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MAKE A LASTING CONTRIBUTION TO A PROGRESSIVE TEXAS by designating The Texas Observer as a beneficiary in your will or estate plan. The Observer is published by the Texas Democracy Foundation, organization. For information, contact us at 512/477-0746, or [email protected] Wednesday, February 12 5:30 7:30 p.m. Scholz Garden 1 607 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin Join us for a reception and book signing honoring LOU DUBOSE and JAN REID authors, with Carl Cannon, of BOY GENIUS Karl Rove, the Brains Behind the Remarkable Political Triumph of George W. Bush HOSTED BY THE TEXAS OBSERVER AND PUBLICAFFAIRS defeat Rove’s hand-picked candidate, until an odd thing happened. Barry Williamson, a Republican who was leaving the Texas Railroad Commission to run for comptroller, changed his mind and joined the attorney general’s race. Williamson had won his first election to statewide office four years earlier, when Rove was advising his campaign. His entry in the race, with $1 million to spend, meant that two candidates, both flush with cash and both linked to Karl Rove, were now running against Tom Pauken. “Rove was not supposed to get involved in Republican primaries,” said a source close to the Cornyn campaign. Rove was so formidable that Republican candidates didn’t want him in the primaries. “But Pauken was in the race,” the campaign source said. “And Bush hated Pauken. So the whole idea was that in a three-man race, Rove could see that Cornyn was elected.” Williamson became the political equivalent of a banderillero, the bullring cape man who works on foot, sticking small barbs into the bull’s neckto provoke it and make it charge, while lowering its head to make it easier for the matador to complete the kill. While Williamson was lowering Pauken’s head, Rove was raising the profile of the real candidate in the race. “Karl was worried about Cornyn’s name,” the Cornyn campaign source said. “He said it was a bad name for politics. Nobody could pronounce it. And John didn’t have an issue to run on. So Karl decided he should file the tobacco suit.” Here was another stone to hit his two birds. The tobacco suit that Rove had Cornyn file, according to this campaign source, was a challenge to the contingency fees that had been earned by five attorneys the state had hired to sue the tobacco industry. That original suit had been filed in 1996 by Dan Morales. The suit had been a difficult issue for Bush. As governor, he had to support going to court to recover billions the state had spent on health care for indigent patients with tobacco-related ill nesses. Yet he opposed industry-wide lawsuits like the cases several states already filed against the tobacco industry. Bush had run for office promising tort reform. “Putting an end to junk lawsuits that clog our courts,” was a Rove one-liner Bush repeated like a mantra while campaigning. He was successfully pushing a package of tort reforms through the Legislature. And the tobacco companies were major Republican Party donors and underwriters of the party’s national conventions. Bush also knew there was neither sufficient staff nor money for the attorney general to undertake the lawsuit. As Mississippi had done, Texas had to retain lawyers on contingency fee. This arrangement would cost the state nothing up front, but if the state prevailed, the fees would enrich the plaintiffs’ lawyers hired by the state. And most \(if lawyers, are Democrats. Derided by the senior George Bush as “trial lawyers in tassel loafers,” they were the very Democratic funders George W. Bush believed had defeated his father. The governor was in a box. So was Rove. As the governor’s campaign strategist, Rove was the architect of the campaign Bush ran against the state’s trial lawyers. He helped devise the tort reform program Bush was pushing through the Legislature. And he had a personal conflict. From 1991 to 1996, Rove worked for Philip Morris, the tobacco company with the largest market share in Texas and the nation, earning $3,000 a month. And the way monetary damages are awarded in multiple-defendant lawsuits, Rove’s client would take the biggest hit if the state collected on tobacco-related health costs. The tobacco companies had made Rove’s difficult position ever more difficult. In an effort to discourage Morales from suing them, Philip Morris, R. J. Reynolds, Lorillard, and Brown & Williamson hired a political consultant to conduct a push poll targeting Morales. Rove wasn’t a tobacco company executive, employee, or even a lobbyist. So he would not be named a party to a tobacco suit. But his professional relationship with Philip Morris made him a potential witnessputting him in the one position political operatives and presidents try very hard to avoid: under 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1/31/03