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While the presidential candidates comb Iowa and New Hampshire for votes, they're combing the whole country for dollars. And there's plenty of the green stuff in Texas.
NPR's Peter Overby reports that the candidate reaping the most in the Lone Star State is going a long way to do it.
PETER OVERBY: This is the story of a political money network and how it grew in an unlikely place.
Rudolph Giuliani might have seemed the least plausible choice of big Republican donors in Texas. The former mayor of New York supports abortion rights, gay unions and gun control. And his political base is 1400 miles away, in a city that's practically synonymous with liberal Democrats. Yet Giuliani has raised more money in Texas than anyone else in either party. He's taken nearly $6 million out of the state as of September 30th. That's compared to a shade over $2 million for the next closest Republican, Mitt Romney.
The strategy is both public and private. You hear big public endorsements like this one last month from Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Governor RICK PERRY (Republican, Texas): I'm taking the measure of the man. And I believe without a doubt or reservation that Rudy Giuliani is the most capable, the most prepared individual of either party.
OVERBY: But privately, Giuliani had been taking the measure of Perry's big money raisers, and they'd already started lining up behind their guy's guy. Giuliani is also tapping Texas through other sources. An important one is Roy Bailey, a low-profile insurance millionaire in Dallas. Bailey volunteered to raise money for Giuliani way back in 2000, when Giuliani was going to run for the Senate. They reportedly bonded over a common desire to keep Hillary Clinton from winning that Senate seat. Giuliani did not wind up making the Senate race, and Clinton wound up winning it.
But Giuliani did make a friend. And when Giuliani left the mayor's office, Bailey helped to create and bankroll the consulting firm Giuliani Partners. He also began connecting Giuliani with Texas Republicans, like Dallas Congressman Pete Sessions.
Representative PETE SESSIONS (Republican, Texas): I'll ask anybody that believes that they are interested in knowing about Rudy Giuliani, I'll talk to them about the mayor and I'll ask them to support him, and I don't mind asking for money either.
OVERBY: Sessions is a big Bailey fan too.
Rep. SESSIONS: Roy is very loyal and sees the strengths and is trying to turn 10 into 20. And that's what Roy is good at. Roy is good at taking something that's 10 and making it 20.
OVERBY: Taking something small and making it big. Bailey expanded Giuliani's Texas network with oilman T. Boone Pickens, for one, and Tom Hicks, a billionaire who help boost President Bush's business career. And he connected Giuliani with Pat Oxford, the managing partner of a well-connected Houston law firm.
After some negotiations, the firm opened an office in New York and changed its name from Bracewell and Patterson to Bracewell Giuliani. It's a big firm, mostly Republican, with offices in Texas, Washington, Dubai and Kazakhstan.
Ross Ramsey publishes Texas Weekly, an online newsletter on the state's politics.
Mr. ROSS RAMSEY (Texas Weekly): Anytime you get a big establishment law firm in a large city - Houston's the fourth largest city in the country - you know, they can call their client list and their friends and the lawyers in the firm itself, and you know, you can raise a lot of money with an operation like that. I think it's very significant.
OVERBY: Giuliani's contacts at Bracewell have given his campaign $103,000. And George Edwards, a political scientist at Texas A&M, says Giuliani's ties to the firm count even more in this wide open Republican contest.
Dr. GEORGE EDWARDS (Texas A&M University): In effect, the firm is saying he's okay. And in a field such as we have today, where there is no candidate for whom there's great enthusiasm, these cues are particularly effective.
OVERBY: There's also been a lucrative job in it for Giuliani while he geared up his presidential bid. His contract with Bracewell guarantees him at least a million dollars a year. The campaign says he currently has no day-to-day involvement with either Giuliani Partners or Bracewell.
But the Texas connection adds more than a dollop of barbeque sauce to the New York deli that's the Giuliani campaign. Roy Bailey is now the campaign's national finance chairman. Pat Oxford, from the law firm, is the national campaign chairman. We tried to interview both men for this piece. The campaign would not make either of them available.
Just raising a lot of Texas cash does not give Giuliani a lock on the Texas primary. Lee Woods(ph) is a longtime consultant for conservative Republicans.
Mr. LEE WOODS (Consultant): We're not going to hold his fundraising success against him. But I could tell you that if he were on the ballot down here and there was a race still going on, he's going to have to come up with a whole lot more than money to prevail in the state of Texas.
OVERBY: But that vote isn't till March. And right now Giuliani is spending his Texas money all over the country, aiming to capture of the nomination much earlier than that.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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