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Kay Spin S. SENATOR KAY Bailey Hutchi son must have found solace in a survey conducted for the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle that found 56 percent of Texans surveyed believe that the criminal charges against her were politically motivated. Hutchison and her political allies had been trying to muddy the waters ever since it became apparent that the Travis County District Attorney’s Office under Ronnie Earle was investigating the newly elected Republican senator. Half of the respondents to the newspapers’ survey also said the felony indictments have no effect on their support for Hutchison, while a quarter of those questioned said they are less likely to back her because of the indictments. Forty percent of those polled said they approve of the job Hutchison is doing, while 23 percent disapprove. The poll also found 63 percent believe the use of state employees for personal or political reasons is common among Texas politicians. That public sympathy may be hard to sustain as the case progresses, if the news coverage of the first week after the indictment is any indication. One of the grand jurors, Moses Saldana, in an interview with Jerry White of the Austin American-Statesman, said the criticism was unfair. “We are 12 very honest, upright individuals. We’ve all been around the block more than once. We voted our conscience.” Republicans also cited as proof that the grand jury was stacked the fact that 10 of the 12 grand jurors voted in the Democratic primary last year. But White reported that the grand jury was a regular panel which was seated the first week of April and heard routine criminal matters until the Hutchison investigation began a month later. At least three grand jurors said they voted for Hutchison in the May and June special elections. The foreman of the grand jury, Saadi Ferris, was a former aide to Republican Governor Bill Clements. Ferris had been a GOP candidate for Travis County sheriff and is an investigator for the State Bar of Texas. He took the unusual step of reading a statement in connection with the indictment: “The grand jury has deliberated on each and every occasion with independence of politics and political persuasion; independence of the district attorney and his staff; independence of the news media and all outside influences.” As Rick Casey of the San Antonio Express-News noted, those outside influences included Hutchison herself, who sent each juror’s home an inch-thick packet of material attacking the prosecutor before she agreed to meet briefly with the grand jury, at which time she is believed to have invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Hutchison’s supporters are expected to make the case that the charges against her are “picayune” and the use of a staff by a politician is a gray line it is difficult not to cross, but Casey noted that within the category of official misconduct, with which Hutchison is charged, a second-degree felony requires the prosecutor to prove that she misused more than $20,000 worth of state resources. “If she did, it is not a trifle,” Casey wrote. Lynn Ashby of the Houston Post was not buying the argument that the alleged misuse of a state phone was not worth getting into a froth. “Alas, it is worth the froth because, as Watergate was only a thirdrate burglary, its cover-up became a firstrate scandal. Hutchison and two of her aides are not only charged with misusing state time but even worse trying to cover it up by destroying evidence.” In the end, Ashby said, “the sad part is that it was all so bloody stupid.” Rena Pederson, editorial page editor of the Dallas Morning News, has taken a more sympathetic line, finding parallels between the treatment of Hutchison and Supreme Court Justice Craig Enoch, who allegedly used a secretary to write his master’s thesis and do political work when he was on the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas, and the confirmation attacks on former Senator John Tower. “Many of his Senate colleagues could not have passed the same standards of rectitude they held out for his secretary of defense nomination. But they punished him for his hubris,” Pederson wrote. “… The public is tired of time spent on partisan gamesmanship while the schools are deteriorating and dangerous prison parolees are on the loose,” she said, calling for a bipartisan system to consider ethics investigations. The Waco Tribune Herald, in a September 29 editorial, noted that Governor Richards and Land Commissioner Garry Mauro have answered similar allegations and former aides to U.S. Senator Phil Gramm told the Dallas Morning News that taxpayers were financing what amounted to campaign publicity trips for Gramm under the guise of Senate business. “Regardless of where Hutchison’ s indictment leads, it should be ample warn ing a splash of cold water in the face for office holders who use state employees or state equipment for purely political ends.” But it said Earle will have to prove a serious misstep over the “blurry line” that separates the political from the official. “otherwise Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, risks a ‘back atcha’ charge that it is he who allowed his official and political functions to blur.” In a separate column, editor Rowland Nethaway conjured up the picture of the senator “in a blaze orange jumpsuit taking tiny little steps due to her leg-irons and manacles while being led into the courthouse past shouting reporters by a stonefaced 7-foot marshal …” Unlike the surviving Branch Davidians, Nethaway noted, Hutchison was not “printed and mugged” but was ordered to appear in court. In the meantime, Nethaway observed, “Perhaps the best pretrial tactic by Hutchison and the Republicans will be to say that everybody does it,” but he concluded, “A friend observed that Lyndon Johnson would have gone to prison rather than the White House if he had to abide by the current Texas laws. I don’t know. But I do think people should abide by the laws. If the laws are wrong, the solution is to correct the laws, not ignore them.” Even some of the more conservative newspapers around the state were not inclined to take sides. The Amarillo Globe-News on September 28 editorialized: “It now remains for the legal system to determine Hutchison’s future. Both Hutchison and the judicial system deserve respect until something is proved otherwise. In the next few days, Texans will benefit from a reasoned approach to this controversial issue.” The San Angelo Standard-Times on September 29 editorialized: “Hutchison had a bright political future before this. She still may have one. But that future depends on her defense against the allegations, not on an indictment of the judicial process in Travis County.” The Corpus Christi Caller-Times on September 29 wrote: “Until a trial is conducted, Texans should reserve judgment both as to Hutchison’s guilt or innocence and the integrity of Earle’s operations.” Juan Palomo of the Houston Post wrote that the stakes are high for Earle, too. “If Earle doesn’t have the goods on Hutchison or if he’s got the goods but lacks the skill to produce a conviction he’d better be prepared to resign the minute the jury foreperson finishes saying, ‘Not guilty.'” J.C. 6 OCTOBER 15, 1993