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specialistand if there’s one thing Kinky knows how to do, it’s marketing. Along the same lines, the Texas Structural Pest Control Board \(yes, the infamous Another position that might suit Kinky: The Board of Nurse Examiners is hiring an, ahem, investigator. The more we thought about it, though, the more we began to question the Kinkster’s claim. So we dialed up the governor’s office. “They had a good conversation the week after the election,” Perry spokesperson Ted Royer said. “Very friendly. Very gracious. I think Kinky offered his help, and the governor appreciated it. I don’t think that there’s any [job] offer.” So, will there be a state appointment in a Perry administration in Kinky’s future? Answered Royer, “No.” MONEY LIMITS Money can’t buy you love. But in Texas, for the longest time, it could buy you political office. In recent years, a handful of special interests have set policy for the state by following a simple recipe for victory. Dip into nearly unlimited treasuries and spend lavishly, bombarding voters with a flurry of mailers and television ads touting your candidate and drowning out less flush opponents. Legislators thus elected usually repay the contributor’s largesse with appropriate votes. Two of the biggest special interests responsible for stacking the Texas Statehouse with their allies are Bob Perry and the political action committee Texans for Lawsuit Reform. While each contribute to both parties, in contested races they mostly favor Republicans. In the 2006 cycle, Perry gave $6.7 million to state PACs and candidates, according to a recent report by campaign watchdog Texans for Public Justice. In addition, the Houston homebuilder contributed $4.1 million to 146 candidates, with $2,434,000 of that going to individual House and Senate candidates. \(Perry was also the No. 1 federal donor in the nation, giving $9.3 million, mostly to shadowy political action commit$3.8 million to Texas candidates in the 2006 cycle, 95 percent of which went to legislative races. This year, though, something remarkable occurred: The money didn’t make the difference. A national mood of revulsion toward Republican politics-asusual neutralized the GOP’s big spending, even in Texas. Only two of Perry’s top 14 Republican state legislative candidates won, and 71 percent of the money spent by TLR went to candidates who failed to win, according to TPJ. And something even more significant happened: In some races, the origins of the money used to finance candidates became an issue. One noteworthy example was the contested race to fill outgoing Austin Republican state Rep. Terry Keel’s seat. Democrat Valinda Bolton faced Republican Bill Welch. It was not a battle of equals, and the amounts amassed were more in line with a congressional race than a mere state rep contest. By Election Day, Welch had raised almost $700,000. TLR alone gave Welch $434,487, and Perry chipped in another $65,000. Bolton amassed a little more than $225,000. Welch’s candidacy was hurt when, during a public forum, someone asked him to name his top three donors. He failed to mention Perry or TLR, and after that his contributors increasingly became an important issue in the campaign. Welch lost. TOXIC STREETS OF LAREDO State and federal regulators are supposed to be protecting Laredo from the toxic legacy of the Anzon-Cookson smelter. Instead, Laredoans are finding the company’s poison underfootliterally. The Anzon smelter processed antimony, a toxin used in flame-retardant products. Anzon took over operation of the smelter in the late 1970s. In 1995, the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission \(now the Texas Commission fined Anzon $3,000 for contaminating groundwater with antimony and required the company to submit a “closure plan” that would address “all identified contaminated media including groundwater,’ surface water and surface soils.” Four years later, the facility officially shut down, but today, Laredo activists say, Anzon, renamed Al Divestitures Inc., has done little to clean up its mess. “The cleanup process is not taking place at all,” said George Altgelt, general counsel for the nonprofit Rio Grande International Study Center. The retired smelter site contains sixstory-high piles of contaminated soil as well as polluted containment ponds that overflow into the adjacent Manadas Creek, according to Altgelt. Manadas drains into a segment of the Rio Grande a few miles upstream from the city’s only water intake. Recent water quality sampling of the creek has shown elevated levels of antimony, according to Thomas Vaughan, a biology professor at Texas A&M International University in Laredo. With TCEQ’s blessing, Anzon was allowed to repackage the hazardous antimony slag into a commercial product. The company was responsible for testing the soil to make sure it met government standards, according to Gerry Pinzon, former regional director of TCEQ in Laredo. “There’s no follow-up, there’s no one verifying that the soil actually even came from the site,” said Pinzon. The slag, used as a road base, has ended up at the city airport, on the streets of colonias, at elementary schools, even on a cityowned hike-and-bike trail. When the residents of Los Arcos Colonia, whose roads had recently been covered with the slag, began complaining of rashes and respiratory problems, the TCEQ opened an investigation. In June 2005, the TCEQ determined the antimony at the site exceeded state standards for solid waste, according to Kathleen Decker, an attorney with the agency. The Texas attorney general is suing Al Divestitures on behalf of the TCEQ to recover the $56,000 the agency spent removing the material at Los Arcos; the company is currently restricted from selling any more slag. But Laredo activists are far from satisfied. Altgelt points out that there are 42 other identified sites where the soil is still in use and that contamination at and around the 20-acre smelter site has barely been addressed. DECEMBER 15, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5