years. “It doesn’t bother him if people don’t like him,” Wendy Lee Gramm told John Judis. “It’s not personal, it’s business.” For Phil Gramm, “business” is also fundraising. With more than $7 million that he can roll into a presidential campaign fund, Gramm leads a pack of potential Republican candidates that includes Kansas Senator Robert Dole; Lamar Alexander, who served as Governor of Tennessee and George Bush’s Secretary of Education; Bill Bennett, who was Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Education, Dan Quayle, whose head, lungs and now appendix, make him questionable; and Jack Kemp, who served in Congress and was George Bush’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. \(Kemp has suggested recently that he will not seek the nomination and there is some speculation that the prospect of a campaign against Gramm makes his decision easier. Kemp has compared Gramm’s politics to Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, “where you knit together disparate groups of people who are mad about something, and then Gramm is an unabashed fundraiser. After he was elected to Congress, he boasted to several colleagues about the $40,000 he raised in one day, starting on the top floor of an office building in his district and working his way down. By 1989, Gramm, having outgrown the ‘architecture of the Sixth Congressional District, booked the Astrodome for a fundraiser that took in more than $2 million. In 1991, Austinbased Republican political consultant Karl Rove said Gramm’s list included at least 66,000 active contributors. Recently, Gramm has used his position as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee to expand his own fundraising database. He told Wall Street Journal reporter John Harwood that he “has gotten to know every major financial giver in the country” and that some two-million people have sent money in response to direct mail solicitations bearing his signature. “Consistent with the committee practice,” Harwood wrote, “he says he claims for his own use those names that weren’t already on the committee’s list.” Gramm also requires a list of names in exchange for speaking to any group and on a recent Texas tour, according to Judis, who wrote a Gramm profile for GQ, a local contact at one stop pored over photos taken at an earlier campaign event, identifying subjects as “rich, superrich or megarich.” Gramm was “like a kid perusing a toy catalogue.” PHIL GRAMM can also lay claim to one of the longest Federal Elections Commission investigations \(five Both involved money and Gramm emerged from both relatively unsullied. In 1989 he agreed to settle a five-year-old dispute with the FEC by paying a $30,000 fine one of the highest ever paid for finance violations at the congressional campaign level. Gramm’s five-year defense was, to say the least, unorthodox. It’s not often, an FEC spokesman told the AP, that the agency had to go to court during the course of an investigation. “And it’s even less often that the commission is sued, and especially if the commissioners are sued in their individual capacity,” FEC spokesman Scott Moxley said. At one point, the campaign committee insisted on a piece-by-piece inventory of more than 500,000 campaign documents, which would have resulted in enormous cost for the government. Even the final chapter of the investigation was written as Gramm would write it. “The Texan released the settlement to news organizations on Friday night, after the FEC had closed and before the settlement was final,” AP reporter Jennifer Dixon wrote in 1989. In 1990 Gramm wrote a $53,567 check to the Senate Ethics Committee to cover what Dallas savings and loan owner Jerry Stiles failed to charge for the $117,000 waterfront vacation home Stiles constructed for the Gramms in Maryland. Gramm initiated the investigation himself, after a Texas subcontractor informed the Senator that an FBI investigation of Stiles’ failed Hallmark Savings & Loan was underway. The $53,567 was returned to Gramm after the Ethics Committee declared that he had done nothing wrong. “The taxpayers,” the Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized, “will be picking up the $200-million tab for the [Stiles] S&Ls that later failed.” It wasn’t until 1992 that Gramm admitted he’d intervened with S&L regulators on behalf of Stiles, who was later indicted. Gramm claimed the Ethics Committee’s clean bill of health proved him honest. “I may be the only certified honest person in the race. As the voters get the facts, I think this episode will help me….” Gramm even laughed at Democrats, who learned about his brief, voluntary encounter with the Ethics Committee through the New York Times two years after the fact. “I assumed when I did this, it would have ,become public,” Gramm said with a chuckle, according to the Houston Post. In 1993, Gramm rode out another scandal, after the Dallas Morning News used leaked office memos to document that Gramm had routinely used taxpayer funds for political purposes. “In an institution where self promotion is such a high art, Phil Gramm is virtuoso,” Rutgers professor Ross Baker wrote in 1984. Stories of Gramm’s self promotion at the expense of other Congressmen and Senatorsare commonplace. Democratic Congressman Jim Chapman tells of an East Texas project that he had worked on and Gramm had opposed for two years. After it was approved, Gramm wrote Chapman, inviting him to the groundbreaking. In 1984, shortly after he left the Democratic Party, Gramm voted against an appropriation that included a $49-million nutrition center at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. According to the Washington Post, the only member of Congress to attend the press briefing at which the project was announced was Gramm. “He is loathed by other senators, thought to be a blowhard and a guy who is absolutely convinced of whatever he is convinced of, right or wrong,” an aide to a conservative Republican Senator told John Judis. Because Gramm is not running for majority leader, suggested Jim Wright in a telephone interview, the support of his colleagues might not matter. “Humphrey was preferred in 1976 by most Democratic senators. None of them preferred Jimmy Carter, but Carter was nominated,” Wright said. “LBJ had the support of most of his Senate colleagues in the spring of 1960. But the voters supported Kennedy. And I do know that Taft was supported by Senate Republicans in 1952 and he didn’t get to first base, because Eisenhower was nominated.” Wright suspects that the Republican nomination will elude Gramm because the Senator will have a difficult time marketing himself to voters “as a personality” for national office. Journalists are advised to report only on past and present. When ignoring that advice, it’s wise to hew close to the Tom Ferguson/follow-the-money-and-bet-on-it school of prognostication. Ferguson is not alone in arguing that money drives politics. Election consultant Seth Huckaby has demonstrated that since 1976, with only one exception, the candidate who has raised the most money by December 31 of the year preceding the election has received his party’s nomination. Gramm has a lot of warts, but the $7 million he already has on hand suggests he will be able to hide most of them for long enough to allow voters to embrace him. Mosbacher, true reformer’s zeal notwithstanding, and the delegates at the Republican Party’s Texas convention, might have placed their money on the wrong candidates. The Observer will follow Texas leaders of both parties at home, in Washington and abroad. We encourage readers to send clips from local newspapers, magazines, the Congressional Record and other sources. Address: Texas on the Potomac, Texas Observer, 307 W. 7th St., Austin, Texas 78701. 6 JANUARY 13, 1995
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.