POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE Treasurer’s Troubles State Treasurer Warren G. Harding filed a $1 million civil rights suit recently against Travis Cty. district attorney Ronnie Earle and two assistants who are directing the current inquiry into Harding’s discharge of his office. The suit contends that Earle and his assistants, Bill Willms and Joe Dale Morris, violated Harding’s civil rights by illegally seizing records from his office Jan. 26. The suit also accuses Earle of conducting a “malicious” investigation of highranking officials, “without any reasonable likelihood of a conviction,” to justify and obtain funding for his Public Integrity Unit. That unit, formed under Earle’s direction to investigate misconduct by public officials, is funded jointly by Travis County and a federal grant from the governor’s criminal justice council. Earle obtained the federal grant after the 1979 legislature refused to go along with his request for state help in operating the unit. Earle denies the allegations. ko’ The Harding investigaton focuses attention on the power and influence of the treasurer’s office. The state has $2.2 billion on deposit in more than 1,400 banks in Texas. The state treasurer has a major role in disbursing state funds to either checking or long-term interest-earning accounts in Texas banks. Harding, state banking commissioner Robert E. Stewart, and Dallas attorney William Elliott are the three members of a state depository board, which decides which banks get which deposits. Harding alone, however, usually makes those decisions on a daily basis because the accounts need daily atfention and the board can’t meet every time a transaction must be made. The deposits run from tens of millions of dollars in large, Urban banks to hundreds of thousands of dollars in smaller, rural institutions. Given the state treasurer’s power over the purse, it’s not hard to imagine a bank president’s attention to a Harding letter suggesting that the Harding campaign treasury needs refilling. According to 1981 contribution reports filed in the secretary of state’s office, Harding raised over 70% of his contributions from banking interests. Total contributions amounted to $298,024, raised throughout 1981 when he still had no opposition. \(Harding has since drawn four challengers three Democrats and a RepubThe investigation by Virginia Ellis of the Dallas Times Herald Pinto campaign contributions was quite revealing. She found, for instance, that Harding, unlike other officeholders, did not collect large sums from single contributors. Instead, he collected over $200,000 from 1,084 officers and directors of more than 300 different banks throughout the state. Harding told Ellis he tried to limit contributions to $2,000 from officers of any one institution, but the total amount he received often exceeded that amount. Ellis found, for example, that 37 officers and directors of the Abilene National Bank each contributed $100 to his cam paign In Plainview, 14 officers and directors of the City National Bank each contributed $66.60. In Lubbock, six officers and directors of the American State Bank contributed $260 each to Harding’s campaign while another nine contributed $100 each. Harding, who was appointed treasurer in Oct. 1977 after being Dallas County treasurer for 26 years, was elected in 1978 and was unopposed until news of the grand jury probe broke four days before the filing deadline. In the Democratic primary now are former Waco Rep. Lane Denton, Travis County Commissioner Ann Richards, and Austin businessman John Cutright. Longtime activist Millard K. Neptune is unopposed in the Republican primary. Richards, 48, hopes to become only the third female statewide officeholder in Texas history. \(Annie Webb Blanton, superintendent of public education in 1918, and Ma Ferguson, the governor, the Democratic party to have a woman on the ticket,” she says. She also contends the climate will be right for Democratic candidates this year. Richards decided to file just two days after the first reports that Harding had been called before the grand jury. “My initial interest was stimulated by that,” she says, “but in the final analysis I’m going to run this race in a very positive fashion, based on my qualifications. I had discussed it back in the middle of that last session, but there were too many other factors back then, particu larly my family and the travel involved, so I decided not to do it.” Richards says her real concern is bringing the treasurer’s office into the 20th century. “I’m not afraid of computerization and high technology that’s needed to make the office work,” she says. She says a round of telephone calls made over the weekend before she announced produced pledges of $200,000, about half what she thinks is necessary to run the race. Clements’ Enemies Governor Clements is not only choosing, he is specifying his enemies for his re-election. H. R. “Bum” Bright, his reelection finance chairman, stated in a letter to backers: “The state AFL-CIO boss calls Clements ‘the enemy’ because the Governor opposes teacher strikes and the unionization of public employees. . . . “The ACLU and criminal defense attorneys have made scathing attacks on the governor because of his anti-crime and ‘War on Drugs’ programs. “And the Liberals who run the Democratic National Committee have made Governor Clements one of their top five targets in 1982. Because Clements worked hard to carry Texas for Ronald Reagan and George Bush, the Liberals want to embarrass Reagan by beating his Texas chairman, Bill Clements. “The Liberals, the Big Spending Interests, the Labor Bosses, the Plaintiff Lawyers all these groups know what’s at stake.” vir Gov. Bill Clements’ only opponent in the Republican primary, 52-year-old Duke Embs, launched his campaign last week from the garage of his home in San Antonio. Embs said he decided to run for governor because of inadequacies he finds in the state’s mental health/mental retardation programs. He said he discussed that situation with psychiatrists and other doctors, and they told him the only way the inadequacies could be corrected would be through the legislature. Embs said he thought about running for the legislature, but when he learned the difference between filing fees for state representative and for governor was only $400 vs. $1,500, he decided to 18 FEBRUARY 26, 1982
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.