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PRIVATE INVESTIGATIONS House Administration Committee chairman Charles Evans, D-Hurst, appointed himself and two other members Monday to the new ethics subcommittee. . . . The new subcommittee will investigate and advise legislators about “sin and crime” and take action against both, said Travis County Dist. Atty. Ronald Earle, who helped House Speaker Gib Lewis with plans for the panel. Dallas Morning News Austin IT WAS 8:23 a.m., a Monday in early February, when I found Louie the Lurker lurking by the newspaper racks in the west wing of the Capitol. He was studying the headlines on all the papers locked inside their cases. He hadn’t changed a bit London Fog collar up over his ears, classic Stetson two sizes too big resting on top of the London Fog collar, dark glasses, cigarette dangling from the lip. He hadn’t changed a bit since the old days when he used to lurk at the perimeters of peace demonstrations on the south mall counting faces or when he’d be lounging under the shade of a backhoe copying license plates while waiting for the bulldozers to shake the students out of the trees of Waller Creek. Hadn’t changed, that is, except for the gold earring now missing from his left lobe. The ear flashed into view as he bent to read a subhead. Nothing there, not a hole or a mark. More than likely plastic surgery had covered it up, like so much of his past had been covered up, except for the few gray hairs he’d missed with the black dye on his sideburns. Not like the old Louie. He must have been slipping. He was one stand away from the Observer box. A quick glance told me the issues in the rack were two months old. I determined that I should step in here to divert his attention from a circumstance that held out great potential for my humiliation. “Out a little early, aren’t you, Louie?” I asked, stepping from the shadows as he slowly turned around. “Speaker Gib probably hasn’t even put hair goo on his palms yet.” Louie wheeled around. I’d hit a nerve. Probably something to do with his gray hair. “What do you know about the Speaker?” he asked, taking out a notebook. “Nothing,” I said. “Just a hunch.” By now Louie was fumbling with something inside his London Fog on the left side of his chest. “Are we on tape, Louie?” I asked. “Can’t get the dang button going. Otherwise .. ” “Otherwise, what? Who are you working for these days, Louie?” I had my notebook out now. He stumbled back against the Observer rack and made a sign to show his lips were sealed. I knew Louie’s weakness, but I also knew Observer rules: never offer money to a source they’ll tell you anything for money, and more than 60C would break the bank account in Dickinson. I decided to stretch the rules and offer him a cup of coffee downstairs in the snack bar. That caused Louie to break into a sweat. He slithered down the stairs. “Okay, okay,” he said as we sat down at a table, Louie fondling his cup of java. “I’ll spill.” He spilled all right. All over his London Fog. And when the hot liquid broke into his underdrawers, he confessed that he worked for J. Edgar Evans, Crockett Jim Turner, and the ominous Mr. Delay. “You know, that boy’s name alone scares some people,” Louie let on. He said behind those three were Mr. Gib and Mr. Big. “Who is Mr. Big?” I asked as Louie continued to writhe in his seat. Louie shook his head from side to side. I brought him a cup of cold water. He poured it all over his London Fog. Then, noticeably calmer, he said, “Mr. Big is Ronnie Earle.” “First name or last?” I asked, knowing he meant the infamous Travis County D.A. with no last name. Louie wouldn’t say. But he did say that since Speaker Gib had consolidated power he wanted to make sure that nothing would go wrong. He explained that they had set up a secret investigative committee to spy on legislators. “Give me a rumor, give me a whiff of impropriety, and I’ll have that sucker’s committee seat!” Louie shouted, jumping up from the table and showering the office workers seated around us eating little white doughnuts with the dregs of the coffee from his London Fog. “We’re going to look into the gray areas, Speaker Gib says. All kind of vice and sin.” There were so many gray areas about this place the snack bar, for instance, the Senate chamber bereft of electricity, the occluded vista of Congress Avenue. I couldn’t dwell on all the possibilities. Instead I asked, “But where does Ronnie Earle fit in?” “I think it’s something like a business investment,” Louie whispered. “He’s got a little DA enterprise here in town and needs some help landing big fish. Can’t seem to hook them on his own. I’ve heard stories about showing Mattox who the real people’s attorney is in town. Also something about a permanent grand jury of his peers. Something else again about showing up in full color right above the weather map in USA Today. ” We were getting close to something. I looked Louie straight in the dark glasses and asked, “What exactly are you investigating: the disappearance of the budget surplus in less than three months without a penny’s being spent?” Lefty shook his head. “Bigger,” He said. “How about why politicos are allowed to keep campaign contribution leftovers? Or why Lt. Governor Hobby is too cheap to put his guests up at a hotel? Or why highway czar Dedman treats the discussion of mass transit like it’s some kind of capital offense?” Louie just shook his head and pulled the Stetson down so low it rested on the tip of his nose. “First,” he said, “Dedman tells no tales. Second, we’re going after the really big stuff Bible definition sex, drugs, fast cars, easy money, loose language, pages who don’t wear gray slacks with their blazers.” “I can name a few false witnesses, ” I offered. “Haven’t got time,” he said, wringing out his notebook. “Working while intoxicated?” “No comment,” Louie commented . “But I will say we are looking into this Carlyle Smith character. Something fun ny there: not voting for the Speaker, say-=, ing we’ve already got ethics committees, calling J. Edgar Evans a kangaroo, say-; ing that ethics are a stable commodity. Now what does that mean? That’s tantamount to perpetration in my book. What’s he driving at?” “Search me,” I said, throwing up my hands. Louie immediately stood up, made me stand up, frisked me, handed me back my notebook and let me sit down again. THE TEXAS OBSERVER -17