Political Intelligence



Corpus Christi Senator Carlos Truan didn’t walk into the Senate Finance Committee looking for a way to lessen the burden the Hopwood decision imposes on minority students. Truan has been an opponent of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that declared the University of Texas Law School’s special admissions program for minority students illegal. Like several minority senators, Truan was even more critical of nominal Democrat and Mexican-American Dan Morales, the former attorney general who so broadly interpreted the Hopwood decision that it is now applied to admissions at all institutions of higher learning in Texas — and to scholarships and financial aid. But when Commissioner of Higher Education Don Brown requested that the Finance Committee decrease its funding of advanced degrees for minority students, Truan reacted. Why, he asked Brown, are you asking for less money? It was, the Commissioner responded, because of the Hopwood decision. When Truan responded that Hopwood applies to admissions, the Commissioner answered that according to Morales’ opinion, it also applies to financial aid.

Truan turned to committee chair Bill Ratliff and suggested that perhaps new Attorney General John Cornyn would have a different opinion, and asked Ratliff to request a second legal opinion on Hopwood. Truan’s timing may be right. The Governor (whose pidgin Spanish is already better than anything Morales could manage), is celebrating his affinity with Hispanics, who provided him with 49 percent of their vote. And as he is presenting himself as a presidential candidate with crossover appeal, Bush might urge his A.G. to listen carefully to Truan’s request.

“I’m not trying to open the whole thing up,” Truan said. “I read the opinion, and I know what it said about admissions. But I want the attorney general to consider the question of scholarships and financial aid.”


It’s not dead yet, but the fact that Pampa Republican Warren Chisum’s anti-gay-adoption bill has been referred to the State Affairs Committee — chaired by Dallas Democrat Steve Wolens — suggests that it might be moribund. Call it Laney’s Theorem: bad legislation is often referred to good committees, whence the bills never emerge. Chisum’s bill, another episode in his serial assault on the state’s gays and lesbians (which might be actionable if the Hate Crimes Bill passes) would prevent the placement of a child for adoption or in a foster home where “homosexual activity is occurring or is likely to occur.” The bill’s proposed state monitor might have the power to break up existing families where adoptions are not complete, or foster families where gay or lesbian couples (or individuals) care for children.

When The New York Times and other national media outlets describe Bush as a compassionate centrist, he should write a thank-you note to House Speaker Pete Laney, who has thus far kept anti-gay, covenant marriage, and other malicious Christian-Right bills off the Governor’s desk — where he would have to sign them or risk provoking GOP hardliners. (And for intelligent entertainment at the Capitol, check out State Affairs. Wolens’ tour de force, far better than the tour de farce on the floor, is more like a late-night talk show than a committee hearing.)


As Enron Corp.’s witness testified before the Senate Committee on Electric Utility Restructuring (i.e., deregulation), Victoria Democrat Ken Armbrister nodded so politely that both of his chins must have been tired. Armbrister would later nod and smile even more, as Monty Acres of the Texas Municipal League read his testimony, also supporting deregulation.

But when AFL-CIO legal counsel Rick Levy sat down in the witness chair, Armbrister could hardly restrain himself — challenging not only Levy but also the Wall Street Journal article on deregulation and downsizing submitted by Levy as evidence. While Armbrister didn’t exactly call Levy a liar, he did say that as a senator he had to have reliable figures. “I can’t take my figures out of the blue sky,” Armbrister said, pointing to the window. He apparently prefers corporate sources — reliable for campaign funding as well as received wisdom.


As we went to press (March 10), The New York Times reported that the National Endowment for the Arts has cancelled a grant in support of a children’s book published by El Paso’s Cinco Puntos Press — because the book was written by the Zapatista rebel leader, Subcomandante Marcos. The Story of Colors re-tells a Mexican folk tale: the gods, bored with a gray universe, invent all the colors and give them to the tail of the macaw.

N.E.A. chairman William J. Ivey overruled the agency’s prior approval because grant funds might go to the Zapatista rebels. El Paso poet Bobby Byrd, who runs the press with his wife Susie, said that the small grant ($7,500) was for translation and distribution, and that Marcos even waived his author’s rights. “This is spineless,” said Byrd. “This book is essentially about diversity and tolerance, everything the N.E.A. is supposed to stand for, and they just don’t have the courage to publish it.”

Readers interested in supporting Cinco Puntos can contact the press at (800) 566-9072; 2709 Louisville, El Paso 79930; e-mail: [email protected].


Of course he’s not lobbying: former Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock insisted that he wouldn’t lobby. Instead, Bullock’s trip through the revolving door has him selling his expertise as a “strategic advisor and facilitator.” Bullock’s newest advisee? Status Properties (formerly known as FM Properties, developers of high-dollar properties in environmentally sensitive West Austin). And here’s the lagniappe: no one knows how much Bullock is being paid to advise the company that has been battling the city of Austin over water pollution and annexation issues since 1990. Bullock’s paycheck is a secret because he’s working at Public Strategies, Inc., the powerhouse public relations and political strategy firm headed by Bullock’s pal Jack Martin. Isn’t it nice to have your faith in tireless public servants restored?


Calling the Vernal Equinox a fitting moment, Houston Green Party chairperson David Cobb informs Political Intelligence that state Party activists will meet in Houston March 20, for the founding convention of the Green Party of Texas. The meeting will be held at the Harris County AFL-CIO Hall located at 2608 Sutherland (off I-45 and Telephone Road), and in addition to administrative sessions and adoption of by-laws and the like, the day will include several speakers: Mike

Feinstein of the Santa Monica City Council and co-founder of the Green Party of California; Susan Lee Solar, 1998 write-in candidate for Texas Governor and former director of the Dallas Peace Center; Ollie Jefferson, immigration attorney and anti-death penalty activist from Dallas-Fort Worth; and Kevin McGuire, Harris County Green Party activist and candidate for Houston City Council in 1999.

For more information, the Austin website is www.main.org/greens/; Houston is www.harriscountygreenparty.org/. Clearinghouse telephone is (713) 866-6285.


While they wait for the other shoe to drop in Austin, the corporations hoping to control Texas’ nuclear waste stream compete for strategic position. Greg Harman of the Odessa American reported March 3 that in the latest maneuver, TU Electric and the South Texas Nuclear Project — the largest producers of low-level radioactive waste in the state — have entered a disposal contract with Waste Control Specialists which threatens to cut WCS’ competitor, Envirocare, out of a market that doesn’t yet exist. Although the state legislation that would allow private disposal is still in committee, WCS — whose majority owner is Dallas billionaire and major George W. Bush funder Harold Simmons — has agreed to dispose of both companies’ radioactive waste for only $18.50 per cubic foot, contingent on legislative approval. That price, under a forty-year contract, is about 94 percent less than the lowest current industry rate, from $300 to $1,000 per cubic foot. In February, WCS competitor Envirocare of Texas hired Rick Jacobi, former general manager for the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Authority, for help in lobbying the Legislature on Envirocare’s behalf. Asked about the WCS disposal deal, Jacobi said, “Envirocare could not run a site at that cost.”

The Sierra Blanca Legal Defense Fund, opposed to nuke waste disposal in Texas, warned that the WCS deal would force the company to accept waste from states outside the federal Compact (Texas, Maine, and Vermont) and from the U.S. Department of Energy. State Representative Lon Burnam (D–Fort Worth), said, “The people of Texas should be alarmed at the prospect of becoming the nation’s radioactive dumping ground.… We must not allow the health and safety of Texans to be sacrificed for billions of dollars of private profit.”


Nuke waste lobbyists staking out the House Environmental Affairs Committee have their eyes on Chairman Chisum (who has actually written a fundamentally good bill on nuke waste). So everyone was listening at one early March hearing when S.B.L.D.F. activist Bob Geyer noted a loophole in existing law that would allow private companies to deposit unlimited amounts of waste in Texas. “I would like to go to work on closing that loophole,” Austin Democrat Dawnna Dukes said to the Chairman. “Good idea,” Chisum said. “But let’s don’t close it too tight.”


Peace activist Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness (see “Silence is Complicity,” page 3), will also be appearing in Dallas, at the University of Dallas (March 26) and Southern Methodist University (March 27). For details, call Cliff Pearson at the Dallas Peace Center: (214) 823-7793.