the 3arbaraJ r dan National Forum on public policy A cttuderd tr,42 , S. J-015Csil Schoc of F’utp,, ,,,c, Anajis Barbara Jordan 1936-1996 Harold Ford, Jr. February 21, 2008 The University of Texas at Austin out a short list of moderate Republicans “just to name seven of the more offensive” The alleged fiscal reprobates were Reps. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, Tony Goolsby of Dallas, Pat Haggerty of El Paso, Susan King of Abilene, Delwin Jones of Lubbock, Tommy Merritt of Longview, and Todd Smith of Euless. Empower’s CEO slammed these “more offensive” membersat least five of whom were off Craddick’s reservation for such fiscal offenses as voting to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program and backing tuition discounts at public universities for those who graduate in the top 10 percent of their classes. When Sullivan took his Empower road show into Merritt’s East Texas district last summer, the Houston Chronicle asked about his propensity for attacking House members who are agnosticor antagonisticwith respect to the speaker. “I personally like Mr. Craddick a lot. I think he is a good, decent guy:’ Sullivan said. “But my organization isn’t interested in internal House politics.” As noted, Dunn recruited Sullivan from Leininger’s Texas Public Policy Foundation, where Dunn is vice chair of the board. Other key members of the board include chair Wendy Gramm, wife of Phil Gramm, and treasurer Ernest Angelo Jr. A longtime hunting buddy of Karl Rove, this Midland oilman’s resume includes stints as mayor of Midland and as a member of the Republican National Committee. Angelo now chairs the Texas Department of Public Safety, which is defying orders from a state district judge and the attorney general to grant this magazine’s request for Capitol security video. \(The Observer requested the video to check out rumors that Leininger hovered outside the House chamber on the day in 2005 when Craddick put this big donor’s pet school-voucher bill to a In late 2007, the Quorum Report was the first to report that Angelo had christened a new political committee called the Bipartisan Leadership PAC. This PAC name would not be noteworthy but for the many years that its treasurer has spent rallying the Grand Old Party. It will be interesting to see if this PAC’s bipartisanship extends beyond the likes of the so-called Craddick D’s. Last summer, Ryan Gravatt of Dunn’s Patriot Group founded the Big Red Tent Texas PAC, which also may be worth watching if it activates this year. Leininger himself is best known in recent years for singlehandedly bankrolling a massive 2006 primary attack against moderate Republican incumbents in the House. The main vehicle for this assault was the Texas Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, whose treasurer is Midland accountant David J. Porter. TRLCC burned through $2.3 million of Leininger money in the first half of 2006, paying $1.8 million of it to Austinbased Anthem Mediaa consulting firm founded by former Midland County Judge Jeff Norwood. Norwood poured much of this money into ads attacking five moderate House Republicans who opposed Leininger’s voucher legislation. The most expensive of these gambits targeted Rep. Merritt of Longview, who continues to take shrapnel from Empower Texans. With Norwood’s expertise and $519,030 of Leininger’s money, primary challenger Mark Williams waged a harsh, but failed, attack that prompted Merritt to file a now-settled defamation lawsuit. Trying to cover his huge legal bills, Williams sued Norwood last summer. That lawsuit alleges that Norwood helped Porter create TRLCC and recruited Williams to run a prepaid campaign against Merritt. While Leininger lived up to this part of the alleged bargain, Williams claims that Norwood falsely promised that the Leininger machine would pay Williams’ legal bills. Those bills have surpassed $667,903, Williams told the Houston Chronicle. A year from now, 150 newly elected House members will vote to replace or retain Speaker Craddick. The outcome of that internal election could hinge on who wins a relatively small number of closely contested House races this year. Craddick urgently wants to shape the outcome of those matches, but is legally barred from doing so. A peek behind the scenes suggests that a significant chunk of this dicey political work could fall to some of Craddick’s fellow Midlanders. Those tracking Texas’ biggest pending political bout would be wise to keep an eye on the political activities surrounding the likes of Tim Dunn, Ernest Angelo, David Porter, and Jeff Norwood. Midlanders understand better than most of us that what lies beneath the surface can make or break fortunespolitical and otherwise. Andrew Wheat is research director for Texans for Public Justice. MIK N10411001 AVOW MerSCEIMIII IRONS 01161.111150090P WWII= Attend the 12th annual Barbara Jordan National Forum on Public Policy. This free, two-day event offers the public an opportunity to meet political leaders, discuss civil rights in panel sessions and lis ten to an inspiring keynote from one of the nation’s most prominent young politicians, Harold Ford, Jr. REGISTER AT WWW bj nf. o rg TODAY JANUARY 25, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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