the support of particular candidates could prove to be a shrewd business move. Steve Papermaster, chief executive of Agillion Inc., a local software firm, held a fundraiser for Governor Bush in September attended by over 500 members of the high tech industry; the gathering raised over $100,000. A former Microsoft executive, Mike Maples Sr., who retired to Austin two years ago, had also planned a Halloween party whose invitees include Bush, Michael Dell, and yes, Mr. Microsoft, Bill Gates, himself. Thus far, Bush has received the majority of the support from Texas industry members, apparently hoping to win favor with a possible future President. Early in his campaign, Bush began a relationship with Austin PC marketing billionaire Michael Dell, who received invites to the Governor’s mansion following a $5,000 campaign contribution, echoed by similar contributions from Dell management personnel. Dell is ambiguous in his party affiliation \(he voted in a Democratic primary in leaders are not even registered to vote, such as Joe Liemandt, founder of Trilogy Software. High-tech leaders in Austin, led by Papermaster, are now attempting to increase their influence by joining the Technology Network, an influential Silicon Valley-based political organization. Overall, according to Texans for Public Justice, the computer industry lags far behind other PACs in political contributions, contributing only $528,380 in a three-year period during which PACs as a whole anteed-up $56 million for Texas campaigns. NO TYRANNY MERE. Score one for the First and Fourth Amendments in West Texas. A billboard erected by Colorado City attorney Pat Barber on 1-20 can stand, for now, thanks to a temporary injunction granted by Travis County District Judge Suzanne Covington last month. Erected about seventyfive miles west of Abilene, the sign reads “Just say NO to searches!” and lists a phone number, where callers can listen to a twominute recorded message about their constitutional rights especially their Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure should a peace officer request to search their vehicle. Only four days after the billboard went up, the Texas Department of Transportation demanded that it be taken down, citing the Texas Highway Beautification Act, which regulates billboards on interstates outside of city limits. Passed in the mid-1960s, the law requires that highway billboards be within 800 feet of at least two commercial businesses, unless the subject matter falls into one of several exempted categories, including chamber of commerce booster ads, religious material, “for sale” signs, and others. Ads for political campaigns have their own set of regulations, but other political material, or public service announcements \(as vided for in the code. TxDot eventually set a deadline for the sign’s removal, and threatened to fine Barber, who owns the land on which the sign stands, $1,000 per day thereafter. Covington enjoined the highway department from levying the fine until a full hearing can be held in April, ruling that Barber had “established that he will probably prevail on his claim that the statute as written and enforced is an unconstitutional infringement on his rights of free speech.” According to Barber, unwarranted searches during traffic stops have become a problem, not only in West Texas, but all over the state, particularly in the last six months or so. Special anti-drug task forces are part of the problem, according to Barber. “Here in Mitchell County we have three task forces at work, and we’re just getting hammered,” Barber said. He has collected anecdotal evidence of an increase in searches, and stories of pressure tactics commonly used by D.P.S. and anti-drug task force . officers. “They won’t tell you that you have an absolute right to refuse a search, and that your refusal cannot in any way be used against you in court,” Barber says. Instead, officers threaten to detain uncooperative drivers until they obtain search warrants from the local justice of the peace virtually always a bluff, according to Barber. He has had difficulty assessing just how many searches are being done, how ever, because the D.P.S. keeps no records of searches that do not result in a charge. Barber reports hearing one Abilene area task force officer tell a Colorado City chamber of commerce employee that the task force was averaging 500 stops for every one arrest. In First Amendment terms, the stakes are also high, according to Barber. “This could force them to rewrite that part of the code,” if the Highway Beautification Act is found unconstitutional on its face. Similar provisions exist in most state highway codes, because the regulations stemmed from a federal initiative hatched by Lady Bird Johnson. CONNERLY’S LINCOLN LOOS. You’re the president of a gay-rights group, looking for a keynote speaker for your annual fundraiser. Who you gonna call? How about Ward Connerly, the putatively black University of California system regent who did at least as much as Governor Pete Wilson to dismantle his state’s affirmative action programs. That’s your man at least if you are president of the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay activists who are routinely slapped around by the party of Phil Gramm, Jesse Helms, and Newt Gingrich. Not only are the Texas Log Cabin Repubs routinely denied a space at the Republican state conventions, the party now has a Supreme Court ruling that declares the ban constitutional. The Texas Republican Party won the 1996 lawsuit by claiming that the Texas and U.S. Bills of Rights do not protect free speech rights at political party conventions. “We don’t allow pedophiles, transvestites, and cross dressers” at the Republican convention, said party spokesperson Robert Black, exercising a bit of free speech of his own in explaining why Log Cabin Repubs were not allowed to rent exhibit space at the convention. Connerly was kinder, even if he is a social Darwinist who believes government programs in support of minority groups are unnecessary and harm the groups they are designed to help. In his speech, Connerly recalled the discrimination he encountered at lunch counters and gas stations in the fifties and sixties and reminded the Log Cabin Republicans that “there is nothing more important than the culture of equality.” He also reminded them that equality isn’t something “handed to us from government.” For his commitment to the gay rights agenda, Connerly received the Log Cabin Republicans’ “Spirit of Lincoln” award, according to the Texas Triangle, a statewide gay publication. 11] THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17 NOVEMBER 6, 1998
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