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Postmaster: If undeliverable, send Form 3579 to The Texas Observer, 307 W. 7th St., Austin, Texas 78701 POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE GRAMM’S MEANS TEST. Anna Quindlen took note of a Phil Gramm line her New York Times column in early October, observing that Gramm was riding a “tsunami of public opinion” when he said Somalis desecrating American bodies do not seem to be in need of food aid provided by Operation Restore Hope, the Somalia mission initiated by President George Bush shortly before he left office. ‘The people who are dragging American bodies don’t look very hungry to me,” Gramm said, as quoted by Quindlen. This isn’t the first time Gramm has addressed the issue of hunger. At a campaign rally in Cleburne in 1981, Gramm took on the federally funded food stamp program, asking about a Dallas Morning News photograph of food stamp recipients. “Did you see the picture?” Gramm asked. “Here are these people who are skimping to avoid hunger and they are all fat.” Gramm has also cast several votes against funding for the Meals on Wheels program, which provides food for elderly homebound indigents. Gramm’s recent remarks on hunger also drew criticism from William Safire, the former Nixon speechwriter now a conservative columnist for the New York Times. “Senator Phil Gramm seizes on the picture of an American body being dragged through the streets to say the Africans committing the atrocity ‘don’t look hungry to the people of Texas’ ignoring the fact that those same foodstealing thugs are the cause of, not the victims of, Somali starvation. By treating Texans as such fools, Mr. Gramm removes himself as a serious candidate for national office.” GUESS WHO’S coming to dinner. Insurance Commissioner-designate Bob Hunter was introduced to House Insurance Committee Chair David Counts at lunch with the Governor, sources say. But lunch must have been hard to swallow for both Counts, D-Independent Insurance Agent, Knox City, and fellow luncheon guest Rep. Kim Brimer, R-American Insurance, Arlington. In a state where the insurance industry has traditionally regulated itself, Gov. Ann Richards has appointed a consumers’ advocate to the office of insurance commissioner. If the House Insurance Committee thought they had outsmarted the Governor by shifting power from the three-member commission to a commissioner, they must be thinking again. Hunter is president of the National Insurance Consumer Organization, a group founded in 1980, with support from Ralph Nader. “Mr. Hunter’s bitting words about the insurance industry are regularly featured on television and in print, and he has often attacked specific industries,” wrote Wall Street Journal reporter Greg Steinmetz, adding that after last year’s Hurricane Andrew, Hunter called for a boycott of two companies that threatened to raise rates. The Journal also noted that Hunter favors repeal of the insurance industry’s antitrust exemptions and lower rates for consumers. Larry Kibbee, an industry spokesman quoted in the Journal story, said of Hunter: “We hope he considers solvency issues to the same degree he considers consumer issues.” AUSTIN SCHOOL INSURANCE. Former Observer editor Geoff Rips, now public information director for the Office the Public Insurance Counsel, is running for a position on the Austin ISD School Board. The Austin American Statesman observed that Rips was editor of “the iconoclastic Texas Observer” before going to work as research director for the Texas Department of Agriculture under Jim Hightower, another former Observer editor. SENATE POSTURING. While attornies for Republican Sen. Kay B. Hutchison got her indictments thrown out at least temporarily on technical grounds that one of the grand jurors had a misdemeanor hot check charge against him while serving on the panel, former Attorney General Jim Mattox is making the rounds of Democratic constituent groups getting ready for a run for the seat Hutchison holds. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Mike Andrews, D-Houston, reportedly has given Democrats in his district the green light to make contacts while he steps up fundraising for a potential Senate race. “I’m not discouraging anyone from testing the waters in my district,” the Houston Chronicle quoted Andrews, a business-oriented protege of Lloyd Bentsen. Henry Cisneros has told potential supporters he is happy as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, although President Clinton reportedly has told Democrats he would release Cisneros for a Senate race. U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, sniffed at a race but settled back into the House, but not before he said the Democrats should get behind “a candidate who is proud to say he is a Democrat and who will stand with President Clinton on issues like the budget and health care.” Perotist Democrat Richard Fisher, a Dallas financier, also has announced his intent to seek the Senate seat. Meanwhile, reindictment of Hutchison by a fresh grand jury could move her trial into the campaign season, no cause for GOP celebration. A Texas Poll by Harte-Hanks showed her approval rating has dropped from 59 percent this past summer to 34 percent the week of Oct. 8-16, when the survey was taken. HIGHTOWER IN FED SIGHTS. Three top aides to populist former Ag Commmissioner Jim Hightower were convicted on federal charges of bribery and conspiracy in a scheme to trade state and federal contracts for campaign donations, and a federal prosecutor indicated he may try .to squeeze the defendants to produce evidence against Hightower, who was a vocal critic of Republican farm policy during the 1980s. The aides Mike Moeller, Peter McRae and Billie Quicksall were convicted by an Austin jury of an assortment of bribery charges, conspiracy and misapplication of funds. They face up to four years in federal prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each felony conviction. U.S. Attorney Dan Mills said he had no evidence to show Hightower had been involved in any wrongdoing. “But who knows, that may change after this verdict,” he said. “Certain people may be willing to cooperate with the government and come up with some more information.” U.S. ATTORNEY HOLDUP. While Republican holdovers in the Justice Department hound Hightower, politics apparently is holding up the nomination of two Texas Democrats to U.S. attorney posts in the eastern and western districts of Texas. In the Eastern District, Texas Lawyer reports, Wayne Reaud, a Beaumont plaintiffs’ lawyer, Continued on pg. 13 24 OCTOBER 29, 1993