of the 1998 campaign funded a media blitz that helped Rick Perry win the race for lieutenant governor by just 2.3 percent of the vote.

Dr. Leininger guaranteed a last-minute $950,000 loan to Carole Keeton Strayhorn that helped her win the 1998 race for comptroller by just .05 percent of the vote.

Former Texas Attorney General and current U.S. Senator John Cornyn received $1 million in campaign contributions from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a Leininger political action committee, and $96,000 from Dr. Leininger himself.

Other notable recipients of contributions from Dr. Leininger include state Rep. Kent Grusendorf (chair of the House Education Committee and House Select Committee on Public School Finance), Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and State Board of Education member Terri Leo. Leininger has largely funded the rise of social and Christian conservatives on the State Board of Education.

Leininger also gave generously to rightwing jurist and Bush court nominee Priscilla Owens.

Leininger has several causes that he tries to buy candidates and legislation for, but his top priority appears to be undermining and eroding public education. Leininger is a voucher's man..and he's given money hand over fist to candidates that push them.

He also has a history of obscure and sometimes shady political dealings:

It seems Leininger gave at least $50,000 to Triad Management Service, the mysterious Republican organization that surfaced during investigations of the 1996 campaign funding scandals. Triad set up two “social welfare organizations” that had no members; their sole purpose was to advise Republican candidates and produce television attack ads against Democrats.

More on Triad here.

What's Leininger's interest in Jason Atkinson? Are we to expect a Governor Atkinson to push the hardcore conservative agenda that a Leininger check seeks to purchase? Is Atkinson planning a big push for undermining public schools via vouchers?