Meet James Leininger

Salon is running a piece on the Republican Party of Texas,

the crucible in which Karl Rove helped craft the presidency of George W. Bush. It is the home of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. The party has seized control of every statewide office in Texas, won majorities in both chambers in the Statehouse for the first time in more than a century, and along with ideological soul mates, captured the U.S. Congress.

The authors note that school vouchers are a major priority for the Texas GOP:

In particular, during the 2002 election cycle, a San Antonio hospital bed magnate named James Leininger invested $624,774 mostly in GOP candidates, according to campaign watchdog Texans for Public Justice, apparently with the goal of establishing a voucher program in Texas. From 2000 to 2004, Leininger’s entire family gave $2,497,250 to state candidates, which does not include the contributions of numerous companies in which he owns sizable interests. This past February, Leininger and his wife joined Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his wife along with anti-tax guru and Washington lobbyist Grover Norquist, among others, on a private cruise in the Bahamas to “talk about school finance.”

Salon tells us nothing more about the elusive Leininger. However, a journalist by the name of Debbie Nathan has been tracking him for some time. According to Nathan, writing in the Austin Chronicle:

Few know that his anti-abortion and Christian-school-board campaign giving is only the tip of an iceberg of one-man benevolence — much of it sunk into right-wing projects that have changed the political landscape in Texas, and to some extent, the nation…Hardly anyone is aware of the role he has played in making the Texas Supreme Court one of the most anti-consumer, pro-business judicial bodies in the nation; or about his instrumental and sometimes smear-tactic efforts to pack the State Board of Education with Christian conservatives; or how he has been associated with a group implicated in federal campaign finance scandals; or of his support for attempts to gut the Endangered Species Act; or the way he funds anti-choice groups.

Raised in “fundamentalist Lutheranism”, Leininger went through an agnostic period but returned to religion after his failing business turned around following prayer. Nathan’s lengthy article includes the information that Leininger is now a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which (says Nathan) split from other Presbyterians over civil rights and feminism. His actual place of worship is Faith Presbyterian Church, where

the pastor, Tim Hoke, is as modest as his church. He doesn’t yell, and his sermonizing touches as much on complex questions of grace as on the simpler horrors of Satan.

Faith Presbyterian also does not appear to share the same obsessions as another PCA church I came across a while back, Harvestwood Covenant (discussed in World O’Crap).

In the Texas Observer, Nathan notes Leininger’s links to Christian Reconstructionism. She also discusses how he helped to ensure people he approved of have been voted onto school boards:

Focus Direct, a Leininger company in San Antonio that does slick, direct mail work for companies and politicians, produced and mass-mailed a leaflet featuring a photo of a black man and a white man kissing and accusing [Donna] Ballard’s opponent Mary Knott Perkins of wanting to teach Texas children about oral and anal sex. Perkins, a grandmother many times over who is by no means a political radical, lost the election to Ballard. The other two Christian conservatives also won. The victories gave the elected state school board its first-ever Republican majority.

More articles about Leininger have been gathered at this rather unexpected (it’s run by a Welsh witch or witches) website.

Salon also could have noted the existence of sometime GOP VC David Barton, a noted Christian Reconstructionist. Another Texas Observer journalist has looked at Barton’s role within the production of Texan educational products, and even alleges links with Christian Identity.