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Meier’s ‘Texas Way’ Not ‘Our Way’ By Jon Weist Arlington p OLITICIANS WILL say some preposterous things to get elected. They will, when they don’t think you know any better, lie to you. Even knowing this, it must have taken an incredible amount of gall for Bill Meier, the Republican attorney general candidate, to stand in front of a group of UTArlington students and say: “I’ve never worked on a bill that I felt was attempting to achieve some special goal for a particular group.” Most students didn’t know how ridiculous that statement was, and most probably didn’t care. But, still . . . is there no honor left? Apparently not. For 10 years Bill Meier cruised the Texas Senate in the guise of a Democrat, switching parties during last year’s redistricting special session when it became apparent even Texas Democrats have limits of tolerance. A once-promising senator from Euless, Meier didn’t waste much time in lining up with the powers that be. Named to Texas Monthly’s “10 Best Legislators” list in 1973, by 1981 he’d slid to the 10 Worst. He played predominantly to banking, real estate, and auto lobbies, though any group that might advance his cause surely received consideration. His speeches are delivered as if he’s television’s “Mr. Rodgers” and the audience a group of glassy-eyed preadolescents. He doesn’t talk issues much, and when he does mention them it’s usually to blast his opponent Dallas congressman Jim Mattox. Meier somehow neglects to mention exactly what he’s done to help out the people. At least he’s that honest. Yet he can stand before a group of college students and brag about Texas having “the strongest consumer protection statute” in the country. Too strong, it seems, for him. Meier led a successful assault last year against the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, making it substan tially harder for consumers to collect damages. The bill also exempted automobile dealers from prosecution. It was written by Gene Fondren, a lobbyist for the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, and Gerhardt Schulle and Tommy Townshend with the Texas Association of Realtors. For a time last year, Meier took himself out of electoral politics. The time was short, and by early this year he announced for attorney general. He received $21,000 from financial groups and utility companies before he knew who his opponent would be. Meier, as Austin American-Statesman columnist Dave McNeely noted, has “the subtlety of a starved attack dog.” The same was said for Mattox, who doesn’t make many friends during election. campaigns. But Mattox who is stressing the attorney general’s consumer protection functions, knows what he’s up against and how bad Bill Meier really is. With his name identification and reputation as a solid Democrat, Mattox has a good lead going into the election. Meier isn’t that well known in Republican circles, though he’s changing that. But, he’s behind and he must know it. Despite a statement in April that “the attitude that you’ve got to have a huge campaign fund before you can get elected to public office is simply not true,” Meier ads two pages have appeared in Newsweek and Texas Monthly and his contributions include $10,000 from Eddie Chiles and at least $15,000 from savings and loan political action committees. Attempting to paint himself as a champion of truth and justice, he likes to cite his world-record, 43-hour filibuster to open the state Industrial Accident Board’s records to inspection by prospective employers. This, he claims, is an example of his commitment to civil liberties. He doesn’t say that opening the records personnel records are usually exempt from sunshine laws would allow employers to blackball individuals who might have been injured on a previous job. Bill Meier as civil libertarian doesn’t wash. He wrote the death penalty law the state operates under, believes the creation theory should be given equal time with evolution in biology classes, and was an ardent supporter of the wiretap bill. In an admirable display of humility, Meier told his UTA audience that as attorney for the people, he would do the best he could “whether I personally agree with the position or not.” He must consider himself superhuman, because in attacking Mattox’s “liberal” record he said: “You just can’t put your ideas in a suitcase and leave them outside the door when you give advice and counsel to the state government.” Meier’s beliefs include the notion that Corpus Christi evangelist Lester Roloff’s homes for wayward children are a “service to the public and not a detriment at all.” He favors blue laws and has voted to keep them because “Sunday is a day when a lot of people involved in the retail business can go to church.” He has repeatedly criticized the federal courts, particularly Federal Judge William Wayne Justice of Tyler. Meier said he didn’t agree with much of Justice’s decision on the prisOn overcrowding case, and at a UTA speech recently he demagogued against the courts because “you can’t fire federal judges.” Thank the Constitution for that. Neither can you fire the attorney general not for four years anyway once he’s been given the office keys. That’s why we have to ask if we want someone who talks a good free-enterprise-at-allcosts line Meier or, someone who talks a good consumer line Mattox. Meier isn’t shy about admitting that he’s usually right in the middle of whatever the legislature is dealing with. That’s certainly true. His bill to weaken the consumer protection act “the strongest one” in the country, remember was important because he said the state was handling far too many cases. “The problem is one of having access to the legal process, as I see it,” he says. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3