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Independence of Go vernment At Stake senators at his dude ranch when Brown was fighting the gas gathering tax. During a Corpus Christi jaunt, several years ago, said a representative, the single men were given “anything under the sun.” When members went to Port Isabel \(the sponsors, one side in a commercial side trip to Matamoras Boys Town. On another junket to El Paso, a member said, there was “a free trip to Juarez with all the whoring paid for.” There are also many trips for legislators with serious public purposes. The legislators learn and come back and write better laws as a direct result of the trip. But by far the most riotous junket of recent record was the 1955 trip to the races. The bill in question would have let the state set minimum prices on natural gas. It looked like price-fixing. The lobbyists for Tennessee Gas Transmission Company, opposed because it would affect their income, decided to fly a dozen of the bill’s house opponents to Kentucky for a weekend at the track. As the plane took off the proponents decided to vote on the bill the next day in the absence of their foes. The sportsmen landed at Lexington, Ky., and flew right back in time to defeat the spoilsports in the House the next morning. That afternoon, the uprising quelled, the dozen flew back to the races. There was not a word about this in the state press, even though everybody in the legislature knew about it. Another cozy little custom of the lobby is to support lavishly “Speaker’s Day” in the House and “President Pro Tempore Day” in the Senate. In 1955 Speaker Jim Lindsey was given a silver service, a set of china, crystal glassware, fishingequipment, a sleeping bag, and many smaller gifts. But in 1957 Speaker Carr limited the event to legislators and House employees. It had, he said, been too commercial. That was a step ahead. In the 1955 session President Pro Tem Sen. Crawford Martin got a silver service. Sen. Neville Colson of Navasota got a new Chevrolet, complete with every extra. \(Letters went out to lobbyists asking them for $50 closely, the beneficiaries are inclined to give all the credit to well-wishing constituents back home. `Dangerous’ I remember stopping Ed Clark, one of Austin’s big-time lobbyists, in the Senate chamber one afternoon after a committee hearing. He held forth on the responsibilities of lobbyists to God and man : they “should have the same desire to be a Christian gentleman and true to their trust,” he said. What about lobbyists who don’t ? “Well,” he said … “There’s got to be both a giver and a receiver. When a man goes sour up here ; why I know it, usually before the man that compromised him. It’s a dangerous thing for a young man to come up here.” I don’t suppose anything anyone could say would more conclusively state the need for lobby regulation. About the loan shark fight of the 1955 session, one leader in the lobby told me, “It’s a damned scandal.” Money -was flashing in the Capitol. A representative told me of another bill : “It was understood that it came with a check of $500 annexed to it.” Another said he was offered cash for his vote in committee : the sum, five thousand dollars. Another said he got a letter with $150 in it and had to return it. One NOTE \(The editorial columns usually found on this page are on page 6 4 said he had been offered tips on the oil businessgood tips. Two representatives told me they had been offered what the lobbyists called “expense money.” A senator told me outside the Senate chamber he had been offered money by ten lobbyists when it became known he had suffered a sudden and severe financial setback. That 1955 session, before the US Trust case broke, I was told by several senators, and published, that one of them had been offered a $3,000 “fee” in return for no work and had rejected it, and that the lobbyist \(whose name was A. B. Shoemake, the company president, which we could not publish until the payroll for five thousand, another for three thousand, and on through some others. Later, we learned he had nine of the 31 senators on his payroll. A highly respected conservative representative told me that he was handling a controversial bill and that ’18 members of the House had come up to him and propositioned him that they’d support it for anything from fifty dollars to two thousand five hundred dollars. “One of ’em wanted a boat,” he said. One legislator . said the first advice he got when he arrived in Austin \\vas from a House employee, now a representative : “If you ever sell a vote,” he said, “vote that way. If anythingwill ruin you up here, it’s in not keeping your word.” 1957 Tighter Now with the failure of US Trust & Guaranty, the revelation that such senators as Carlos Ashley of Llano, Bill Moore of Bryan, Gus Strauss of Hallettsville, and others, had been receiving very large retainer fees for legal services while in the Senate, with the subsequent collapse of ICT Insurance Company and all the legislators that involved, and with the outright bribery indictment against .James Cox after the tape recorded conversation with the nattiropath lobbyist, things have tightened up this year. There are still suites, free meals, junkets, gratuities ; but on the whole the lobbyists are creeping around like cats in a dog pound. That means nothing. If lobby regulation fails to pass, the heat will pass, too, and all will be as before. You do not forgive the lobby its multiplied offenses against the cornmon good because it washes its hands and straightens its tie after it has been indicted. But do not misunderstand. If the lobbyists were cautious this year, they were not precisely reformed. Consider, for instance, a ; matter that strikes every one of you in your tenderest underside your idealism about rural electric co-ops. I share that idealism with you. I believe that intelligent men and women can and should cooperate to meet their mutual needs. Tension had developed between the co-ops and the profit utilities over co-op service to areas that had been. rural but had been ‘incorporated into cities. All the co-ops asked was the right to compete on an equal basis, with no exclusive rights for utilities in these areas. The profit companies wanted exclusive rights in city limits as they expand to include co-op territory. To boot, they wanted exclusive rights in rural areas they had served first, and they wanted to prohibit the co-ops from taking their customers from them, even in rural areas. In other words, the profit companies wanted special advantages and admitted it. Out of this situation developed the first legislative fight between the co-ops and the profit ctompanies in 15 years. All that time the utilities had kept their lobbyists up here. Call the roll. Joe James, for West Texas Utilities. Jack Harris, extremely well paid lobbyist of 25 or 30 years’ standing for Texas Electric Service, Texas Power and Light, Houston Power and Light, and Dallas Power and Light. Everett Looney and Ed Clark of Looney, Clark, and Moorhead, Central Power and Light, Southwestern Gas and Electric, AVest Texas Utilities, Oklahoma Gas and Electric. These were the boys. They had been here a long time. They had entertained and/or cultivated in their clients’ gardens. They never had to report to the people what they paid for. It is reported that a meeting of power company presidents and attorneys was held in Dallas one Friday and decided REA would get the Saul bill and nothing more. On Tuesday, in Ben Ramsey’s Senate, that’s exactly what they got. What was spent? Who was entertained? I don’t know. You don’t know. Nobody knows but the lobbyists, and they don’t have to tell anybody anything. The ‘Black Bean’ Last session there was a concerted effort to get the lobbyists regulated and out in the open ; but. they fought it, and they prevailed.’ As the San Antonio Express said, Senator Dorsey Hardeman of San Angelo drew the “black bean.” He was the hatchet man. He did the dirty work. The House passed an excellent billone that conformed with the Legislative Council’s ideas, one that the Governor was happy with. But Ben Ramsey, the autocratic ruler of the Senate and one of the closest and most powerful friends the Texas lobbyists have, gave the bill to a stacked committee. The committee turned over all its authority to Hardeman. Hardeman refused to agree to the House bill. He argued in public that it ought to require every bod y who talked to legislators to registerit ought not to exempt anybody. In other words, if a school girl wrote a post card to her senator, she’d have to register. The Hardeman bill was utterly absurd. It would have restricted the right of citizens to petition their government. Hardeman knew that, but he hoped the people wouldn’t. The last day, time running out, the harried House committee went over to the Senate, literally begging for a bill. Hardeman didn’t even show up at a scheduled emergency meeting. He said this : they limit it to what they spend it for, with a complete itemized breakdown. You take a lobbyist reports $4,000, he goes up before a grand jury, and they ask him, who’dyou spend that on? He says, Hardeman …” \(and here he named two other can’t remember the others.’ Then where are you ? … Suppose,” asked Senator Hardeman, “Suppose they want to blackmail you?” The idea of lobby regulation is very simple. It is based on the theory that the people’s knowing what happens between lobbyists and legislators is itself a way of regulating -what happens. This is the point about lobby regulationnot that lobbyists are to be prohibited, disgraced, or held up to contempt, not even that their activities are to be curbed. Under every bill that has been proposed, it will be all right for the lobbyists to go on flying legislators to the Kentucky horse races for the weekend, or paying their hotel bills, or feeding them steaks, or, throwing lavish parties for them, or taking them on bus jaunts to the border brothels. That will be all right. The only thing, they will have to tell the Sec retary of State about it, and he will make the information available to reporters and the public. If the people think whatever’s going on is all right, they can re-elect their representatives. If they don’t, they won’t. A most reasonable and sweet-tempered reform, this, on the whole ; but what pandemonium has broken loose about it ! Even Governor Daniel, a mild-mannered man who is not given to attacking business groups, has threatened to name one business firm which has been especially busy stirring up opposition to the special session and lobby control. What, do you imagine, are they afraid of ? Can it be they don’t think they would be. fully appreciated by the people if they knew what they were doing? Conclusion Oh, a lobby control bill won’t cure the problems of state governmentwon’t really control the controllers, won’t really draw the antisocial venoms of organized financial power. The people fighting for the right to cooperate to get electric power will have to go on absorbing contumely and misunderstanding a n d misrepresentation. The people trying to get the government to help at least the helpless will still be accused in the press of socialism and worse. “Man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” But at least those who care to know, will be able to know; those who care for the truth, can have it; those who love reason can apply it to the truth. We will be able to know how much money, how many parties, how much extravagance our legislators have consented to before announcing their verdicts on matters that affect us all. We will know, we will be able to know, who is spending how much on whom for what. And that will be something. Perhaps it will be a great deal. It will at least be something. We need not feel helpless before massed power. We are only individuals but the government is ours. “The legitimate object of government,” said Lincoln, “is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot do so well for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities.” Acting together, through our government, we can shape its policies. But we must first be informed of what really happens in the Club Petit, the Austin Club, the Headliners Club, the Deck Club in Austin ; what really happens at Homer Leonard’s lake house, in Andrew HowsleV’s 16th Austin Hotel suite, on the Texas Company yacht “Ava.” KnoWing, we can reason ; reasoning, we can act ; acting, we can rule. But we cannot rule in the last place if we do not know in the first .place. Let any lobbyist, or any lobbyist’s mouthpiece, tell you differently, and reckon him as a shill or a mountebank. For what i5 here involved, wherever the fight is being fought, is no simple question of records and news stories. What is here involved is the meaning and substance of our way of life. Will we be ruled in fact by the paid agents of pelf and power of business and labor, industry and agricultureor will we be ruled by men we choose by our own million voices, as individuals of free conscience? Will we be able to understand and meaningfully guide our own government, or will it slip from us into the control of forces too large and too automatic for individuality or for conscience? What is here involved is a fight, not of vengeance, but of honor; not of the advantages of politics, but of the integrity of democratic government; not of pressure groups, but of the people in their own mighty name. THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 3 Oct. 18, 1957