WASHINGTON Speaking softly but carrying a big pot of money, bankers are making themselves heard in George W. Bushs campaign for president.
Republican bankers may not be as visible as Citigroup executive Robert E. Rubin has been in his stumping for Vice President Al Gore, but they are working hard behind the scenes to elect the Texas governor.
Talking up Gov. Bush among business people in the Cleveland area and encouraging them to give money to the cause is Robert W. Gillespie, chairman and chief executive officer of KeyCorp. I hope my cajoling has encouraged people who share my point of view to be more active than they otherwise would have been, both with fund-raising and spreading the word, said Mr. Gillespie, who has been co-host of a handful of fund-raising events.
The tight presidential race and the great differences he sees between the economic visions of the candidates galvanized Mr. Gillespie this year.
Its an important race for the future growth of our economy, he said. Its a very important election because the philosophical differences about the size of government and the role of the private sector are pretty profound.
In New York, it is John M. Jack Hennessy, chairman of Credit Suisse First Bostons private equity division, who is leading the industrys efforts for Gov. Bush. A former Nixon administration Treasury official, Mr. Hennessy has contributed $109,000 to the Bush campaign and the Republican Party, and perhaps more important he spends five to 10 hours a week trying to get other financial executives to ante up.
Im the point man for Bush here. I help them organize, Mr. Hennessy said. Its something Ive done for the last 20 years. I did it for George Herbert Walker Bush.
Serving as the Texas governors Wall Street wingman, Mr. Hennessy said, entails organizing fund-raising events and campaign rallies and coordinating a squadron of about 50 financial executives who want to put Gov. Bush in the White House. They do what they can do. Some send their check along; others make fund-raising calls and organize events, Mr. Hennessy said.
The group includes Citigroup vice chairman William R. Rhodes and its chief financial officer, Todd Thompson; Allen D. Wheat, chairman and CEO of Credit Suisse; Donald B. Marron, chairman and CEO of PaineWebber Group Inc.; Maurice Hank Greenberg, chairman and CEO of American International Group; Richard D. Parsons, president of Time Warner and former chairman and CEO of Dime Bancorp; Philip J. Purcell, chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.; John Chalsty, chairman of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc.; Charles Brunie, chairman of Oppenheimer Capital; Stephen Friedman, senior principal of Marsh & McLennan Capital and former chairman at Goldman Sachs & Co.; Louis Pearlmutter, limited managing director of Lazard Freres; Ward Wilson Woods Jr., president and CEO of Bessemer Securities Corp.; and Dave H. Williams, chairman of Alliance Capital.
Starting with a large fund-raiser and rally in October 1999, Mr. Hennessy has helped organize several events for Gov. Bush. He plans to attend a debate Friday in New York between Mr. Bushs chief economic adviser, the former Federal Reserve Board Governor Lawrence B. Lindsey, and former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder, an economic adviser to the Gore campaign.
Gov. Bush doesnt spend much time in New York, but hes very effective when hes here with the business community, Mr. Hennessy said. At every event weve done with him, he had a very good hearing. Everyone came away saying, Hes much stronger than what I thought and what I read in The New York Times.
Naturally, many Texas bankers are supporting Gov. Bush. I havent heard of any bankers here backing the Vice President, said John Heasley, executive vice president of the Texas Bankers Association.
At least 20 Texas bankers have committed themselves to raising $100,000 for the campaign, according to sources. Two of the most prominent are Bill Hartley, chairman and CEO of Southside Bank in Tyler, and Don Powell, president and CEO of the First National Bank of Amarillo.
George and Laura Bush dont call me to come over and have tea with them, but they do know I am on the team, said Mr. Hartley. When we meet, we know each others name, and [Gov. Bush] knows I raise money for him through the Republican National Committee.
Mr. Hartley and his wife sport red-and-blue lapel pins that say Bankers for Bush 2000, and they happily hand out the buttons to anyone who asks. Even people who are not bankers see the pin and ask for one, Mr. Hartley said.
Aside from the famous Texan pride, why do Mr. Hartley and most of his fellow bankers in the Lone Star State back Gov. Bush?
All you are looking for in the person is someone who thinks like yourself, he said. I believe in George W. Bush. If a banker doesnt work for what he believes, he needs to take down his shingle. You have to be politically active.
Mr. Powell, an original member of the campaigns fund-raising committee, played down his role in an interview. But other Texas bankers said he is a member of Gov. Bushs inner circle and a point man for bankers wanting to get involved in the campaign or needing to bring their concerns to Austin, the state capital and site of Bush campaign headquarters.
Another plugged-in community banker is Bob Beauprez of Colorado. He is chairman of the Colorado Republican Committee and president and CEO of Heritage Bank in Louisville, Colo. He introduced Gov. Bush at a campaign event during the Colorado primary season and helped lead the Colorado delegation at the Republican National Convention. Now Mr. Beauprez is mainly focused on firing up Colorados one million registered Republicans, fund-raising, and helping his party retain control of the state Senate.
Mr. Beauprez said he hopes to cast one of Colorados eight electoral votes to formally elect Gov. Bush President. Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, also a Republican, has appointed Mr. Beauprez to represent Colorado in the Electoral College should Gov. Bush carry the state.
Bridging the world between the heads of conglomerates and Texas community bankers is Financial Services Roundtable president Steve Bartlett, another founding member of Gov. Bushs financial committee.
Though Mr. Bartlett does not use his position as head of the Roundtable to, as he put it, direct members to George W., his support for Gov. Bush is well-known. If executives are for George W., they typically call me and ask how they can get involved, Mr. Bartlett said. I help them get involved.
My own involvement in the campaign is as friend, supporter, and long-term Texan, said Mr. Bartlett, a former Texas congressman and former mayor of Dallas. Gov. Bush and I are friends and fellow travelers on the political circuit in Texas. I have been helpful in his campaigns, and he has been helpful in my campaigns.
Mr. Bartlett sat with Ray Hunt, the first head of the Bush campaigns fund-raising arm, at the Republican National Convention in August. I was one of the first dozen people he told he was buying the [Texas] Rangers and then who he told he was running for governor. But its not that George W. calls me every Monday morning and asks me what to do, Mr. Bartlett said.
When Gov. Bush wants economic policy advice, he turns to Mr. Lindsey, who was an adviser in the Reagan and Bush administrations before joining the Fed. Mr. Lindsey, now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, heads up the campaigns economics brain trust. It includes Martin S. Feldstein, professor of economics at Harvard University; Glen Hubbard, professor of finance at Columbia University; George Mason University law professor Timothy Muris; and Hoover Institute fellows John Taylor, Michael Boskin, and Martin Anderson.
Mr. Lindsey first met Gov. Bush in 1997, when a mutual friend introduced them. I became very impressed with him, Mr. Lindsey said. He is exactly what we need as a president because he approaches decisions like a CEO.
Gov. Bush and Mr. Lindsey communicate almost daily, usually by e-mail.
Though the candidates are focused on winning the election, its never too early for pundits to start guessing who will end up in a presidential Cabinet. Mr. Lindseys name often comes up as a probable Bush choice for National Economic Council director or Treasury Secretary. Mr. Lindsey was noncommittal when asked whether he is interested in a top-level Bush administration position. I dont know what Ill be doing in the future, he said.
Another prominent name circulating as a potential Treasury secretary is Senate Banking Chairman Phil Gramm. The Texas Republican, though, is quick to shoot down the idea. I assume I can do more where I am, he said last month. Still, Sen. Gramm, who is a personal friend and honorary co-chairman of the campaign, keeps in regular touch with Gov. Bush. They do converse with some regularity on the issues almost exclusively on the mechanics of policy, Social Security, Medicare, and tax cuts, according to the senators spokesman.
Sen. Gramm campaigned for Gov. Bush during the primary election last winter in South Carolina and plans to return to the stump later in the campaign.
A companion piece on the financial services executives working to elect Vice President Gore, will run next Thursday, Oct. 19.
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