Page 24


$125 per hour from Springlake Enterprises, a corporation in which Clayton owns 100 percent of the stock. Clayton sees nothing improper about this arrangement, claiming that he pays “less than fair market value” for the lease and pays income tax “through the corporation.” $3,983 for entertainment. $1,159 for glass paperweights which he distributed to House members. $7,350 to supplement the salaries of several aides and secretaries. \(Doug Peoples, Clayton’s pilot, currently on the House payroll as an administrative aide The speaker from Springlake also reported as an officeholder contribution a $150 honorarium from Diamond Shamrock Oil Corporation for a speech he gave at a company banquetand amazingly enough, given the laxity of the law on most points, that little bit of business could get him in some trouble. Such honorariums are permissible under certain circumstances, but direct corporate contributions are prohibited, and Clayton’s report makes it look as though that’s exactly what he received. Secretary of State Steven Oaks told the Observer that a report like Clayton’s reveals what amounts to “a violation” of the election laws. Bob Lemons, Oaks’s election division chief, concurred, but took an understanding view of Clayton’s misstep and his own office’s failure to notice it. “Sometimes people just slip,” he said. Clayton, when questioned about the Shamrock honorarium, denied any knowledge of the particulars of the transaction or the manner in which it was reported. “I don’t handle it [the filing of reports] myself, because I don’t want to,” Clayton insisted. “All I do is look at it and sign it.” His aides take care of this sort of thing, he said, although he hastened to add that “I make a dead-level effort to comply with the secretary of state.” \(Clayton’s aides deny that the Shamrock honorarium constituted an illegal contribution and attribute any filing mistake to the speaker’s overzealousness in complying with the reporting laws. Why, Clayton “files more information in political filing than anybody else does, including his income statement,” claims the speaker’s top lieutenant, Jack Everybody’s doin’ it Viewed in the perspective of everything that is permitted under current law, it’s easy to see why Clayton and his aides regard the Shamrock honorarium miscue as no more than a minor embarrassment. For example, it is okay to take money directly from a corporation, without How to build a legal slush fund By David Guarino Kerrville When businessman-bank directorrancher Charles Schreiner III stages a political event at his YO Ranch near Mountain Home, he usually gets a good crowd out to gawk at the giraffes, ostriches and other exotic game that he has imported to roam his 50,000 acres. But on July 30, he got his best draw ever, with scores of the state’s politicians and money-givers venturing out to the remote ranch to eat tamales served on silver buffet trays, drink Lone Star from plastic cups, and toast one of Kerr County’s homegrown critters, State Rep. Jim Nugent. “Supersnake,” as the Kerrville Democrat is fondly and not-so-fondly known \(instead of applauding when he speaks, supporters actually make reptilian histime friend Schreiner with “A Tribute to Jim Nugent.” The host termed it “a strictly nonpartisan fundraiser,” and guests put out up to $100 per couple for tickets. No one was tacky enough to ask the obvious question: fundraiser for what? Nugent is running unopposed for reelection this year. Well, said Schreiner, it’s just to help old Jim offset some of the costs of holding office. In short, the night’s haul was going into Nugent’s officeholder account, a slush fund by any other name. Such celebrations-for-cash are the approved way for politicians to do business these days, and the more powerful the officeholder, the more successful the event. As chairman of the transportation committee and speaker pro tern of the House, “The SnAkC4kpowerful enough not to need Schreiner s giraffes to draw paying guests. A measure of his pull was the rush of Democratic officeholders to the out-of-the-way ranch just to say a few words in his behalf. Gubernatorial nominee John Hill not only came but nearly crash-landed on Schreiner’s rough-hewn airstrip. \(“I want Jim’s support badly,” Hill said later in his testimonial to Nugent, “but I’m not quite ernor Briscoe rode 100 miles from Austin in his red, white and blue Cadillac limousine to praise Nugent for carrying his half-billion-dollar highway bill in the 1977 session. Lieutenant Governor Hobby and Speaker Clayton, two other politicos who have made good use of events like this to fill their officeholder accounts, were on hand, as was U.S. Senate hopeful Bob Krueger, who flew in from Washington to tell the crowd, “Nugent’s colleagues appreciate him because he knows how to get the job done.” Indeed, but why were these people out there on a hot July evening to pay Nugent extra money for doing that job? “Mr, Nugent feels the money will permit him to do additional travel around the state,” aide Bob Gierisch tried to explain. Nugent, however, said the funds were not for so limited a purpose: “We’ll use it for whatever is necessary to better perform the duties of office,” he said Readers are invited to use their own imaginations. If Nugent was reluctant to say why he needs this money, he was even more tightlipped about the amount raised. Despite repeated efforts by the Observer to get a tally, he was still claiming a month after the event that the books were not yet closed, and he would offer no more of an estimate than to say that “it was a success.” His aide was just as secretive, saying “I’m afraid if I made an estimate that I’d be so far off that I’d embarrass me and you both.” Of course, this is nonsense. Anyone who has done any fundraising knows that a rough count is always made on the spot, and Nugent is not so sloppy a politician as to have no idea of the score. But that’s the beauty of the officeholder account. Incumbents can collect monetary tributes without even having to disclose who paid and in what amounts until the end of the year, and they can spend the money for almost anythhtg that suits them, since they are required to report the expenditures in only the vaguest of terms. 0 David Guarino is a reporter for The Highlander in Marble Falls. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11