Bush and Kerry fundraisers: What have they gotten, and what do they want?


R. Steven Hicks
Chairman of Capstar Partners, LLC, former vice-chairman of AMFM Inc., Austin, Texas, brother of Thomas

Thomas O. Hicks
Vice-chairman of Clear Channel Communications, San Antonio, Texas, brother of Steven

 

What they gave: Amount raised for 2000 Bush Campaign: Approximately $200,000
Amount donated by Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst to Bush through 2000: At least $315,000
TOTAL: $ 515,000

What they got: While Bush was governor, the Texas Legislature approved legislation creating the University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO), a private enterprise controlling the school’s public funds, and Thomas Hicks was named its chairman. With Bush as president, Clear Channel also benefited from a June 2, 2003 Federal Communications Commission vote that loosened media ownership rules that, if upheld, will allow the radio empire to continue to grow.

The Story:

COST TO THE PUBLIC:
Loosening media ownership rules will result in further loss of diverse ideas and voices on the broadcast airwaves, as well as the loss of multiple sources of news and information; a reduction in local news coverage; homogenized play lists; fewer new recording artists heard; the strengthening of Clear Channel's communications empire and the loss of smaller, independent stations.

 

BACKGROUND:
Thomas O. Hicks is chairman of the board of Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc., a global private investment firm that specializes in leveraged acquisitions. Hicks Muse is the nation's largest active investor in the broadcast industry, with significant ownership in LIN Television and Clear Channel Communications, Inc., where Tom Hicks serves as vice-chairman. Tom Hicks is also chairman and owner of the National Hockey League's Dallas Stars as well as Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers. Both of these teams, along with a variety of other investments, are run under Southwest Sports Group, LLC ("SSG"), where Tom Hicks also holds the self-appointed positions of chairman and CEO.

 

The connection between Tom Hicks and President Bush has long been a source of public speculation. Tom Hicks served on the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System and as chairman of UTIMCO. Under his direction, UTIMCO placed a large portion of the university's endowment under the management of companies with strong ties to Bush.

 

R. Steven Hicks, brother of Tom Hicks, is chairman of Capstar Partners, LLC, a private technology investment company. He is also a member of the board of directors for ClickRadio, the country's most widely used interactive digital radio service. Steven Hicks began building the family radio empire in 1993, when he co-founded SFX Broadcasting, Inc. Steven Hicks left SFX in 1996 following passage of the Telecommunications Act, which greatly loosened limits on station ownership. Steven Hicks went on to form Capstar Broadcasting, thanks in large part to a $700 million equity commitment from Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst. In August 1999, Dallas-based Chancellor Media Corporation acquired Capstar Broadcasting for $4.1 billion, creating AMFM Inc., one of the largest radio groups in the country, with over 450 stations. Steven Hicks served as vice-chairman of the new company until August 2000, when AMFM was purchased by Clear Channel for $23.5 billion. Clear Channel Communications now owns operates, programs, or sells airtime for more than 1,200 radio stations throughout the country. Under the FCC's new ownership rules, the radio giant could expand beyond its current television holdings of 39 stations.

 

WHAT HAPPENED:
President Bush's involvement with the Hicks family began shortly after his first gubernatorial victory in 1994. In 1995, as a member of the University of Texas Board of Regents, Tom Hicks successfully lobbied then-Governor Bush and the Texas legislature to approve the formation of UTIMCO, a private enterprise that controlled the school's public funds.

 

Tom Hicks served as chairman until 1999, when reports surfaced that almost a third of UTIMCO’s $1.7 billion in private equities between 1995 and 1998 had been invested with firms personally or politically connected to the Hicks family or then Governor Bush.

 

In addition to these questionable dealings, Hicks helped make Bush a very wealthy man in 1998 when he purchased the Texas Rangers for $250 million from the ownership group that included the then-Texas governor. Bush's 1.8 percent stake in the franchise landed him nearly $15 million on a $600,000 investment.

 

Not surprisingly, Clear Channel is known for advancing an agenda friendly to the Bush Administration.  For example, many media critics questioned Clear Channel’s "Rally for America," a series of controversial 2003 pro-war rallies sponsored and promoted by individual Clear Channel stations throughout the country.

 

Due to the partisan FCC vote in June 2003, media ownership restrictions were loosened even further. However, support for rolling back the new regulations continues to gain steam with the public and in Congress, giving the Hicks brothers and Clear Channel continuing reason to try to curry favor with the Bush Administration.

 

Thanks to the efforts of Steven and Tom Hicks and the continuing erosion of media ownership laws, Clear Channel now owns more than 1,200 radio stations, making it the largest radio ownership group in the country.  It also owns 39 television stations, a number that could grow under new media ownership laws, as well as 135 live entertainment venues, 41 amphitheaters in the United States, 30 venues in Europe and over a half million outdoor billboards worldwide.

 

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said Clear Channel's support of the Bush administration's policy toward Iraq makes it "hard to escape the concern that this may in part be motivated by issues Clear Channel has before the FCC and Congress."

 

So far, it seems Clear Channel's efforts have largely succeeded. After the FCC vote last June, Commerce Secretary and close Bush ally, Donald Evans, showed the Bush Administration's continuing support of media conglomerates like Clear Channel. Evans said, "I commend the FCC for its action on media ownership today. The FCC has answered the call of Congress and the courts to modernize its rules."