Let’s make a deal Houston During the fall of 1974, Calvin Guest, chairman of the State Democratic Executive Committee, sent an emissary to Ed Cogburn of the liberal Harris County Democrats to propose some kind of a political settlement of the Farenthold-Briscoe suit. The emissary was Hartsell Gray, Harris County treasurer, a man whom Billie Carr describes as Governor Briscoe’s link with Houston liberals. Gray, a politically complex man, organized Briscoe’s 1972 campaign in Houston. He told the Observer, “Calvin called me and he said two things, both of which I believe to be true. He said he believed that Briscoe’s lawyers were using him the way Farenthold’s lawyers were using her for their own gain and that they were a pretty bad lot. Guest wanted me to find out if there was some basis for settlement, if there was some give and take. I told him I wasn’t close to any of the Farenthold people but that I would call Ed Cogburn and see if he could talk to them.” Guest himself told the Observer he was not at liberty to discuss the lawsuit, but -added, “of course, Hartsell and I are close friends.” It is Guest’s recollection that the conversation between him and Gray on this subject was not on the telephone, but took place during the course of a lunch or a dinner. He said there was really no substance to it, he really doesn’t remember it, that it just came up in the course of a general conversation when they were “talkin’ about a hundred thousand things.” The Observer asked Guest what he would have done if Gray had reported back that the Farenthold camp was indeed interested in a political settlement. We asked whether he would have gone to the governor to discuss the possibility of some arrangement concerning, say, more liberal representation on the SDEC. Guest replied, “I really don’t know. I’m just not at liberty to discuss the suit.” Gray said that he contacted Cogburn and relayed the message from Guest: “Ed said, ‘What should I ask for,’ and I said, ‘Christ, Ed, ask for the moon.’ Calvin didn’t suggest anything specific, but it looked to me like a good opportunity to get something out of. the SDEC.” Cogburn remembers Gray’s suggesting that “before Dolph Briscoe’s deposition was taken there might be a political settlement.” He says he looked at the offer as a possible opportunity “to achieve some of the things that Sissy ran for in the first place.” He took the news of the offer to Carr, who is a liberal on the National Democratic Committee and an old foe of Guest’s. “None of it was ever concrete,” Carr says. “It was sorta like planning your Christmas list. We were toying with ideas like replacing Frank Erwin with Ronnie Dugger on the UT Board of Regents. We thought about asking Calvin Guest to resign in favor of someone progressive. We thought about getting an agreement to seat some of our contested delegates to the Kansas City miniconvention. We even thought about the possibility of asking Briscoe to make a pro-ERA statement, since that looked to be an issue in the ’75 Legislature.” But Christmas never’ came that year. Cogburn went to tell Farenthold about the offer. She was appalled. Her lawyers were aggravated. Terry O’Rourke fired off an irate letter to Cogburn pointing out, among other things that the remedy in a civil suit was monetary, not political. \(“It was my assumption that Sissy would get both That was the end . of the matter, except for some hard feelings all the way around. Of Farenthold’s lawyers, Gray says, “I’d like to kick them in the pants.” K.N. The suit began to get interesting in the fall, just about the time that Briscoe was reelected. The first public revelation concerned 100 contributions of $100 each from 100 people who were listed in Briscoe’s campaign report by their first two initials and their last names. All 100 people gave their address as the post office box of Cloyce Box’s company, the OKC Corp. of Dallas. Box was one of the 117 people listed on the agenda as responsible for raising $10,000 for the Briscoe campaign. As the Observer pointed out at the time \(Obs., the contributors were listed in the Dallas phone book. All of them lived out of state. Some of them, it turned out, didn’t know that they had given funds to the Briscoe campaign. On Oct. 29, 1974, Hay filed with the secretary of state the first of two “supplemental reports” containing “additional information” on the Box contribution. In the first supplemental report, Hay said that he had just learned “for the first time” that Box had actually advanced the $10,000 to the employees of his OKC Corp. as an exercise in democracy. Hay said the committee was told that the individual donors were approached personally or by telephone to obtain their authorization or approval of the advances. Another supplemental report on Dec. 7 revealed that four OKC employees stated they never agreed to contribute and refused to reimburse Box, that one person listed as a contributor had been fired before the contribution was made in his name, and that 13 other alleged contributors had not responded to letters from OKC asking them for reimbursements of the $100 campaign gifts. Some employees, however, did reimburse Box. Hay described the whole mess as “an inadvertent mistake.” After the Cloyce Box story hit the papers, Box filed a motion asking Judge Jones to seal his deposition on grounds that it contained “trade secrets” about the OKC Corp. Judge Jones complied, but not before the Observer had an opportunity to read the deposition. The alleged secret was that Box kept considerable quantities of cash in his desk drawer, and if the information were generally known, his office might be burglarized. Next came the revelations about the $15,000 in cash that Clinton Manges delivered to Dolph Briscoe’s accountant in Uvalde in May of 1972 \(see Obs., Nov. 29, campaign contribution, Briscoe explained, because he never intended to keep it. The 15 thou, however, was still in his possession at the time the contribution became public knowledge in November of 1974. Briscoe finally returned it to Manges in the Brownsville airport coffeeshop on June 16, 1975. The Farenthold forces were investigating other curiosities as well. The Texas Instruments story was exposed by Harry Hurt III in a Texas Monthly article on the Farenthold-Briscoe suit in May of this year. The Hurt story was long and well-researched and the Observer recommends it as a companion piece to this one. Hurt came down hard on Atty. Gen. John Hill for failure to follow up on the allegations that arose from the suit. \(He did not mention, however, that Hill had been visited by O’Rourke and Brice concerning the TI incident and other reported, “Among the more serious of the suppressed allegations is that one of the state’s largest corporations Texas Instruments, Inc. or its employees may have contributed thousands of dollars in illegal corporate funds to the Briscoe coffers.” The story pointed out that a TI vice president, J. Fred Bucy, was one of the men listed on the $10,000 solicitation list attached to the Aug. 29 agenda. Bucy came through with $10,661.72, and much of it was in $100 chunks from TI employees. Robert W. Ferraro, a former regional manager for calculator sales at Texas Instruments’ Waltham, Mass., office informed Hurt: “We were told to give. I don’t know why, living in Massachusetts, I’d have much interest in the election otherwise. What I understood was that one of the big wheels had made a commitment August 22, 1975 7
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