Political Intelligence


According to the Governor’s most recent campaign filings at the Texas Ethics Commission, one of Bush’s biggest campaign costs (after some $11 million for TV buys) is Karl Rove. A Bush family insider since 1973, when he was president of the national College Republicans, Rove has become one of the GOP’s most important Texas players.

Bush obviously values Rove’s expertise – and Rove makes him pay for it. From July through December, Bush’s re-election committee paid Karl Rove & Co. nearly $2.5 million, and also paid the Rove-owned Praxis List Company $267,000 (for use of mail lists). Rove says his work for the Bush campaign included direct mail, voter contact, phone banks, computer services, and travel expenses. Of the $2.5 million, Rove said, “About 30 percent of that is postage.” The Governor is quick to praise Rove, calling him “a close friend” and a “confidant” with “good judgment.”

In all, Bush raised $17.7 million, with $3.4 million still in the bank. Five years ago, when Bush announced his run against Ann Richards, Rove directed the candidate’s press conferences. Should Bush finally decide as expected to run for president, Rove has the direct mail expertise as well as the back-room savvy that will allow the campaign to quickly raise tens of millions.


A happy crowd bearing balloons and flags gathered in downtown Austin January 23, for the Statewide Rally for Life and Family. The marchers collected on 4th Street and proceeded up Congress past a line of mangled-fetus posters to the Capitol steps, where they were greeted by a mariachi band.

The rally made plain that while shock troops still blockade clinics, politically savvy Christian conservatives have adopted (at least rhetorically) an “outreach” approach to women seeking abortions. Deanne Smith of Austin Right to Life proclaimed that “every abortion breaks a mother’s heart. Every woman who has an abortion is a victim, as is her child.” A representative of an Austin clinic offered “compassionate alternatives to abortion.”

Then came Dick Weinhold, head of the Texas Christian Coalition. With his stocky figure, glasses, and nasal intonations, Weinhold is a bit reminiscent of Muppet scientist Dr. Bunsen Burner, but his speaking style is that of an evangelical wannabe. He pounded the podium, exhorting the crowd to “write and fax and call and e-mail” state representatives in support of parental consent laws, and lamented that Texas bears the shame of being the home state of Roe attorney Sarah Weddington and her client Norma McCorvey.

Not in attendance was the Heroine of the Day: state Senator Florence Shapiro, Lege leader of the parental notification charge. Since new Lite Guv Rick Perry appointed her chair of the State Affairs committee that handles such legislation, her already-filed notification and waiting-period bills are much more likely to make it to the Senate floor. Should they pass, Weinhold noted, Governor Bush has promised to sign them.


West Texas citizens who believe their elected officials might take an interest in maintaining clean Texas air were brutally set straight last month by Odessa state Representative Buddy West. In early January, more than 3,000 people had filed health-complaint affidavits with the T.N.R.C.C. in response to two weeks of black chemical smoke, visible for miles, descending upon Odessa from a Huntsman Corporation chemical factory. The corporation, based in Salt Lake City, told the Odessa American the smoke was produced as a result of its attempts to start up its expanded olefins plant. Residents – many from minority neighborhoods near the plant, but also from as far as twenty miles away – told the agency they were suffering from a range of health problems, from asthmatic attacks to bronchitis.

West told the paper he wasn’t bothered by the smoke, dismissing the complaints from thousands of his constituents as motivated by greed and probably false. Having himself retired from longtime employment with Amoco, the state rep said that bad odors are “just part of West Texas, just part of our environment.” Between feed lots, hog farms, and the petrochemical industry, West Texans are used to bad smells, West told a reporter. “It’s just part of the deal.” West joined Odessa Mayor Mike Atkins (who said he hadn’t noticed the smoke) in warning residents that complaints about air pollution would hurt Huntsman’s feelings, and just might force the company to move.


There’s yet another reason for Texans to crow about the roaring economy of the Lone Star State. According to a new study by the Urban Institute, our poor people are not just middlin’ poor, they’re poorer than poor people elsewhere. As summarized by the Austin-based public interest group, the Center for Public Policy Priorities, the report’s “Snapshot of Texas” shows that Texas low-income families are in worse straits than the national average, and behind most of the thirteen high-population states surveyed, including previously notorious Deep South redoubts. Take that, Mississippi!

The study documents that Texas has a higher than average percentage of low-income families, and that over 37 percent of Texas families with children worry about or have difficulty affording food – significantly higher than the national rate of 32 percent. And while the Lege hesitates on full implementation of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program – “Block those Entitlements!” says the compassionate, fully-insured Guv – 20 percent of all Texas children have no health insurance (that reflects 32 percent of children in low-income families, and a parlous condition shared by 50 percent of low-income adults).

Slogan for the Guv, for the national campaign: “If You Don’t Got It, Flaunt It!”

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Published at 12:00 am CST