THE LOBBY lobbying. One day they are men and women, mostly women, sporting red and white tags, saying, “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.” They stand in the middle of the lobby and peek into the House whenever the door opens to let a legislator out. They don’t know exactly what to do. Two women from the group stand against the phone booths, chewing gum and holding signs with grim statistics. Another day it’s a group of farmers worried about the homestead exemption. They wear western suits and boots; one wears a small Stetson. They are led in handshaking with a passing representative by a farm lobbyist, who later tells them that this or boy is someone they can count on, as they move in on a legislator. A third day it’s teachers, dressed in gray suits and dark dresses. They mean business. They are professionals. They stand in the middle of the lobby and grill legislators on teacher pay raises and on taxes as they emerge from the Chamber. A teacher keeps a list and checks each name as one legislator gives way to the next. But these are visitors in alien territory. The brief audiences in the antechamber and the hand on the collarbone are not theirs. This is the land of the good of boys, hale fellows well-met, whose confidence is expressed in every wink and nudge and wave across the hall. They are always on, their arguments for the day boiled down to ten words with not a pause for a breath or a new thought or a doubt. Dirty stories ricochet around the rotunda. It’s “suhbitch” this and “suhbitch” that. Whore is the most popular metaphor used for self or others. And the trading never stops: “You give me one of these and I’ll see you get two of those.” There is Gene Fondren of the Automobile Dealers with the classic white, wavy hair and steady eye of a Southern gentleman-lawyer. There is the younger generation, like sophisticated Rusty Kelly, who would fit in as well on Madison Avenue as on Lavaca Street. There are the obese, cigar-smoking caricatures of lobbyists, most very friendly, ready to talk to anyone. There is former House Speaker Bil ly Clayton, now a lobbyist himself, who is king of the pages’ table. He keeps a stream of messages running into the House Chamber, carried by the young women pages, whom he feels called upon to entertain. He jokes with those at their station while waiting for the summoned legislators to appear. And when the first emerges, saying, -Mr. Speaker,” Clayton puts his hand on the legislator’s collarbone to move their brief, intimate discussion off to the side near the stairs. Meanwhile, the next legislator waits near the door way. Sometimes Clayton finds himself in a lull between an exiting representative and the next note to be written for a page to carry inside. He finds himself in the middle of the hall, talking to no one, unable to walk out onto the floor of his House. He looks around for a familiar face, a brief look of panic comes over him, then he does a kind of graceful, penguin’s pirouette, turning again to the pages’ station to tell a joke and write a note. In the gallery surrounding the House Chamber, the lobbyists can sit and watch the proceedings on the floor. Some do on key votes. Some flash signals to favorite legislators on the floor. It is said that Harry Whitworth of the Chemical Council used to sit in the gallery just to let representatives know he was watching. He doesn’t spend much time doing that anymore. His young sidekick Jon Fisher can be seen sitting in the gallery on occasion. But usually he is down where the real action is, in the lobby, cocking his head to joke with some chemical executive he is bringing to meet a few representatives. The action is down there by the phone booths and where the railing fans out around the rotunda, down there with Billy Clayton, Gene Fon dren. Jon Fisher, and the boys, cir culating, shaking hands, slapping backs, talking loud, throwing their weight around, calling in favors, sending out signals, covering their asses, trading on pasts and futures, convinced they are the ballast and the compass for the ship of the state. G.R. The final assembly of all U.S. nu clear weapons takes place in the Texas Panhandle. Houston has more oil company headquarters than any other city in the world. The whole state reeks of Sunbelt boosters, strident anti-unionists, political hucksters, and new industry and money. THIS IS THE LOOK OF TEXAS TODAY and the Texas Observer has its independent eye on all of it. We offer the latest in corporate scams and political scandals as well as articles on those who have other, and more humane, visions of what our state can be. Become an Observer subscriber today, order a gift for a friend, or instruct us to enter a library subscription under your patronage. Send the Observer to name address city state zip this subscription is for myself gift subscription; send card in my name $20 enclosed for a one-year subscription bill me for $20 name address city state zip THE TEXAS OBSERVER 600 WI 7th, Austin, Texas 78701 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.