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Postmaster: If undeliverable, send Form 3579 to The Texas Observer, 307 W. 7th St., Austin, Texas 78701 POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE GUATEMALAN LAWYERS investigating the 1990 killing of anthropologiSt Myrna are receiving death threats, according to a story in the National Catholic Reporter. The NCR cited the New York-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights as a source of reports of threats made against the lives of attorneys Ernesto Rolando Corzantes Cruz and Jose Lopez Mendoza, both working on the investigation. Reporters following the case in Guatemala have also reported receiving death threats. In most cases, stories about the assassination, which was recently attributed to a military official in the presidential guard, are now published without bylines. REMEMBER TORT REFORM? Four years ago it was at the top of the business community’s legislative in agenda here in Texas. Trial lawyers and consumer-interest groups then stood in the way of a complete dismantling of the private tort system, by which an injured party can have his day in court. Residents of Colorado were not so fortunate. Wall Street Journal reporter Milo Geyelin found that generally, the promised decrease in insurance premiums hasn’t happened six years and 68 laws after the business-dominated Colorado Legislature went to work on their state’s tort system. While some rates have dropped, the Journal reports some have increased. Consider automobile insurance: “Between 1988 and 1990, rates rose 8% on the average nationwide. But in Colorado, they rose 9.2 percent in the same period.” What has decreased are awards plaintiffs receive. The Journal story includes several individual accounts of why tort reform doesn’t work for plaintiffs. “I think we did legal reform, but now the pendulum has begun to swing back, so the person who needs compensation can get it,” Republican house majority leader Scott McInnis told the Journal. McInnis is described as “an early reform supporter who is now backing off.” V THE BENTSEN CANDIDACY continues to be the story that won’t die. Dave McNeely, the veteran political reporter for the Austin AmericanStatesman, suggests that if Bill Clinton lays claim to enough delegates to win the party’s nomination on the first ballot, and then continues to take a beating from his opponents in April and May on important issues such as adultery or Vietnam party leaders might panic and persuade Clinton to withdraw, allowing Bentsen or House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt to claim the Clinton delegates. “Fdr Bentsen, a draft would be the only way to run. He misses the strain of all that retail political campaigning in New Hampshire, Iowa, Maine and elsewhere. More important, he avoids in some states the liberal litmus tests that almost force a candidate to make pandering statements that could come back to haunt him in the general election.” V SEWER MONEY, a New York Times editorial called what political campaigns have come to describe as “soft money” huge political contributions solicited from wealthy donors and funnelled through state parties to fund presidential campaigns. Soft money allows candidates to circumvent federal spending limits. This year, all Democratic candidates in the presidential primaries have promised not to use indirect financing in the general election if the Republican candidates will make the same promise. The Times article suggested that the real estate subsidies in the President’s economic package are a give-back to some 60 real estate executives who contributed $6 million to Bush’s 1988 campaign. GREEN VOTES. In contested’ primary races, the Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club endorsed incumbent Rep. Glenn Maxey in central AustinHouse District 51; Lon Burnam, a longtime environmental and social activist challenging incumbent Rep. Doyle Willis in Fort Worth House District 90, Judy . Millspaugh, a Republican, in open San Antonio House District 121; Floyd Freed, a Republican primary challenger to incumbent Rep. Dalton Spring in Houston House District 135; and incumbent Rep. Kevin Bailey, a Democrat, in Houston House District 140. The club also endorsed Lena Guerrero for Railroad Commissioner, the re-election of Sen. Carlos Truan, D-Corpus Christi, and, in another Senate primary, Juan Hinojosa, a former McAllen state representative, over incumbent Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, who attempted in 1991 to authorize tax-free bonds to build a luxury resort complex on Padre Island. TAX ATTACKS. Republicans accused congressional Democrats of horrors playing politics as the U.S. House of Represent= atives, on a 221-209 vote Feb. 37, approved a bill that would give middle class tax relief at the expense of the wealthy. Pete Geren of Fort Worth, Ralph Hall of Rockwall and Bill Sarpalius of Amarillo were the only Texas ‘Democrats voting against the House plan. Meanwhile, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has his own plan to pay for $300-a-child tax credits to middleclass families with higher taxes for the we a lthy, including a 10-percent surcharge on income over $1 million. Both Democratic bills would reduce the tax on capital gains, but not as much as President Bush demanded when he set a \(preaction. Bush has threatened to veto any bill that increases taxes. JUDGE NOT. One of Justice Oscar Mauzy’s backers is drumming up support for Charles Ben Howell’s Republican primary campaign for Mauzy’s seat on the Texas Supreme . Court. Howell, an eccentric former justice on the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas who has won three statewide GOP primary races, is running against Craig Enoch, a current justice on the Dallas appeals court with backing of GOP leaders. The Enoch campaign released a copy of a telefaxed letter from Timothy E. Kelley, a Dallas lawyer and Mauzy supporter, soliciting contributions on Howell’s behalf after a GOP poll reportedly showed Howell with a 2-to-1 lead over Enoch. Kelley told the Houston Post he sent the letter as a favor to Howell, but he would support Mauzy in the general election. BEAN COUNTERS. In more evidence of the decline of civilization, a recent Texas Poll suggested that a majority of Texans prefer beans with their chili. In the poll of 1,003 adult Texans, conducted by the Public Policy Research Laboratory of Texas A&M University for Harte-Hanks Communications Inc., 49 percent said they ate chili with beans and 42 percent sided with the traditional bowl of red. Among native Texans, 54 percent prefer their chili without beans. 24 MARCH 13, 1992