Cronies: How Texas Business Became American Policy and Brought Bush to Power


No other province holds more political and economic power than the Lone Star State. Two of the last three American presidents—and three of the last eight—have been Texans. Each of them got to the White House by exploiting a network of money and power that no other state can match.

In Cronies, renowned investigative reporter Robert Bryce illuminates how Texas turned its vast energy resources into political power, and how a small group of Texas corporations, lawyers and ...

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No other province holds more political and economic power than the Lone Star State. Two of the last three American presidents—and three of the last eight—have been Texans. Each of them got to the White House by exploiting a network of money and power that no other state can match.

In Cronies, renowned investigative reporter Robert Bryce illuminates how Texas turned its vast energy resources into political power, and how a small group of Texas corporations, lawyers and politicians use that power to protect and defend their own economic interests. Through an absorbing narrative that moves from the days of the oil boom, through the rise and reign of LBJ, to today, Bryce profiles the Texans and the Texas corporations who have wielded—and continue to wield—great power in America's domestic and foreign policy, including the Bushes, James A. Baker III, Halliburton, Baker Botts, Ray Hunt, Bell Helicopter, and more. He shows how massive transfers of wealth from the rest of the country to Texas have allowed the state to prosper. Cronies demonstrates how George W. Bush is the living embodiment of Texas' crony networks, and how those networks continue to play critical roles in the 21st century.

Distinguished by the same crack investigative skills and colorful storytelling that reviewers loved in Pipe Dreams, Cronies not only explains the astonishing rise of Texas; it offers a timely, provocative new way to look at American politics and our deadly entanglements in Iraq.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Journalist Bryce, whose previous book, Pipe Dreams, chronicled the rise and fall of Enron, now recounts how Texas rose over the past 60 years on a tide of oil to become the pre-eminent focus of American economic and political power. Bryce quickly sketches the emergence of the modern energy industry with the discovery of huge oil deposits in East Texas. He then turns to his central story, how Texas-based business empires like Exxon Mobil, Hunt Oil, Halliburton, and Baker Botts, the firm of James Baker III, have heavily promoted the careers of favored politicians going back to Lyndon Johnson. In return, Bryce shows, the oil industry and its tributaries have received lucrative government contracts, favorable tax treatment and kid-glove regulatory policies. Although Bryce devotes chapters to LBJ and his prot g , Democrat-turned-Republican John Connally, he reserves his special wrath for conservative Republicans like Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, James Baker and especially the Bushes. He contends that the market-shaping power of Texas oil inspired the creation of OPEC, and that generations of politicians, led by the Bushes, have tailored U.S. foreign policy to cater to Arab dictators and the Texas firms that serve them. There's little in Bryce's book that is freshly revelatory, and his prose is sometimes awkward, sometimes clich d ("lap of luxury," "spending money like a drunken sailor," etc.). But in this election year, partisans looking for evidence of Republican corruption will find plenty of tidbits here. Agent, Dan Green at POM Inc. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
After Hurricane Katrina and the appointment of a fellow Texan to the Supreme Court who has never been a judge, it is not hard to believe the premise of this book. Bryce sets out to show how the history of the oil industry in Texas has led to the dominance of Texan politicians, starting with Sam Rayburn, LBJ, and the Bush dynasty. Although Bryce exposes Democrats and Republicans alike, he especially attacks the current Republican administration. This paperback edition has a preface that updates events through the 2004 election, and there is sure to be a newer edition that covers the indictment of Tom DeLay, the appointment of Harriet Miers, and the continuing saga of Haliburton and its no-bid contracts. Corporate America has repaid the many favors of the Texas ruling class by providing corporate jets for campaign travel and huge campaign contributions, the disclosure of which are often overlooked. Although Texas as a state suffers from substandard education and has the most citizens without health insurance and the most citizens incarcerated, Bush and his cronies have used the example of Texas to run the country. Bryce is a writer for the World Energy Monthly Review and numerous other publications and the book has extensive notes and numerous charts that show the historical progression of events, such as the development of the oil industry. The book is well written and well researched, but it is disillusioning for anyone who still believes in the way things are supposed to work in America. KLIATT Codes: SA--Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Public Affairs, 327p. notes., Ages 15 to adult.
—Nola Theiss
Library Journal
Since the 1940s, Texas politicians from Lyndon Johnson through George W. Bush have dominated government largely because of their special relationship with the oil, gas, and construction industries, argues Bryce (Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron) in this sobering expos of greed-driven politics in the Lone Star State. The significant players here-President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former President George H.W. Bush, and former Secretary of State James Baker-have profited from what the author calls "the-leave-no-billionaire-behind tax cut." Public-be-damned deregulation led to the 1980s and 1990s Savings and Loan debacle, in which half of the bailout money rescued Texas S&Ls. Bryce claims that George W. Bush was awarded the 2000 presidential election because wealthy Texans ran a costly recount campaign that Vice President Al Gore could not match. Further, he concludes that the 2003 Iraqi invasion was launched chiefly to protect oil interests and not because of Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction and his unproven link to al-Qaeda. Bryce at times lapses into a dull recital of details, but this book is recommended for public libraries.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Investigative reporter Bryce, who made mincemeat of Enron executives' perfidy in Pipe Dreams (2002), gives an equal shellacking to the old-boy, business-government network long established in Texas. "Texas dominates America because energy-Texas energy-dominates America. And the men who have dominated Texas energy have been extraordinarily successful at putting their politicians into power." That's the nutshell, and Bryce proceeds to prize every bit of rotten meat from the nut for readers to gaze upon. Cronyism isn't exclusive to Texas, he admits, but Texas cronyism is Texas-sized, and its principals sound like a law firm: Bush Bush Cheney Baker Lay and Hunt, with satellite offices of Halliburton and Brown & Root. To and fro between Texas and Washington flow the goods; as former Texas senator Phil Gramm said, "I'm carrying so much pork, I'm beginning to get trichinosis." From legal mechanisms like oil depletion allowances and import quotas to egregious sleaze like the S&L scandal, Texas reaps the profits. Bryce makes all the connections with the clarity of a simple mathematical equation, aided and abetted by the baldness of the brash Texas petro-political clique. His use of graphs, snapshot explanations, and timelines is especially helpful in unraveling the web of associations that bind every energy personage and corporation into a creepily incestuous, collaborative, and coercive band of pillagers. Bryce also draws the shameful picture of Texas's social stratification: energy and business generate huge private profits for the few, while Texas can also boast first place in the number of its citizens incarcerated and executed, the percentage without health insurance, the overall number ofdeaths by firearms, and the amount of toxic dumping. It's virtually a plague state, and the author sees no cure, so entrenched are the vested interests. A well-told tale whose sheer, documented scope of corruption and backslapping in a pernicious and virulent strain of cronyism will have readers agog-until the steam starts shooting from their ears. Agent: Dan Green/POM
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586483371
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 7/4/2005
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.72 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Bryce's work has appeared in the The New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Austin Chronicle and Texas Observer. His first book, Pipe Dreams: Greed, Ego, and the Death of Enron, was named one of the best books of 2002 by Publishers Weekly and several other newspapers and magazines. He lives in Austin.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note xv
1 From Mina al-Bakr to Houston 1
2 From Kilgore to Baghdad 24
3 The Supercapitalists 37
4 Depleting the Federal Treasury 45
5 1948: Lawyers, Airplanes, and Money-Part I 51
6 Brown & Root Cleans Up 69
7 Bush and Baker Join Forces 79
8 Bleeding Oil 90
9 Texas CREEPs for Nixon 96
10 Brown & Root Goes to Vietnam 105
11 All the Shah's Texans 111
12 Brown & Root and Saddam 124
13 "America's Superstate" 131
14 10000 Memorial and the "Texas Strategy" 137
15 "It's Not About Oil!"-Part I 157
16 A Pit Bull on the Pant Leg of Cronyville 168
17 Oil for W (and W for Oil) 181
18 Halliburton Hires a Crony 186
19 Baker Cashes In 196
20 2000: Lawyers, Airplanes, and Money-Part II 206
21 The President from Baker Botts...and Halliburton, and Exxon Mobil 217
22 Dreaming War 228
23 "It's Not About Oil!"-Part II 236
24 Minister of Nondisclosure 244
25 A Black-Tie Affair 250
26 The United States of Texas 259
Notes 275
Bibliography 291
Appendix 295
Index 305
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