Post-Election Coverage: Vouchers crap outBY AMY SMITH
Wealthy school-voucher proponent James Leininger contributed more campaign dollars this election cycle than in previous elections, but his $3.5 million gamble on GOP candidates failed to pay off at the polls.
"Placing his biggest electoral bet to date, Leininger largely crapped out," campaign finance watchdog Texans for Public Justice reported in its analysis of the San Antonio businessman's spending spree. Leininger financed the major share of six candidates' campaigns, either through individual donations or through three political action committees he controls – Texas Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, the Future of Texas Alliance, and Texans for School Choice. All told, Leininger spent $5 million during the 2005-2006 election cycle, with more than $1.5 million of that going to various Republican-based PACs.
Leininger gave money to 64 Republican candidates, most of them House hopefuls. Of the 10 House candidates receiving $50,000 or more from Leininger, five lost in the primary, and only two made it through the general election. What's more, TPJ said, 70% of Leininger's contributions went to Republican candidates challenging incumbents who rejected his voucher agenda in the 2005 legislative session. The prospects for vouchers look even dimmer in the 2007 session, despite Gov. Rick Perry's stated intentions to move a voucher bill through the Lege.
Leininger's wealth couldn't fend off the shoe-leather efforts of the Texas Parent PAC, a pro-public-education group that formed in direct response to last year's voucher efforts. The PAC endorsed a bipartisan slate of new and incumbent candidates aligned with its mission and racked up a raft of victories, with 12 of the winners entering the House for their first term in January.