.1.0#101K ,..!,-.^..v4……. ,-:,,. and the Bentsen group from Ramseyer saying there was “no obligation or responsibility on you” because of relationships between Ramseyer and the Interstate group. But this did not impress attorneys for the Polmateers, who argued that “these expert land operators, who have reduced their selling practices to a refined art, have been taking advantage of strangers.” A water expert testified that the water available was drainage water with a high quantity of toxic salts that prevented it from supporting commercial citrus growth. Bentsen, Sr., testified that while drainage water is not as good as regular river water, it will grow citrus. Explaining a system of collateral, mortgages, and notes, he said he was not connected with the retail sale of tracts in Ramseyer Gardens. A farm caretaker said he has raised citrus with water from the same ditch used for the Polmateers. Asked it he owned the clubhouse, Bentsen, Sr., said no, Tip O’Tex Realty Co. owned it. There then ensued this “Q and A” between a lawyer and Bentsen, Sr.: “Who owns Tip O’Texas Realty Company?” “My brother.” “Your brother?” “Yes, sir.” And: “Now, is it not true that you hold an interest in a two and a half million dollar mortgage that that company owes, the Tip O’Texas Realty Company?” “That they owe the Bentsen Development Company?” “Yes, sir.” “Yes, sir.” In sum the Polmateers said they had been had by a conspiracy. The defendants vigorously denied the charges. Bentsen, Sr., said the record did not show he had profited, there was no showing he had an ulterior motive; indeed, he said, everything he had done was “normal, ordinary, everyday business transactions perfectly lawful in character.” The judge ruled that the Polmateers were entitled to get back somewhat over $5,000 they had put in and to the of the transaction. Attorneys for the Bentsens sought to get the judgment limited to Interstate, but the judge said it applied to the defendants “jointly and severally.” But the judge refused the Polmateer lawyers’ request for findings of fact. This meant that the allegations of the Polmateers were not explicitly ratified or invalidated; the Polmateers simply got a judgment for damages from the court. 6 After this test case, others were filed, the charges following the pattern of the Polmateer case. It is said that about fifty in all were filed. There were cases in the Valley, Austin, Lubbock, and Amarillo. References to about 20 have been found in newspapers, and records of most of these have been examined. ? No point would be served reviewing them here. Be it remembered that Lloyd Bentsen, Jr., was not involved in any of these litigations and there was never any showing or representation that he participated in his father’s or his uncle’s land transactions. This general situation was taking its early, post-Polmateer forms, and a trial of five consolidated cases was pending in Corpus Christi, when some of the elder Bentsens’ friends invited several hundred of South Texas’ leading business andcivic figures to a dinner honoring Lloyd, Sr., and Bentsen, Jr: Record wrong on farm payments Austin, Washington Lloyd Bentsen, Jr., has taken issue with the Observer’s report that he received more than $100,000 in federal crop subsidies in both 1966 and 1967 \(Obs., “I received no payments of that size or even approaching it. If the records say that I received those kinds of payments, they’re wrong,” he said. The senatorial candidate added that he has received soil bank payments, but they were “substantially less” than $20,000 a year the maximum payment he has recommended for individual farmers. Asked if the payments cited in the story could have gone to his father, he said that this was possible. The Observer rechecked the list of farm subsidies printed in the Congressional Record at the request of Sen. John Williams of Delaware. In the June 19, 1967 Record, S 8414, Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr., of Houston is cited as receiving $152,352 ir1 payments for 1966. The Record for May 23, 1968, lists payment of $108,904 to Lloyd M. Bentsen, P.O. Box 593 in Mission for 1967. Subsidies for both years went for land in Hidalgo County. The payment for 1967 could possibly have been to Lloyd Bentsen, Sr., who lives in McAllen. The Congressional Record, however, says the 1966 payment went to Bentsen Junior of Houston. If there has been an error, as the candidate believes, it is on the part of Senator Williams or the Department of Agriculture. Elmer Bentsen. The principal speaker was Governor Shivers. Photographs of Shivers, the honorees, and Cong. Lloyd Bentsen, Jr., together at the banquet appeared in Valley newspapers. Shivers was quoted: “Elmer and Lloyd Bentsen we appreciate not because they have accumulated wealth a lot of men have done that; not because of their social position lots of people have done that.. .. They have accumulated friends. Nothing man can do is any greater than to acquire true friendship.” 8 In the consolidated trial in Corpus Christi, in which nine plaintiffs sought $46,877 in damages and recovery of some land, Bentsen, Sr., testified that at no time in his career had he been convicted of any land fraud. The jury found in these cases that no conspiracy had existed, but hung on the question of fraud. Later Federal Judge James Allred dismissed the allegations of fraud against the Bentsens in these cases. 9 Settlements of some of the other cases were occurring. Terms of suc h agreementg do not usually become public, but it is rumored in the Valley that in many of the settlements, plaintiffs got back not less than half of the cash they had put in, along with cancellation of the deals. Allred also ruled that in the case of Blackwell vs. Bentsen, Sr., et al., brought under the federal securities act, the federal law was not applicable; he dismissed the case before any consideration on the merits. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed him, saying the law did apply to the facts as alleged. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to go further into the matter, which was interpreted as validating the appeals court order that the matter be returned to Allred’s court and adjudicated further. This telling development at the highest court level occurred in the spring of 1954. Blackwell and his associated plaintiffs were asking, of the Bentsen interests and others, damages totaling $353,332.38.10 The political ramifications of these events cannot have been missed by those in the know. When, in October, 1951, Grady Hazlewood, the long-time senator from Amarillo, became one of the attorneys in a lawsuit from there alleging fraud in land sales by the Bentsen group and others and *asking $716;000 in damages, and the Amarillo Globe ran a black-caps page-one eight-column headline about it, “Valley Land Swindle Charged,” the matter might still be passed off.” But in September, 1952, Smith & Mcllheran took Shivers’ deposition in connection with five lawsuits brought by buyers in the Texan Gardens development. Their allegations in their suits took the familiar pattern set in the Polmateer case, with variations for circumstances. The Shivers deposition records on its face that it was taken in connection with these five cases. Although the deposition never figured directly in any of the land fraud litigation, presumably there was some thought that the $450,000 transaction might have some relevance to these plaintiffs’ claims. 1 2 Such explosive stuff as the governor’s $425,000 profit on an option for which he was to pay $25,000 in connection with land that subsequently became involved in charges of land fraud that was not to be kept secret for long. April 17, 1970 9
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.