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TM GET THE STATE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS ON-LINE Tough, investigative reporting; the wit and good sense of Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower; Political Intelligence; insightful cultural analysis; and much more. Check out Molly Ivins’ special subscription offer, too! Subscribe on-line or call The Texas Observer at 800-939-6620 bT HE TEXAS server was more than eloquent enough to express his feelings. His features became soft and indistinct as his mother expressed some inaudible endearment. After a moment their voices rose to a normal level, and any hint of disagreement had disappeared. “But why France, Mom?” Mrs. Bush squeezed her son’s arm affectionately. “Nancy took me shopping there a few years ago. The salesmen were so rude. I promised her I’d mention it to you.” The Governor was smiling again. He looked how best to describe him? like a Boy Scout in a business suit. He leaned forward and kissed his mother’s cheek. “All right. We’ll bomb Paris. We’ll take out the whole shopping district. But I will not commit American ground forces to a conflict in which there are ill-defined goals.” Mrs. Bush looked up into her son’s eyes. For the first time, a proud, motherly glow surrounded her. Her voice trembled when she spoke. “Oh Georgie. You’re so ” For a moment she couldn’t find the words. “So ” Teary-eyed, Mrs. Bush began to shake with emotion. “You are so ” “So presidential,” Muffy said, in a respectful whisper. But the compliment was lost on the Bushes. The Governor had already taken his mother’s hand, and Mrs. Bush and her son disappeared, arm in arm, into the room behind them. couple of the tourists inquired about that mysterious room beneath the stairs, but Muffy quickly changed the subject. We moved on, admiring the antique furniture and the polished hardwood floors. The rest of the official tour was unremarkable. But as we were ushered out onto the grounds and in the direction of Colorado Street, I pulled Muffy aside and asked her if there wasn’t something else to see. She hesitated, looking me over, much as she had done the Lieutenant Governor. “Can you keep a secret?” she asked finally. I raised my hand in witness. Muffy looked at me and shrugged. “What the hell,” she said, and took me back inside the mansion, to the room at the back of the stairs. No window hinted at what lay beyond. “The Counting Room,” Muffy an nounced. The trooper stepped aside, and Muffy opened the door. The room was long and narrow, and deceptively larger than it appeared from outside. There were two long rows of desks, and at each desk was seated a young woman or man, about Muffy’s age. On each desk itself were stacks of money. Clearly, there were millions of dollars in the room and all in cash. The floor was crowded with black briefcases, and on the far wall was a large chart. It had three columns, headed “DONOR,” “AMOUNT,” and “FAVOR.” Muffy was preparing to explain the purpose of the room, when all explanation became unnecessary. A man in a business suit pushed his way past us and entered. He was carrying a briefcase exactly like those on the floor. “May I help you?” Muffy asked. The visitor, who had the rough self-assurance of what was once known as a “selfmade man,” raised the briefcase in one hand and patted it with the other. “Got a little something here for the Governor,” he said. “May I see?” The newcomer cradled the briefcase on his knee and popped open the locks. Inside were neat bundles of twenty-dollar bills, each gathered with a rubber band. I guessed there were twenty thousand dollars in the case. Maybe more. “Thirty-two thousand eight hundred dollars,” he said. Muffy was unimpressed. “And what,” she sniffed, “did you hope to buy with that?” The man’s mouth dropped open, and he reflexively gulped air. Clearly this was not the welcome he had expected. “May I explain something to you, Mr.” “Trueblo-o-oo-od,” he stammered. “Wylie T. T-T-T-Trueblood.” He fumbled in his pocket and gave Muffy a business card. “Mr. Trueblood, do you see those stacks on the desks in front of you?” she asked. “They are fiftyand one-hundred dollar bills. There are no twenties in this room.” “Twenties were good enough for the Governor four years ago!” “That was four years ago. Governor Bush is now running for president. That costs a lot more. Consequently, influence costs more.” Muffy looked up at the disappointed vis itor. He stood there, slightly pathetic, his mouth open and no one to take his money. “What exactly did you want from the Governor not a federal appointment, I hope?” “Oh no, ma’am. This is state business. Just like the last time.” “Do you need a law changed? You should know, Mr. Trueblood, that legislation costs a great deal more than thirty.” “Oh no, ma’am. Not even that. Just some regulatory relief. I just need a call made to a state agency.” Mr. Trueblood’s color improved. He looked, in fact, like someone who had just been saved from drowning. “It doesn’t even have to be the Governor who makes the call this time.” Muffy took the briefcase from his hands and gave it to one of the faceless clerks. She pushed the visitor out the door, and then she led all three of us back into the hallway, closing the door behind her. “Just leave the money here,” Muffy said. “I’ll see what we can do.” Austin writer Lucius Lomax has on occasion visited the Governor’s Mansion, but says he is sworn to secrecy. JUNE 25, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31