DALLAS -- Documents show that Southern Methodist University, the leading contender for George W. Bush's presidential library, started using its political, financial and social connections soon after his election to try to land the project.
Thousands of pages of testimony obtained by The Dallas Morning News from a lawsuit involving land that may be used for the library, reveal an early, elaborate and secretive courtship for the project.
According to documents, Ray Hunt, the billionaire chief of Hunt Oil and a member of SMU's board of trustees, suggested his own alma mater as a library site to Bush in early 2001.
Hunt and SMU President Gerald Turner made a formal push that summer at Bush's Crawford ranch, playing up the university's advantages for more than an hour.
SMU has long been considered the favorite. First lady Laura Bush, also an alumnus, sits on its governing board, and the Bushes are Methodists.
Although a formal decision on the library winner has not been made, architects already have been interviewed and asked to come up with designs at SMU for a library and public policy institute.
The other finalist is Baylor University in Waco.
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