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THE TEXAS OBSERVER An audit of accounts receivable By Jamie Murphy Austin Special interest political contributors in. Texas have found a surer bet than making donations to candidates for public officethanks to a little-known law, they can wait until the election is over, then make a contribution to the winner’s “officeholder account.’-” This way there’s no risk of backing a loser; it’s a good deal for those who put money on politicians, and it is a widespread practice in the state capital. What the officeholder account is, of course, is a slush fund, though no politicia.n enjoys hearing it called that. It’s perfectly legal, too, having been pushed through the 1975 session of the Legislature by the firm hands of Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and Sen. Bill Moore of Bryan. The officeholder provision, known in Austin as “The Bill ‘Hobby Proviso,” was enacted under the guise of reform, as a part of the 64th Legislature’s “political funds reporting and disclosure act.” The argument put forward by its proponents was that since some slush funds existed, the thing to do was to require that contributions to them be reported annually to the secretary of state. So in one stroke, Hobby and his colleagues could get credit for a “good government” reform while giving their slush funds legal sanction. As for the danger of effective public scrutiny, they saw to it that the reports have to be filed only once a year and that they require minimal detail. The cynicism of the resulting private subsidy arrangement is worthy of some banana republic. Officeholders may, with legal sanction, accept contributions of unlimited value from individuals and special-interest political action committees to pay for the “performance of duties or activities in connection with the office which are nonreimbursable by the state.” Just what expenses are included in this formula isn’t clear, but that’s the idea. Bob Lemons, director of the secretary of state’s election division, acknowledges that the language of the law is deliberately vague, but contends that detailed accounting of these private payments to public officials is “not an important part of disclosure.” The law, says Lemons, “lets the officeholders do whatever they want to, so long as they disclose it.”