Page 1


Postmaster: If undeliverable, send Form 3579 to The Texas Observer, P.O. Box 49019, Austin, Texas 78765 POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE BENTSEN! FOR PRESIDENT? The name of the senior senator from Texas is not as high on the list of possible late-announcers as, say, Mario Cuomo. But, an Austin source close to Bentsen’s office describes the senator’s Washington aides as being under siege by the press, constituents and Democratic Party leaders wondering if Bentsen is going to get into the race if Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton continued to lose ground. Bentsen himself, speaking through a spokesman In his office, says he’s not interested. But, he will not completely rule out the possibility of changing his mind. GLENN MAXEY, the Democratic Austin state representative who is the only openly gay member of the Texas Legislature, joined members of the Austin Lesbian/Gay Anti-Violence Task Force promoting a new “Report the Hate Hotline.” The local line was established in Austin to encourage the reporting of hate crimes. At a press conference, Maxey said that while campaigning in South Austin he had been harassed by a group of men, one of whom shouted: “There’s the faggot legislator. Let’s beat him up.” Though Maxey said the harassment never advanced beyond verbal intimidation, he said he found it disturbing. “Where do you draw the line? When is that threat going to become violent?” Federal and state laws this year require police departments to keep statistics on hate crimes attacks related to race, religion, or sexual preference. OH, THEY IS, ARE THEY? When the Office of Public Insurance Counsel pressured Grand Prairie-based National Health Insurance Company to print information about their 800 number customer hotline in Spanish as well as English, National Health president G. Scott Smith objected. “An individual who cannot speak, understand, or read English at a minimal level are [sic] considered ineligible for our coverages. It is important for these individuals to have these skills in order to understand the policies according to the minimum readability standards contained in your rules.” Public Insurance Counsel Amy Johnson, at a press conference calling for an attorney general’s investigation of discriminatory practices by insurance companies, cited studies showing that 36 percent of Hispanic Texans and 20 percent of African-American Texans are uninsured. “It’s outrageous to think that some of 24 FEBRUARY 28, 1992 that may be due to discriminatory sales practices by health insurance companies,” Johnson said. THE TEXAS ACLU, 15 months after what was described in the Texas Lawyer as a near collapse “under the weight of financial troubles and the firing of its legal director” still can’t seem to get it right. In December, the ACLU’s national office threw out a reorganization plan after the plan had been in operation for only 10 months, according to the Texas Lawyer. Then, Texas ACLU director Helen Gros resigned after less than four months on the job. Gros was recently replaced by Suzanne Donovan who took the job unaware of litigation between the national office and its Houston chapter over control of the Clark Read Foundation, which provides financial support for the Houston chapter. Now, the state office, once based in Austin, is in Houston, and Donovan, hired by the national office, is trying to revive monitoring, legislative and litigation programs. “It’s hard to believe that there are so many civil libertarians quarreling with each other when there are so many other people to quarrel with out there,” Dallas civil-liberties activist Michael Linz told the Texas Lawyer. HARKEN ENERGY CORP., the oil exploration company whose shareholders and board of directors include George Walker Bush, and which recently won a large drilling concession in the Middle-Eastern nation of Bahrain, didn’t do nearly as well in the Persian Gulf as did the U.S. troops dispatched there by George Walker’s father a year ago. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Harken’s first well in the island emirate “appears unlikely to produce oil or gas.” A spokesman for the company told the StarTelegram that the well was a “high-risk ‘wildcat’ well one drilled in a spot with no known oil or gas deposits in the immediate area.” But, it was drilled within 50 miles of the world’s largest petroleum field in Saudi Arabia. Harken plans to drill more wells in the region. JAMES NOWLIN, the federal district judge who allegedly asked his friend, state Rep. George Pierce, R-San Antonio, to help draw the lines on a Senate redistricting plan which Nowlin and two other Republican-appointed federal judges then ordered the state to adopt, has come a long way since he was an aide to liberal Democratic U.S. Sen Ralph Yarborough. The Texas Lawyer noted that Nowlin cut his teeth as a Democrat, managing Lyndon Johnson’s re-election campaign in Bexar County in 1964 and later working for Yarborough. Nowlin served two terms in the Texas House as a Democrat in the late 1960s, switched to the GOP and made an for the state Senate before his 1972 election as the first Bexar County Republican in the Texas House. In an interview published in February 1981, Nowlin told the San Antonio Express-News he changed to the Republican Party “mainly to seek some competitive forces in the Legislature.” Analysts believe the federal plan, ordered under the federal Voting Rights Act despite the objection of minority plaintiffs, could result in an historic Republican majority in the Texas Senate. One of the GOP’s Senate candidates is Nowlin’s old friend, Pierce. THE TEXAS LOTTERY has weathered its first scandal, with the resignation of its top consultant, John Pittman, after family ties with a lottery vendor were publicized. Comptroller John Sharp said there appeared to be no bias in the selection of Scientific Games Inc. whose vice president is Pittman’s father-in-law to supply instant tickets and related services, a contract worth 4p to $7 million annually, but he would redOuble 6fforts to ensure the integrity of the lottery. Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle reported that lottery officials planned to award a contract to GTECH Inc., a Rhode Island firm reportedly involved in an ongoing federal investigation of bribery in the California legislature, to operate the more sophisticated numbers games known as “lotto.” That contract is worth an estimated $200 million. Strict limits on the influence of lottery lobbyists will be written into vendors’ contracts and Sharp has proposed paying $250,000 to the Travis County District Attorney’s office to police the operation. Also, the New York Times reported lottery revenues in many states are sagging under the pressure of the recession, forcing the states to adopt more exotic games and more aggressive advertising campaigns to bolster ticket sales. In the fiscal year that ended in July 1991, of the 33 states and the District of Columbia with lotteries, 11 showed revenue declines and sales were flat in seven others. Texas officials are expecting to reap $1 billion in the next two years from the lottery that is scheduled to start in July. isAllnyteqs