The right guy for industry

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 17, 2004 5:58PM (EDT)

The title of a Washington Post series on the the cozy relationship between the Bush administration and the business leaders who bundle up big bucks for his campaign says it all: THE BUSH MONEY MACHINE : An Industry Gets Its Way.

Today's installment looks at Richard Farmer, one of America's richest men and a Bush Pioneer -- meaning he raised at least $100,000 for Bush's 2000 campaign. His family controls Cintas Corp., which rents and launders uniforms and industrial shop towels. Farmer has often been at odds with the Environmental Protection Agency, especially over a Clinton proposal that would have required that "woven shop towels contaminated with chemical solvents be wrung dry for them to be treated as laundry, not hazardous waste." The proposal would have been costly for Farmer.

Yet he insists his support of President Bush has nothing to do with his own business interests. "If you think I'm giving money to get access to [President Bush], you're crazy," Farmer told the Post. "I'm just trying to get the right guy elected. That's all I care about."

Lo and behold, last November, the EPA adopted a more lenient proposal for woven shop towels. Farmer and the industrial-laundry lobbyists found they had friends at the EPA, which even let the lobbyists edit the proposed rule. On the other side of the issue, environmental groups, a labor union, hazardous-waste landfill operators and paper towel manufacturers were not given the same opportunity.

The Post wrote: "The proposed shop towel rule is but one example of a policy change by the Bush administration that favors a company controlled by a Bush Pioneer or Ranger, who as a group have helped the president bank a record $200 million for the 2004 election campaign. The shop towel case reflects the subtle interactions between corporations and an administration determined to roll back what it considers to be regulatory overkill. For many big donors, getting 'the right guy elected,' as Farmer puts it, is an end in itself."

There's more on Farmer from Campaign Money Watch.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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