TX-Sen: A Closer Look at Bill White's So-Called “Republican Ties”

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The attacks are already flying in a U.S. Senate race that is, so far, without an election date.

Last week, Vince Leibowitz of Capitol Annex, a friend who I agree with 99.99 percent of the time, wrote a post entitled, “In Context Of Voter ID Debate, Bill White’s Republican Ties Very Troubling.”

At the center of the post is Vince's contention that Bill White raised money for Tom DeLay at a 2004 fundraiser at the home of David Saperstein, who was working in the Office of Mobility as Houston's traffic czar at the time.

From the invitation to the DeLay event:

Congressman and Majority Leader DeLay, Mayor White, Metro officials, along with the Mayor's Office of Mobility have enjoyed serious discussions to improve mobility throughout the region.

No mention of Bill White as a “guest of honor”, as Capitol Annex's initial post alleged.

White never raised money for DeLay, never contributed money to DeLay and, in fact, the invitation does not even say that White would be in attendance. It just notes that DeLay had been working with city officials like Mayor White “to improve mobility throughout ther region.”

The same year Saperstein hosted the DeLay fundraiser, he also hosted a fundraiser for Chet Edwards (D-Waco).

From the invitation to the Edwards event:

Chet is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and is the only Texan serving on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Water and Energy Development, which funds all Army Corps of Engineers flood control and seaport projects.  In this capacity, Chet has worked closely with the Harris County Congressional delegation to obtain over $180 million in funding for the Port of Houston to deepen and widen the Houston Ship Channel.  His subcommittee has also put tens of millions of dollars into Houston flood control projects.  

As a leader in Houston's Office of Mobility, David Saperstein hosted two fundraisers for two powerful congressman from two different parties. These events were not about partisan politics, they were about helping Houston. As Mayor of Houston, Bill White attended both of these events.

White has raised funds for Texas Congressmen like Chet Edwards and Al Green, both Democrats. However, he never raised money for Tom DeLay. 

For the campaign cycle in question, the only contributions White made were to the Harris County Democratic Party ($1000) and Chris Bell for Congress ($500).

The rest of White's prolific Democratic contribution history is too long to go into detail about, though it includes $5,000 to Chris Bell's State Senate campaign last year and, ironically, $10,000 to John Sharp's 2002 campaign for Lieutenant Governor.

At this time, no federal money had been allocated for Houston's metro, DeLay was majority leader and Edwards was a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Bill White was elected to be Mayor of all of Houston, not just the Democratic part. To refuse to seek the help of the House Majority Leader would be to refuse to do the job he was elected to do.

White has served as Texas Democratic Party Chair, in the cabinet of a Democratic president, contributed tens of thosuands of dollars to Democrats and worked to elect Texas Democrats for decades. 

His success at the ballot box shows that, while progressive Democrats like us will not agree with 100 percent of what he has done, the results are hard to argue with. Bill White has held the largest non-partisan job in Texas and was re-elected with margins of 86 and 91 percent.

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18 Comments

  1. Amusing….
    An amusing way to manipulate my post, which actually looked at a long history of White's actions and not just the one incident.

    The issue wasn't who hosted the fundraiser, by the way. And, if White was such a good Democrat, why didn't he also attend Chet Edwards' fundraiser?

    • Hater
      Vince, you have been fluffing for Sharp and hating on White for some time. You criticized his DOMINANT 1st quarter fundraising and now you've criticized ties to Republicans.

      This makes me wonder why no similar criticism of Sharp? Sharp was in bed with Perry over the business tax, providing Gov 39% with bipartisan cover when Perry couldn't lead his dog to a hydrant on his own. I mean good grief! Perry is a live, breathing enemy of the party while Delay is a political corpse. But there is no equal criticism of Sharp.

      You criticized White in your analysis of his contributors, but ironically, failed to do so for Sharp. Sharp lacked transparency in his filing (making us wait for the FEC to post it) and then by using Act Blue, making transparency of his supporters even harder to find. In spite of those slow train obfuscations, not a peep of criticism.

      Clearly, I am a Bill White fan. I was also a John Sharp supporter in the two statewide races that he lost, and believe it is time to go with another horse.

      But I am unclear if you have made an endorsement or not? I'd like to know just so I can read through that lens. Do you have a dog in this hunt as a consultant, volunteer or blogger?

      • ActBlue and federal races
        I haven't checked out Sharps FEC filing, but in federal races, there's not really any way for candidates to use ActBlue to hide anything. On the federal level, all contributions to federal candidates through ActBlue are reported as coming from the origin donor (the individual). Or at least they should be…

        On the state level, it's a little less clear in terms of the standards candidates in Texas do their reporting. TexBlog PAC and others choose to go with the more transparent route in reporting the origin individual's information just like they would on the federal level. But at the same time, it's also technically correct to just report the checks from ActBlue as ActBlue Texas already has reported those individual donors once on it's own filing. But again, that should be an irrelevant issue in regards to the federal candidates.  

  2. politicsforjim on

    Bill White was the special guest at the DeLay fundraiser
    hosted by Saperstein.  The invitation with White's name prominently mentioned became public shortly before the event and while he may not have attended because of the unwanted publicity, he certainly allowed his name to be used to benefit the scumbag DeLay.  And it didn't stop there as Mr. Leibowitz points out.  There were many Democrats in Houston were amazed by White's constant buddying up with DeLay and any criticism he now receives as a result is richly deserved.

  3. meh
    I haven't really taken Capitol Annex seriously since they tried to link Karl Rove to a Democratic candidate back in that DA race. . .

    let me know if they're doing work for the sharp campaign, though.  that would be interesting.

  4. David…
    David Mauro has made his choice is in this race, and anyone who knows the history between his father and Bill White will understand why.  

    But that doesn't give David carte blanche to rewrite history.  As this Houston Chronicle story about the matter makes clear, Bill White was the special guest of honor at an event to raise campaign funds for Tom DeLay, who was at that very moment in a tough race against a Democratic challenger and who was also raising money to spend against other Democratic congressional candidates in Texas and around the country.

    If this Houston Chronicle story got it wrong, why did Bill White wait for more than four years to have supporters like David Mauro try to “correct” the record?

    • Choice in the Race
      I agree, David has made no bones about his enthusiasm for White. Frankly, I don't know about the Delay fundraising thing. Years ago, I had a good friend who was a good Democrat who was appointed to a position that required senate confirmation, and he found himself having to attend a Phil Gramm fundraiser to get past the senatorial courtesy hurdle. Made me ill for him. (Not only was my friend with an Aggie, but he was a Republican and one of the worst ones.) Sometimes you have to hold your nose to get things done. Bill White's job at the time was to advance the interests of the City of Houston. Snubbing one of the most influential people in the federal government would probably have been an abdication of his duties.

      But again, I would raise the question about Sharp: What duties was he performing when he gave Perry political cover? I understand what White was doing with Delay to help Houston in his job as mayor (in whatever nuanced form or fashion it took place). What justification does Sharp have for enabling the most divisive governor–the man who enabled that congressional race you speak of–to win re-election?

      As long as we are talking history, let's look deeper into White's history. He has excelled at every job he's ever had and focused on the job at hand, not future ambitions. This can be distasteful to many of us when the role is bipartisan (see above), but we have also been the beneficiaries. When Bill White took over the chairmanship of the Democratic Party, the party was in deep debt. When White left the chairmanship, the party was in the black for the first time in YEARS. Bill White understands the mission-distinction of the offices he serves. I am confident he will demonstrate a healthy loyalty to the cause as a US Senator.

      All-in-all, I do not like the suggestion of political purity tests. Sharp and White are both pragmatists that have worked across the aisle. But let us not hold our nose pointing at one of them with grand piety as we stand next to the other. It is intellectually dishonest and beneath us all.

      I am still waiting for Vince's response to my question about his position and role in this race.

        • Chill
          v2G2, the site is called “Burnt Orange Report.”  I believe it is within the spirit of the site to tease about Aggies. I am sure you have many good redeeming qualities and likely, I probably would like to associate with you. But with tongue firmly placed in cheek, I would forever question your judgment for your choice in institutions of higher education.

      • big difference
        I agree with your point about not liking political purity tests.  But to suggest a false equivalency between Sharp helping Perry and White helping DeLay is the mother of all apples-to-oranges comparisons.

        Sharp agreed to chair a bi-partisan task force to search for a way to guarantee that public schools could open their doors in the fall of 2006.  You may not like the solution they came up with but it worked.  Seems to me that's the essence of public service.  

        White agreed to serve as special guest for a partisan political event to raise campaign funds for an indicted Republican who had just redistricted several Democratic congressmen out of their seats and was running against another Democrat.  Several years later, his apologists are trying to spin it as just a routine part of his mayoral duties.

        If you can't see the difference, you are as blinded by partisanship as Tom DeLay.    

        • Nice spin.
          Doesn't work though.

          One could just as easily say “White agreed to work with the US Representatives to solve the traffic problems of the Houston area” while “Sharp agreed to further enable Perry's lack of leadership and ensure the re-election of the man who called the redistricting special session, placing Democrats is jeopardy and in the cross-fire of hyper-partisan activities.

          I have yet to see evidence of what Vince initially suggested. I am not an apologist for anything Bill White has done. But let's not start the silly season this early guys, especially in such a Rovian fashion. I am disappointed.

          Also, I am disappointed by Vince's failure to respond, but welcome Kelly F. or David B. (CentralATX) to this conversation…[Did I guess right?]

    • re:
      You are going off of one characterization made by a reporter; not a quote from anyone involved with the event, not a quote take directly from an invitation or anything.

      I have seen the invitation to the event and it in no way insinuated that Bill White was a guest of honor at the fundraiser.

      As for your question about why I waited this long to address the issue … Vince's recent post was the first time this was brought to my attention. I made some calls and sent some emails and found out the truth wasn't as simple as it had been presented.

      I have not made a final decision of who to support on this race (more candidates could enter the race) and don't assume the political opinions of my father are my own.

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