Ben Barnes

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Ben Barnes is former Democratic lieutenant governor of Texas and former speaker of the Texas house. (Both positions are popularly considered to be more powerful than the governorship.) In the late 60s and early 70s, Barnes was the rising star of Texas politics -- considered "the next Lyndon Johnson".

His career as an elected official was derailed by his closeness to the perpetrators of the Sharpstown Bank scandal[1], though he was not considered personally culpable. For the past three decades, he has been an influential state lobbyist and political operator.

Barnes broke his silence and talked to the press about what role he played in helping George W. Bush get a coveted slot in the Texas Air National Guard -- exempting him from the draft, and possible Vietnam service -- in 1968, when Barnes was Texas speaker.

Barnes, who is a vice chair and major fundraiser of John Kerry's Presidential campaign, made headlines in late August 2004 when his videotaped comments that he was "very ashamed" of getting Bush into the National Guard began circulating on the Web. He said the remorse was prompted by a recent visit to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, where he saw the names of thousands of other young men who did not enjoy the connections of the Bush family.

Barnes made his comments in May and the video was posted on a pro-Kerry Web site in June, but word of it only began to spread widely just before the 2004 Republican National Convention.

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