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Austin public relations men, were hired for this chore, and they made the rounds of Texas’ major newspapers, pushing the industry line on editorial writers and news directors. Christian and Hall seem to have earned their feein December and January, newspapers in Atistin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Waco, Port Arthur, Fort Worth, Amarillo and elsewhere ran several pieces, all reflect ing the industry position that mortgage money in Texas will dry up unless the Legislature increases the interest limit. The Austin Americaiz-Statesman, probably the daily most influential among legislators, has even editorialized in favor of the lenders. Then come the lobbyists themselves. The Savings and Loan League has three registrants working this session, directed by Austin veteran Durwood Curlee. In the opening days of the 66th, Curlee sent each member of the House what can only. be called a scare package of material purporting to show that failure to in crease the usury limit “will have severe economic effects on the Texas economy, both in the housing field and in related industries.” The package of evidence he circulated included reprints of a dozen of Why does he represent only conservative kinds of groups, mostly corporations? For one thing, they were the ones who gave him business when he returned to Austin ten years ago. And as the years went on, more and more businesses were added to the list. Now Christian can pretty much choose his clientsand he chooses “not to mix apples and oranges.” So he will not do anything “contrary to the business viewpoint.” For example, Texas Woman’s University asked him for help in gaining a new medical school, but he had to refuse, because “most of the people I represent think we have enough” medical schools. “I’ve got a philosophy of government that fits my clients,” says Christian. He broadly describes that philosophy as one of “fiscal responsibility.” What that means to his clients is that Christian will fight whatever will cost them money, and he will promote whatever will help them , make money, either in the area of taxation or in state spending. Between sessions, during the even-numbered.years, Christian directs media campaigns for various candidates, as he did for former Gov. Dolph Briscoe in the ’78 primary. He also works on lobbying studies and charts TAT legislative programs for the next session. Even though he was registered as a lobbyist for the big consumer finance companies in 1977, when they were seeking rate increases, Christian says he never actually did any person-toperson lobbying for their bill. He subcontracted that job to long-time Austin lobbyist Randy Pendleton. Christian’s work . for the Texas Consumer Finance Association involved advising the group on its public image; which was no small task, since nobody loves a loan shark. Says Christian: “They had a good case, but it was hard to sell. [Sen.] Bill Patman cut it to pieces ” in his successful fight against raising rates on small loans. Christian says he is not involved with the loan company battle this year, but he has signed on to help the Texas Savings and Loan League in its effort to raise interest rates on home mortgages above the “usury” level of 10 percent. His work on this issue, mostly already done, involves selling Texas newspaper reporters and editorial writers on the line that there will be no home loans in Texas if the usury ceiling isn’t lifted. Christian says that all he’ll do is tell them that California, which has no limit on mortgage loan rates, will get all the Texas loan money and home-seekers here will be left with none. Christian tells the story well, and a number of Texas editorialists and business writers have swallowed it whole. He speaks in wellmodulated tones and presents facts to buttress his every assertion. And Christian’s preaching in behalf of the savings and loan industry is echoed by the realtors and home-builders all across Texas, who also have lobbyists touching base with local papers and legislators. No one is doing any comparable PR on behalf of borrowers, so it looks as though there’s only one side to the story. What about the other side? Does it bother him that small business, farm, and consumer borrowers aren’t represented? Christian’s answer, stated without tongue in cheek, is that the argument against raising the ceiling is “so weak and ill-formed” that no one will listen. He predicts that the battle will be fought early in the session and his side will win. One reason for the early battle is that legislators have already been inundated with information on, the mortgage-interest-rate issue in their hometowns. Christian and his long-time friend, Austin ad-man Jerry Hall, joined forces in 1978 to make their case with local news editors and legislators, and they favor an early run at passage before any opposition has a chance to form. Christian explains that this kind of “grassroots lobbying” was used two years ago to convince the Legislature to approve Dolph Briscoe’s $528 million highway bill, which was passed in the opening days of the session. “Before the legislators got to Austin in 1977, they were made familiar with the problem in 1976 by groups like local chambers of commerce, highway people, tourist organizations, auto and truck peopleeverybody who has to do with highways and streets. That is the most effective type of lobbying.” Add to that “media awareness,” and you have a form of persuasion that far transcends the old formula of booze, broads and bags of money traditionally associated with lobbying. It’s expensive, but it pays off for the clients who can afford it. Christian’s expense reports filed with the secretary of state’s office certainly reflect the low priority he puts on the care and feeding of legislators. For example, he reported spending only $46.05 for entertainment on behalf of Houston Natural Gas, his coal-slurry client, during April of 1977. He concedes that some mernkers of the Legislature spend a lot of time being wined and dined at the Headliners Club, a few floors above Christian’s own office, and at the Citadel Club a few blocks away, but he adds that those members are few. “The entertainment factor is pretty far down the ladder in lobbying these days,” says Christian. So, if freebies are not the answer, perhaps it’s really in campaign contributions? Well, the legislator “does remember if he got help from some organization,” Christian agrees. “But I don’t know how the poor senator or representative sorts out how to reward one group and punish another, when so many groups contribute to the same candidate.” The real key to persuading most legislators is “appealing to reason,” says the eminently reasonable Christian. Give them information and give information to their staff memberswho have become very important in recent years. Once a member or his aide gets to know a lobbyist, knows he can trust the lobbyist not to mislead him, then the lobbyist is doing his job, according to Christian. A lot of lobbyists are “very good at maintaining relationships,” he says, adding, “a legislator expects you to be partisan,” so any lobbyist who doesn’t put forth the strongest possible argument for his client’s position is “picking the client’s pocket.” Well, what about the public? Isn’t the average Texan, who can’t afford to hire a Christian, left out by this influence peddling? Christian asserts that as a plain citizen, he feels he is “not represented in a lot of things up here either,” but he says with a straight face that the little folks can rely on “our representative government” to serve them fairly. “I think it works. We’ve got a good Legislature. The public is well-represented by the Legislature. Now the influence imposed by all the business and labor and teacher and consumer groupsthat’s important,” Christian says. The idea that business has more power than other groups or exercises undue influence is just flat wrong in his opinion: “If the Legislature were in the pocket of business, it wouldn’t be necessary for business to spend so much money lobbying. . . . Ultimately, things work out and ultimately the public is represented by the people they elect. By and large, from my vantage point, I like the way it works.” Former reporter Jo Clifton is a long-time Observer contributor and a student at the University of Texas Law School. THE TEXAS OBSERVER