Here’s the ‘Sugar Daddy’ to Thank for ‘All Hat’ Rick Perry (Besides Karl Rove)

Karl Rove is the culprit in convincing former Blue Dog Democrat Rick Perry to convert to crapitalist Republicanism and run against good progressive Jim Hightower for Texas Agriculture Commissioner in 1990. Of course, Jim had to be replaced — he was actually helping the poor rural farmers in Texas. Once elected, Perry, a loutish, ambitious Willie Stark without a shred of the fictional Stark’s populism, exploited the office for his own personal gain and that of Big Agra. (Read the ugly details here and you can listen to Jim Hightower on Perry here: here

But less well-known is the influence and money used by Dr. James Leininger, a far-right Texas religious crank and multi-millionaire, to further Perry’s political career.  If, God forbid, Perry ever ascends to the presidency by some hellish miracle — or easily-hacked voting machines manufactured by GOP-friendly corporations, more likely — Leininger will have a major role in Perry’s new government. Theocracy anyone? Read on:

The Religious Right Sugar-Daddy Who Brought Us Rick Perry

Outside of Texas, Dr. James Leininger is a relatively unknown multi-millionaire. Inside the state he’s known as the “Sugar Daddy” of the religious right.

By Bill Berkowitz, September 7, 2011

“Perry might never have been governor — nor now be a presidential candidate — but for James Leininger.”
— Texans for Public Justice. (.pdf file.)

These days, the emergence of Texas Governor Rick Perry as the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination must be warming the cockles of Dr. James Leininger’s heart.

Who is Dr. James Leininger, and why is he considered one of the Texas Governor’s “most stalwart helpmates”?

Outside of Texas, Leininger is a relatively unknown multi-millionaire. Inside the second-largest U.S. state by both size and population, however, Leininger is known as the “Sugar Daddy” of the religious right.

‘Well known to the state’s political class’

A recent piece in The Texas Tribune described him as being “Well known to the state’s political class,” who “rose to political prominence for his work promoting school vouchers, the campaign to ban same-sex marriage in Texas and his sizable financial contributions to Perry and other conservative political candidates. He also founded the Texas Public Policy Foundation [TPPF], an influential conservative think tank that has worked closely with Perry.”

“What makes Leininger one of the most powerful people in Texas politics is less the amount of money he has given over the years than the broad reach of his spending and his commitment to a conservative agenda,” Karen Olsson reported in the November 2002 edition of the Texas Monthly. “By pumping tens of thousands of dollars into the previously ignored State Board of Education races, he turned an obscure committee of retired teachers into an ideological hornet’s nest, whose debates over curriculum and textbook content have made national news.

Read the rest here.

Copyright 2011 Bill Berkowitz.

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