Page 4


POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE Thumpin’s and near-thumpin’s THE COLOR OF MONEY In 1997, Dallas businessman Marcos Rodriguez founded the American Dream Political Action Committee with a social purposehelping elect Republicans of color. Two years later, Rodriguez passed control of the PAC to one of the GOP’s most visible minority officeholders, Congressman Henry Bonilla of San Antonio. So how many ethnic minority candidates received American Dream money during the 2006 election cycle? Only one, PAC director Bonilla, who got $20,000, according to federal campaign finance reports filed as of October 30. PAC treasurer Cindy Barberio Payne didn’t return a call seeking comment. Bonilla still faces Democrat Ciro Rodriguez in a December 12 runoff for congressional District 23. Most of the PAC’s money went to provide critical support for a downtrodden group of candidates that truly needed all the help it could getwhite Republicans. Few groups of politicians endured more oppression during the past two years than the poor white folks in the GOP, what with bribery scandals, the Mark Foley congressional page scandal, the indictments and departures of Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas and Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, and that big vote drainthe Iraq war. At the end of October, all of the American Dream PAC’s $58,000 in federal contributions had gone to 13 Republicans, 12 of them Anglos, according to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission. In U.S. House races, the American Dream PAC helped lift endangered Republicans Deborah Pryce in Ohio white Republicans, including Austin’s Mike McCaul and Lubbock’s Randy Neugebauer. The PAC backed one Senate candidateFlorida’s Katherine Harris \(yes, that Still, the American Dream’s efforts couldn’t keep endangered Anglo Republicans from losing both houses of Congress and falling into the, urn, minority. And 2006 wasn’t the first time the PAC has strayed from its dream. In 2003, the committee’s then-treasurer, Lydia Percival Meuret, pleaded guilty in federal court to embezzling nearly $120,000 in PAC funds between 1999 and 2003. As for the money that wasn’t embezzled, little found its way to minority Republican candidates. In 2004, a front-page Washington Post story detailed how the American Dream PAC had spent only 9 percent of its $547,000 on minority candidates in the previous two election cycles. The rest had gone to distinctly non-minority Republicans, to DeLay’s legal defense fund, to corporate PACs and to powerful Washington law firms. REAP WHAT YOU SOW Gov. Rick Perry may have carried the state on Election Day, but he got a thumpin’ in the rural, North Texas county where he grew up. In Haskell County, 518 voters backed Perry, while 1,174 did not. \(Democrat Chris Bell won the county with 553 votes. Carole Keeton Strayhorn drew 465, the Kinkster collected 150, and Libertarian candidate It’s the second time Perry has failed to carry his home county in a statewide race. The first was in 1997, when he was running against Democrat John Sharp for the lieutenant governor’s slot. Haskell County voters feel “Pretty Ricky” has lost touch with his rural roots. Farmers and ranchers are particularly incensed about the governor’s complicity in helping disgraced former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay push through the statewide congressional redistricting plan. That plan cost U.S. Rep. Charlie Stenholm, a conservative Democrat and longtime ally of area farmers and ranchers, his seat in 2004. Stenholm’s 25 years of seniority would have come in handy now that Democrats have retaken the U.S. House. The unusually crowded gubernatorial field afforded Perry another term, but he doesn’t yet seem to have come to terms with the nation’s tilt toward the center, or the fact that more Texans voted against him than for him. At a recent Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in Austin, Perry sounded the same old culture-war themes. “One of the great myths of our time is that we can’t legislate morality,” he said. “If you can’t legislate morality, you can’t allow prayer in school nor prohibit it. If you can’t legislate morality, you can neither recognize gay marriage nor prohibit it. It’s a ridiculous notion to say you can’t legislate morality. I say you can’t not legislate morality.” Those lines, echoing previous Perry speeches, drew the wellheeled Baptists to their feet. Though some religious conservatives are urging a retreat from the public square, Perry warned that such a strategy would be a mistake. “The greatest threat is the danger of indifference,” he said. “We must speak the truth, and we must act decisively in the public square.” TXU GETS PUNK’D It isn’t every day that a Republican state senator publicly beats up on a top-tier CEO and friend of the governor. But such was the case on November 9, when Sen. Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay put TXU Corp. boss John Wilder on trial. Fraser wanted to know why electricity deregulation is pushing utility profits up but not bringing customer rates down. The scene was a rare joint hearing of the House Regulated Industries Committee and the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, a meeting packed to the gills with lobbyists and industry types. That morning Wilder had shared some pretty good third-quarter news with analysts on a conference call: 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 1, 2006