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POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE V RANDALL ERBEN has left the secretary of state’s office and moved on to the Office of State and Federal Relations in Washington, but he might have to respond to a subpoena in a libel suit prepared by Hidalgo County Clerk Billy Leo. When Erben, who as assistant secretary of state supervised elections, discovered an error in printed absentee ballots in Hidalgo County, he called an Austin press conference and denounced the ballot irregularity as part of a conspiracy. Leo complains that the secretary of state’s office never contacted him before holding a press conference and never even advised him of the ballot error they had discovered. Once the error was detected, Leo said, unmailed ballots were impounded and new ballots printed and mailed to everyone who had requested absentee ballots. Leo learned of Erben’s Austin press conference when a Dallas Morning News reporter called and asked him to respond. “He [Erben] described a mistake as a deliberate conspiracy,” Leo said, “and I’m suing him for libel.” The error in question involved a box placed by Lloyd Bentsen’s name at the top of the ballot an error that Leo admits might have led voters to believe that they could split their votes for President and Vice President, voting for both George Bush and Lloyd Bentsen \(and thus voiding their V EDINBURG ATTORNEY and state Rep. Alex Moreno has filed a bill that would take the supervision of elections out of the secretary of state’s office and establish a bipartisan election commission made up of three Democrats and three Republicans. An aide in Moreno’s office said that the legislative commission bill is, in part, a response to Erben’s handling of the Hidalgo County incident in November. // SECRETARY OF STATE Jack Rains is backing an election reform package limiting to $25,000 the amount any single contributor can give to candidates for statewide office. The proposal, however, is running into opposition from a few Republicans who claim that since it establishes no limits on the amount of money a candidate can contribute to his own campaign, it is tailormade for candidates just like Rains, who is a multi-millionaire. Dave McNeely of the Austin American-Statesman reports that Dallas Republican Tom Pauken called Rains’s proposal a potential disaster. Pauken’s complaint, according to McNeely, was similar to that of Attorney General Jim Mattox’s who said Rains’s proposal was designed to benefit rich candidates like Rains and Gov. Bill Clements. Clements has contributed millions of dollars to his own gubernatorial campaigns. V GOOD NEWS from McNeely ‘s column has Killeen Rep. Stan Schlueter backing away from a 1990 race for state comptroller. This, because of a slump in the real estate market, in which Schlueter has made his living in the past. V JOHN SHARP, the Democratic Railroad Commissioner whose term of office expires in 1990, now seems the best bet to succeed Bullock. Sharp’s interest in the race might be another factor that will keep the Stan Schlueters of the political world out of the Democratic primary contest for statewide office. \(Anyone watching Schlueter’s posturing on appropriations issues during the last session might have had to check their program to determine that V SCHLUETER’S legislative agenda for this session includes advancing an old Bill Clements initiative to change the agriculture commissioner from an elected to an appointed office \(read: dump Jim charged with periodic review of certain state offices, recommended no major changes for the ag, department. But the Texas Farm Bureau, always a force for a return to the plantation system, is pushing for an appointed commissioner and Schlueter is ready to carry their water. The bill will be assigned to the House Government Organization Committee where, as Democratic Committee chair Bruce Gibson reminded the Dallas Morning News, the nine-member committee includes four Republicans and Schlueter. So a proposal that should die in committee could advance to the floor of the house where it might pass. Few see any possibility of the bill passing the Senate, where Sen. Tati Santiesteban will carry the TDA ‘s Sunset Commission legislation. V JIM NUGENT, the senior of the two incumbent railroad commissioners, is making noises like he will be looking to run for another statewide office in 1990. Dallas Morning News political writer Sam Attlesey quotes Nugent as saying that he has now won 28 contested campaigns and “each time . . . has been among the top vote getters in the state.” Whither the “Snake”? Nugent is not saying yet. Only that friends are whispering that a race for governor or comptroller “would be advisible.” frof IT MIGHT not be the end of an “excellent relationship” but AFL-CIO President Harry Hubbard’s letter to Attor ney General Jim Mattox suggests a strong disagreement on one issue. “As the Peoples’ Lawyer, I expect you to look after the interest of all the people, Hubbard wrote of the Attorney General’s role in the Carpenter v. Stephen F. Austin University case. Four years ago a group of SFA employees reached a consent agreement by which the university agreed to pay them compensation for as much as 15 years of back pay that plaintiffs claimed had been denied them because of race and gender. The university needs to make good on its promise to compensate employees and former employees Hubbard said. “But they have been dragging their feet for four years.” As the state’s lawyer. Mattox has assigned a member of his staff to represent SFA in negotiations. “We know that you would not support delay on the case because of race or sex. But could it be that one of your assistants is a true obstructionist and is trying to embarrass you and the state?” Hubbard asked in his letter to Mattox. When asked about the letter, Hubbard said organized labor has always enjoyed “excellent relations” with the Attorney General. “My letter is just a reminder that this case needs to be resolved, Hubbard said. Hubbard’s letter might have made a difference. As the Observer went to press, Texas State Employees Union leaders were considering cancelling a Carpenter protest in front of the attorney general’s office. Mattox, one source suggested, was talking about resolving the case. CHRISTIC INSTITUTE Executive Director Sara Nelson has sent out a desperate appeal for contributions. The Washington-based institute has filed A civil suit against many of the Iran-Contra defendants on behalf of Tony Arvigon, a journalist injured in what the institute lawsuit describes as a bomb planted by a C1A-funded terrorist at La Penca in Costa Rica. asking for funds to appeal Judge James Lawrence King’s order that the institute pay more than one million dollars in attorneys fees and costs to the Iran-Contra defendants. The institute, Nelson writes, has no intention of paying. But to appeal they must raise and post $1 million in bond money. Should they fail, their offices, bank accounts, and computers will be subject to seizure by the defendants in the lawsuit that broke the story on Iran-Contra. Right-wing California Congressman Robert Doman has said “The Christie Institute has to be crushed. I want to put my foot on the head of the christie serpent and see it crushed.” According to Nelson, without $1 million raised in less than two weeks. Dornan’s snake killing might come to pass. 16 FEBRUARY 24, 1989