Is This Guy Too Smart to Be Mayor?

Bill White hopes brains and big bucks will get him elected

White had also founded an international oil and gas venture, Frontera Resources, and began contacting former associates to solicit investments. Frontera then negotiated energy concessions with some of the same leaders White had dealt with at the energy department.

He denies that he exploited his government service in setting up Frontera.

"I thought it was critically important that the United States and the whole West try to teach good models of free enterprise over there," says the candidate. "I have not made one penny, one dime, from activities in the Caspian Sea…" Of course, a company that loses money for investors is not quite a free-enterprise role model.

To prepare for politics, White spent two decades 
building ties to neighborhood groups.
To prepare for politics, White spent two decades building ties to neighborhood groups.
White has had extensive business success, but one 
venture continues to plague investors.
Daniel Kramer
White has had extensive business success, but one venture continues to plague investors.

"Half the partners wanted to know how they could get into the deal, and the other half were worried that Bill might call them and ask them to get into the deal," says one Susman Godfrey source.

"Some people always wanted to get on Bill's bandwagons, and other people were always convinced that as smart as Bill was, his schemes were too grandiose."

One who did bite was Susman, to the tune of more than $1 million. He says his late wife made the decision.

"She just loved Bill, thought he was fantastic. She said, 'I don't know whether this will be a success, but if Bill White gets rich off this and we aren't participants, I will be sick.' That's a pretty stupid reason, but that's why [we did it]."

As with the motivation for his legal career, White now claims personal wealth was never the reason for the launch of Frontera.

"If that was the case," retorts Susman of White's idealistic explanation, "I have been victimized by securities fraud.

"I can't get into Bill's mind and know how he thinks, but I know what most of the investors thought: that this was a real venture capital play…Everyone who invested in Frontera knew it was a risk. I don't blame Bill for it."

"I did not say or imply that the purpose was not to have economic success," responds the candidate. "And still to this day I do feel very good about the time I invested in it and the impact on the communities it served."

Frontera is still afloat, and Susman holds out faint hope that some of his money may yet be recovered. There's talk a Chinese energy firm may buy into the venture, returning some money to investors.

Yet even the man who sank big bucks in a Bill White investment scheme is backing his latest political venture.

"I think he will be a great mayor because he is smart," says Susman. "There's no comparison in brains or analytical ability or thoughtfulness with the other two candidates. God, Bill has excelled in everything he's done, and I'm sure as mayor he will be that way."

Now, if only he could get that million dollars back.

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