negotiate a settlement with ephedrine producers. Metabolife’s Washington lobbyist, who had given $141,000 to Bush’s gubernatorial campaigns and raised at least $100,000 for his presidential campaign, was also a player. Stricter limits on ephedrine were dropped. Next up, an ad for Pilgrim’s Pride, the chicken company of Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim of East Texas. Some of you may re member Lonnie-Bo from the famous time, pre-Bush, when he strolled onto the floor of the Texas Senate and started handing out $10,000 checks to senators in the midst of a hearing on a workers comp law. Lonnie-Bo was also a big funder of “tort reform,” and gave $125,000 to Bush for his gubernatorial campaigns. As you know, tort reform under Bush has gone so far that the state is now paradise for insurance companies. Next up, Promised Land Dairy, owned by James Leininger, who crusaded first for tort deform and is hot on school vouchers and other Christian-right causes. Leininger gave $1.5 million in contributions and loans to Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry, helping to provide the razor-thin margin by which he defeated Democrat John Sharp. In 1998, Leininger also provided a huge loan to Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander as well as $65,000 to Bush. How nice to see an ad for Philip Morris Co. Inc. Philip Morris provided employment for Karl Rove, the man running Bush’s campaign, from 1991 to 1996. Rove was paid $3,000 a month to lobby for Philip Morris while also working for Bush. This was during the time that Texas was suing the tobacco companies. What a pleasant stroll down memory lane these little billboards provided. Meanwhile, various Republican orators were at the mike, describing the coming election as “a struggle for the soul of the our values and the “indecency” of Al Gore. \(Everyone was on the virtues-and-values theme, usually referred to as “our virtues” and “And I was just strolling along that wall of ads, studying those virtues and values. Arkansas Mike Huckabee was the draw at a Grand Old Prayer Rally at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, Christian Right delegates were the majority. They canned Bush family friend and longtime Party servant Fred Meyer, and in his place as Republican state chair elected Christian-Right Party operative Tom Pauken. If Christian Right delegates had to retire into a large auditorium to hold their Grand Old Prayer Rally in Fort Worth in 1994, there was no such hiding in the catacombs this year. The plenary sessions were prayer rallies; only rarely did the faithful get out of hand. Despite all the Christian fervor, for example, it seemed that the Republican congregation would have been politic enough to avoid the political auto-da-fe that denied Senator Florence Shapiro, the Party’s highest-ranking Jew, a delegate’s credential to attend the national convention in Philadelphia. Nothing personal, Kelly Shakelford of the Free Market Foundation told the Dallas Morning News. “The people love Florence. But this is a grassroots position.” The free marketeers worked in concert with the Christian Coalition, organizing slates of Christian conservative candidates. Shapiro later won a delegate’s credential from the national nominating committee, which filled thirty-four at-large slots and thirty-four alternate delegate slots. Christian prayer was constant. A week before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against her school district’s appeal that “student-led” prayer be allowed at football games, Santa Fe Independent School District graduating senior Marian Ward delivered the opening day invocation. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay reminded delegates that the Republican Party is bound together by its “faith in God, our belief in the sanctity of human life, our acceptance of moral absolutes.” And Laura Bush drew her biggest applause by reciting a religious line of poetry from her husband’s ghosted autobiography, A Charge to Keep. Perhaps it required a Jewish sensibility to fully appreciate that this was a Christian gathering. To fulfill his obligation to report on an event that lacked real news value, Austin American-Statesman political reporter Ken Herman filed a 1,500-word story on the religious tone of the convention. Party Chair Susan Weddington who works for San Antonio tort reformer and Christian schools advocate James Leininger, and came on as vice chair with Pauken in 1994 beseeched Jesus Christ to “rule over us again,” Herman observed. Austin delegate Carol Everett concluded a prayer “in the name of that ultimate crisis pregnancy, JeSus Christ.” Waco Baptist preacher Ramiro Perla prayed that “the mantle of leadership from on high would fall over our Governor, wherever he is even right now.” \(Our Governor, having too recently faced congregants like these at Bob Jones U., was even right then about as far from this give us as political people for putting our name on our politics,” said one supplicant. And so it went. Christian delegates again determined who was “in” and who was “out.” “In” was a Christian group that saves gays and lesbians from Cabin Republicans, who maintained a mobile convention booth in a motor home on the street in front of the convention hall. Lacking anyone to fellowship with, Log Cabin delegates chatted up reporters at the back of the hall, hoping to call some attention to their JULY 7, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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