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mine the success of a candidate. Their success depends on their message and how they are perceived by voters. I wish you weren’t doing this story. This focus on handlers is unwarranted and unwise. It makes handlers think they are more important than they really are.” 5 am Ervin, the drawling North Carolina senator, had just begun hearings on the Watergate break-in when Karl Rove’s political life began in earnest. It was 1973, Rove had won the presidency of the College Republicans in a race against Terry Dolan, and Rove’s campaign in the Southern United States had been managed by a South Carolina insurance salesman’s son who had once played guitar with R&B singer Percy Sledge. His name was Lee Atwater. Rove’s successful campaign for the leadership of the College Republicans coincided with a national resurgence of the Republican Party. And his opponents in the race later became part of the GOP’s power structure. Dolan, whom Rove defeated, was considered one of the architects of the modern conservative movement. In 1975, he helped form the National Conservative Political Action Committee, which spent more than $1.2 million in 1980 to unseat liberal members of the U.S. Senate. Dolan died of AIDS in 1986 at age 36. In his race against Rove, Dolan had employed Charlie Black, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. The trio later formed the political consulting firm Black, Manafort and Stone, which played a key role in the successful 1984 campaign of Ronald Reagan. After the 1984 election, Atwater became a full partner in the firm and a fixture at the Reagan White House. During his tenure as boss of the College Republicans, Rove made contacts that continue to serve him well. From his basement office at GOP headquarters, Rove brushed elbows with the GOP chairman, who at that time was an oilman from Texas named George Herbert Walker Bush. Rove introduced Atwater to Bush in 1973. During the same period, Rove met George W. Bush, and the two became friends. Rove was the first person Bush the Elder hired when he ran began running for the presidency. In 1977, Rove began working for Bush’s Houston-based political action committee called the Fund for Limited Government, which later became his presidential campaign organization. Bush, of course, lost the 1980 race to The Great Communicator. But he accepted the VP nomination from Ronald Reagan and Rove began his consulting business, Karl Rove & Co., in 1981. His first direct mail client was Bill Clements, the man who ended 106 years of frustration for the GOP when he took the governor’s office in 1978. In l 982, Rove began working for Gramm, who was still in the U.S. House of Representatives and still a Democrat. Two years later, Rove helped get Gramm elected to the U.S. Senateas a Republican. During the 1984 election he did direct mail work for Reagan/Bush. In 1986, Rove got his first big job as a general consultant when he helped Clements win back the Governor’s office and Clements began referring to Rove as “my number-one guru.” In 1988, Rove worked for Tom Phillips, the first Republican ever elected to the Texas Supreme Court. In 1990, Rove helped Perry win the Ag Commissioner’s job. The same year, Rove worked for former Railroad Commissioner Kent Hance \(another Demoful gubernatorial bid. In 1992, Rove won his biggest contract: the direct mail work for Bush’s unsuccessful bid for a second term in the White House. Contacts with Bush and the national GOP led to contracts across the country, with Senator Kit Bond in Missouri and former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh in Pennsylvania. In 1991, Thornburgh ran and lost a race for the U.S. Senate to Harris Wofford. Because he didn’t win, Thornburgh assigned his debt to his campaign committee. But Rove saw it differently, sued and won a $300,000 judgment against the man who had been the country’s most powerful attorney. The lawsuit made Rove a hero among consultants on both sides of the political fence. “It was a milestone for us consultants who have been burned by candidates who don’t pay their bills,” said one Democratic consultant. Rove, however, plays down the significance of the victory,. saying “It is a very narrowly drawn decision that says because of these facts, Thornburgh is liable [for these debts].” Born on Christmas Day, 1950 in Denver, Karl Christian Rove grew up in Colorado, Utah and Nevada. By age nine, when he backed Richard Nixon instead of John Kennedy, Rove was aligned with the Republican Party. Today, he works in an office on Shoal Creek Boulevard, 10 blocks west of the Capitol, and lives in a house in the hills west of town. He drives a used, 12-year-old, white Mercedes station wagon with a car phone and when his schedule allows, works on getting the college degree that still eludes him. Rove has been in and out of school since he met Atwater, attending the University of Utah, University of Maryland, George Mason and the University of Texas. He also attended the University of Houston, but he’s not sure if he passed the courses he took there. A Houston Post profile in the late 1970s said of Rove, “His college career can fairly be described as spotty.” The article quoted Rove saying, “It really is bizarre, I’ve had the most tortured college career of anybody I’ve ever met in my entire life.” Last fall, Rove attended UT as a senior in the college of liberal arts. His major, not surprisingly, is political science and he expects to spend two more semesters at UT before he gets his degree. Rove’s lack of a degree and his partisan politics have led to Senate rejection of nominations to two university boards of regents First, at Texas Women’s College and later at East Texas State University. Rove’s desire to serve as a regent led to a confrontation with Democrats on the Senate Nominations Committee. While testifying before the committee in 1991, Rove was asked about his relationship with an FBI agent named Greg Rampton, a man who makes Travis County DA Ronnie Earle look like Little Red Riding Hood. Indignant that Earle, a Democrat, would investigate Hutchison, a Republican, Republicans have accused Earle of being partisan. But as Rove once wrote, “that’s pretty small beer.” Earle may have had the Public Integrity Unit working for him, but during the late 1980s and early ’90s the FBI was investigating Texas Democrats and Rampton was the agency’s point man. During a stint in Austin, Rampton investigated high profile Democrats, including General Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, Comptroller Bob Bullock, and of course, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower. Only the Hightower investigation resulted in formal charges. Mike Moeller, Pete McRae and Bill Quicksall were convicted in federal court of conspiracy last October and each man now faces more than two years in federal prison. They are appealing the decision. Rampton and Rove also crossed paths during the 1986 gubernatorial race, when, shortly before the election, private investigators discovered a bug in Rove’s office. Rove was quoted in the Austin AmericanStatesman, saying he was “concerned, worried and angry.” He charged that Democrats had planted the listening device’ behind a framed needlepoint of a GOP elephant while the Dems charged that Rove planted the bug himself. Then-Gov. Mark White offered to take a lie detector test to clear the matter, one of the private investigators who discovered the bug refused a lie detector test, Rampton investigated the matter for the FBI and no charges were brought. Throughout the late 1980s and early ’90s Democrats contended that Rampton was doing dirty work for a Republican administration that wanted nothing less than to get Hightower out of office. Democrats are also quick to note that the U.S. Attorney who oversaw Rampton’s investigations was Ron Ederer, who had been nominated by Gramm, and that the Justice Department was headed by Thornburgh, who later hired Rove to work on his Senate campaign. 16 MARCH 25, 1994