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Texas Observer VOLUME 96, NO. 5 A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor Ronnie Dugger Co-Editors Jake Bernstein, Barbara Belejack Staff Writer Dave Mann Managing Publisher Jim Ball Associate Publisher Charlotte McCann Circulation Manager Rosie Bamberger Chavez Art Direction Buds Design Kitchen Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editor Roxanne Bogucka Webmaster Adrian Quesada Interns Jessica Chapman, Kate Harrington, Emily Rapp Jeremy Brown, Jeremy Edwards, Joe Munch Contributing Writers Nate Blakeslee, Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Steven G. Kalman, Lucius Lomax, James McWilliams, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross Staff Photographers Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum. Contributing Artists Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Doug Potter, Penny Van Horn, Gail Woods. Editorial Advisory Board David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, John Kenneth Galbraith, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Matt Lynaugh, Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid. In Memoriam Bob Eckhardt, 1913-2001, Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 Texas Democracy Foundation Board Lou Dubose, Ronnie Dugger, Marc Grossberg, Molly Ivins, D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Gilberto Ocafias, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips. tents copyrighted 2003, is published biweekly except every by the Texas Democracy Foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. E-mail [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page . Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, Texas. Subscriptions One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13/year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. The Books 6the Culture section is partially funded through grants from the City of Austin under the auspices of the Austin Arts Commission and the Writer’s League of Texas, both in cooperation with the Texas Commission on the Arts. ril here is a whiff of mobrule to the campaign the Republican Party of Texas has launched against Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and his office’s grand jury investigation. Rather than wait and see the results of the investigation, GOP state Chairwoman Tina Benkiser has started a petition drive to beseech the Legislature to strip Earle of his powers. In fact, we’re surprised there hasn’t been a call for a special session to do just that. The 78th Legislaturestill in force until 2005has already gone through three specials to push through congressional redistricting. What’s a fourth, among friends, to help cover up possible criminal activity in the campaign responsible for all that good fun? So far Texas and national media have mainly focused on the entrails of the scandal, dribbling out new details as they become available. Much of the news coverage has focused on how the U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay-inspired Texans for a House Speaker Tom Craddick, and the Texas Association of Business paign finance laws. Did TRMPAC and TAB funnel illegal corporate money into campaigns? Did Craddick solicit votes from fellow House members in the speaker’s election in exchange for campaign contributions or anything else of value? What of the $190,000 that TRMPAC seemingly laundered through the national party? The grand jury must be allowed to answer these important questions. But there is another story about this scandal that is much more troubling than which laws may or may not have been broken. In this issue of the Observer, we explore which corporations provided TRMPAC with the money it needed in 2002, and what beneficial legislation, if any, they hoped to receive in return in 2003. Many of the corporations that bankrolled TRMPAC and TAB got exactly what they wanted from the 78th Legislature. Farmers no energy dereguhome equisaved millions thanks to pet legislation that passed last session. Of course, the Texas Legislature is not generally known for its hostility to pro-industry legislation, and boasts a rich tradition of malfeasance. It’s the rare Texas House Speaker that can’t at least get himself indicted. But the current condition of Texas politics is far from business as usual. The sheer scope, ambition, and audacity of the present orgy of corruption threatens to undermine the foundation of government for all. There is a wonderful irony that Earle’s investigation involves a century-old law known as “the robber baron statute.” Earle has dusted it off precisely for what it was intended when the populists crafted it to try to fight the last big push of the plutocrats. In 2002, when the infection hit Austin, the cycle of corporate and special interest campaign cash opening the way for top-dollar lobbyists to dictate legislation for donor-clients was already out of control in Washington, D.C. It doesn’t have to be this way here, says Fred Lewis, of the watchdog group Campaigns for People. In this issue, Lewis offers ideas for reforms. Some may be viable next session, if enough true Republicans are disgusted by the goings on at the Capitol. As Earle proceeds with his investigation, we must keep in mind that a few minor prosecutions won’t solve systemic flaws. If the leaders that hatched this scheme remain in power, without true reform, the people of Texas will continue to be abused by a government “by the few” and “for the few.” EDITORIAL The Rule of Law 3/12/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3