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EDITORIAL Where the Money Is “Big labor bosses” spent $300 million in their failed attempt to return the U.S. House to Demo cratic control, said Haley Barbour during ABC’s election wrapup. Never mind that the Republican Party’s national chairman had to be corrected after a break; the actual amount was closer to $30 million nationwide. And forget that organized labor had returned to electoral politics after a long absence, only because AFL-CIO national President John Sweeney defeated Lane Kirkland. And forget that organized labor was far outspent by trade associations and corporate PACs. Barbour clearly understands the crude geography of the 1996 general election: this year money was the only prominent feature on the landscape of electoral politics. f big money absolutely dominated federal elections, you can be sure it played an even greater role in elections for state offices in Texas, where fundraising is even more wide open than it is in the putatively regulated federal system. “We held our own in races where we weren’t outspent twenty-to-one,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Bill White told reporters the day after the election. And, White added, there were no big Democratic names, like John Sharp or Garry Mauro, at the top of the ballot spending money that would have also influenced down-ballot races. In presidential elections, Texas is also a net exporter of cash. So Texas Democrats, who in the best of years can’t go check-for-check with Republican funders, were at a serious disadvantage. In almost every contested legislative race, Democratic candidates found themselves drowning in an ocean of Republican money, in particular money strategically spent by two Republican super-PACs: the Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund and the 76 in 96 Committee. Texas Democrats have no political action committees with the fundraising and spending potential these two PACs represent. Seventy-six, of course, is the figure that represents 50-percent-plus-one in the 150-member House. The Republican Party’s failure to reach that goal \(ambitiously set by Republican state Chairman Pauken’s pet PAC, 76 in 96, spent $423,847 on Republican state House races in the final thirty days of the campaign. “You’ve heard the saying that `it’s like making sausage,’ Pauken said at a press conference when asked who had directed the PAC spending. “No one really likes to look at it.” But someone looked closelysitting on almost all of the 76/96 cash reserves until races could be easily handicapped, then targeting competitive races as the campaigns wound down. Although the numbers for the final five days aren’t in yet, 76/96’s TEXAS DEMOCRATS, WHO IN THE BEST OF YEARS CAN’T GO CHECK-FOR-CHECK WITH REPUBLICAN FUNDERS, WERE AT A SERIOUS DISADVANTAGE. total yearly campaign spending through October 26 stands at $464,670. So the $423,847 that poured into House elections in October makes the PAC’ s funding strategy easy to parse: raise earlyspend late all the urban House seats and Republicans control all the suburban House seats, the PAC targets were rural and small-town Democratic incumbents and open seats, with one exception: Ken Yarbrough’s district in north central Houston, which Republicans failed to capture. \(But not for The 76/96 spending complemented the steadier and earlier funding candidates received from the Associated Republicans of Texas, which spent $243,629 between October 1 and October 26. That Democrats only lost four seats in the House \(where most of the combined 76/96 and ART October total something of a victory; based on 76/96 funding alone, the Republican Party’s cost per House seat gained was $116,167. Not every dollar was spent in October. Although 76/96 wrote its big checks at the end of the campaigna nationwide Republican tactic that encourages going negative late, when opponents have no time to respond ART underwrote races early, providing candidates with startup money: $33,799 in March, $65,884 in late spring and early summer, $274,900 in early fall, and $243,896 in the final month of the campaign. To maintain late spending levels, three weeks before election day ART even borrowed $100,000 from Hartland Bank in Austin. Republican funding of House races is even more impressive when examined in detail. Although there are 150 seats in the House, ninety representatives were unopposed in the general election. So the Party’s smart, pragmatic funders found it fairly easy to direct spending only toward races where Republican candidates were viable and in need of help. For example, no smart Republican money found its way into the District 50 race in Austin, where David “Breadman” Blakey challenged Democratic incumbent Glen Maxey. And the same was true in Dallas, where Republican incumbent Will Hartnett was challenged by Matthew Trotter. \(Neither were funds exactly flowing uphill in the direction of Hollis Cain, the Panhandle rancher recruited to run against House Once such “uncontested two-candidate races” were elimihated, Republican PAC funders could focus on forty races that might have been in play. And 76/96 so carefully screened its spending that by NOVEMBER 22, 1996 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3