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POLITIC INTELLIGENCE Betting on Rick and Dick TOM, DICK, AND DENNY It’s hard to be a Republican congressional candidate these daysso many decisions, so many choices. It’s even harder for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who is running against Democrat Nick Lampson in the Texas 22nd. Sekula-Gibbs is not on the ballot in the general election and must convince voters to pick her twice. First they must check her name to fill the term from which Tom DeLay slunk away. Then, for the general election, using new electronic voting machines, they must manually write in her name. Explaining all this takes money. And with as many as 40 seats in play this November, money for a long shot is not easy to find. Enter the vice president. Dick Cheney’s approval rating is so low that if it were a congressional page, Mark Foley would be hitting on it. But as a plutocrat himself, Cheney knows how to talk to fat cats. By early October he had raised nearly $40 million for GOP candidates this election cycle. While Cheney’s reputation is toxic for the majority of Americans, he is probably still acceptable to the GOP hardcore in Fort Bend County. So Sekula-Gibbs went for the money and invited the vice president to Houston for a fundraiser recently. At a $500-dollar-a-head event attended by DeLay, among others, Cheney bobbed and weaved around the truth. He trumpeted GOP tax cuts but never mentioned the astronomical spending that his administration has promoted. “We believe our job is to solve big problems, not pass them along to the next generation,” said Cheney, even though that is exactly what the Bush administration has done. Cheney also singled out the Patriot Act, illegal wiretapping, and torture as evidence that George W. Bush is serious about fighting and winning the war on terror. By the end of the night, SekulaGibbs had raked in as much as $200,000. 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 20, 2006 Unfortunately for her, it’s still slim pick have been an agent of indicted federal ings compared to the almost $2 million Lampson has on hand. The governor later foreswore gam A week after the Cheney event, bling after his slot-machine proposal Sekula-Gibbs was scheduled for more imploded in the Legislature in 2004, fundraising, this time with Speaker of partly because of opposition from the U.S. House Dennis Hastert. With Christian conservatives. One Christian Hastert struggling to keep his job in the gambling opponent in Austin attributed wake of the Foley scandal, Sekula-Gibbs the about-face to the governor’s need made the calculation and canceled the to placate conservative Christians if he speaker’s visit. In this case, the money ever is to be a national GOP political wasn’t worth it. figure. “We keep telling him he’ll make a great vice president,” this source joked. GUBERNATORIAL GAMBLE Bet One of the largest checks Perry ting almost all of their money on just reported in his latest campaign report two of the five ponies in the gubernacame from Gordon Graves, who has torial race, gambling interests already given $78,000 to Perry and $45,000 have contributed more than $1 million to Strayhorn. Graves once headed the apiece to Comptroller Carole Keeton precursor of GTECH Holdings Corp. Strayhorn and Gov. Rick Perry. Many top the Texas Lottery’s apparent contrac gambling-related donors even hedged tor-for-life. He retired in 2003 as CEO their betscontributing to both candiof Austin-based slot-machine maker dates over the course of their current Multimedia Games Inc. Late last year, four-year terms. Graves quietly introduced a hybrid type These $1 million campaign wagers of “eight-liner” slot machine in Texas. pose greater potential liabilities for He is gambling that the machines will Perry, however, sin::: he is counting not be deemed the illegal gambling on the Christian-conservative vote in devices that they appear to be. Novemberand perhaps beyond. This The governor also got big payouts race’s leading casino cheerleader, indefrom major gambling interests that pendent Kinky Friedman, has hammered retain his lobby pal Toomey. The PAC of away at this point on the campaign trail. Maxxam Inc., which owns Sam Houston “There’s only a small group of people Race Park, gave $60,000 to Perry, that’s against it [casino gambling],” the who also took $50,000 from Big City Jewish cowboy said in August. “And Capital. Big City is trying to leverage those are Rick Perry’s base, the far relipublic funds for a new racetrack in gious right.” Friedman and Democrat the Metroplex area. Fronted by Billy Chris Bell reported negligible gambling Bob Barnett, the founder of Billy Bob’s contributionsthough Friedman did win honky tonk, Big City has recruited $45,612 from a Louisiana slot machine Dallas real estate mogul Vance Miller last year. Perry made legalizing slot machines scheme. Big City fielded Texas’ No. 1 a centerpiece of the school-funding gambling lobby last year, spending up proposal he unveiled after a policy to $1.4 million on 10 lobbyists. junket to the Bahamas in early 2004. That Caribbean cabinet included Perry’s SUPREMELY PREDICTABLE then-Chief of Staff Mike Toomey \(now The Texas Supreme Court is comprised a lobbyist for horse track and casino of nine industry-friendly Republicans, zealot Grover Norquist \(now known to as corporate defense attorneys. So