James Leininger, the hospital-bed tycoon known as the Religious Right’s “sugar daddy” in Texas for the millions he has poured into far-right politics in recent years, is trying out a new strategy in his long quest to see publicly-funded private school vouchers implemented in the state: emotional blackmail.
Announcing the closure of his $50-million privately-funded voucher program in the Edgewood district of San Antonio, Leininger is calling on the state to implement a publicly-funded program to replace it. “If the Legislature doesn’t act, those kids are going to be out on the street,” he warns.
The Texas legislature has repeatedly rejected vouchers, as recently as last year. And despite spending more than $2 million in last year’s GOP primary to weed out Republicans who opposed vouchers, and millions more in the general election, by his own count he still lost five pro-voucher legislators, making passage difficult, to say the least. So the activist accustomed to expanding his influence with his money is now apparently trying to use the lack of it to the same ends. However, Leininger’s cry for help is likely to fall flat: since Texas still has a public school system, the Edgewood students won’t be “out on the street” at all.