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though Berlanga served as a Democrat. And like Hunter, he went straight into the lobby after leaving public office. Cozy. Forrest Wilder Dollars for Decisions HOW MUCH FOR THAT HEARING IN THE WINDOW? Texas is not like other states. In many other statesand nationallySupreme Court justices are appointed to serve until they resign, are impeached, or keel over from sheer decrepitude. In Texas, potential Supreme Court justices are elected, meaning they have to run campaignsoften highly partisan campaignsto reach the bench. The campaigns tend to be expensive; the three incumbent Republican justices raised a combined $1.585 million for their current runs. Where does the money come from? A recent report by the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice revealed that, on average, 65 percent of donations to the re-election campaigns of the three Republican justices came from “courtroom contributors” with cases recently tried before the court. \(Researchers “ignored contributions linked to cases in TPJ found that 40 percent of the total cases tried involved one or more campaign contributors. “There is just something viscerally wrong with the idea of justices taking money from the people who are trying cases before them:’ said Andrew Wheat, TPJ research director. Texas Supreme Court voting records are not public informationand the court has exempted itself from open-records requestsso Wheat emphasized that it isn’t possible to say whether contributions bought any kind of quid pro quo. But in a 2001 report titled “Pay to Play,” TPJ found that the more money appellants had given the court, the higher their odds were of having their cases heard. While the court accepted an average of 11 percent of all the appeals it received, “it accepted a remarkable 56 percent of the appeals filed by its top contributors, who gave the justices at least $250,000:’ the report said. The “Pay to Play” report said justices were four times more likely to accept an appeal filed by a campaign contributor than one filed by a noncontributor, and 10 times more likely to accept petitions filed by contributors of more than $250,000 than petitions filed by noncontributory. “Most people you talk to seem resigned to the fact that the legislative and executive branches are, to some extent, on the take,” Wheat said. “But tell them that Supreme Court justices are, and they’re shocked. “In other states:’ he added, “they call that a bribe” Saul Elbein Hold the Evolution VIRTUAL ACADEMY MAKES SCIENCE OPTIONAL Lisa Crabtreea Dallas mother of 10, with number 11 on the waywon’t send her kids to public school, in part because she can’t stomach the thought of their learning about evolution. Home schooling her brood, however, has become increasingly expensive and complex. So this year, Crabtree enrolled her school-age children in the Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest, an online charter school funded by taxpayers. The school provides Crabtree and other parents with a free computer, an outof-the-box curriculum, online support andbest of allthe option of skipping lessons on evolution. “Since I am a committed Christian, I do not believe in evolution and really don’t want my children taught this false doctrine Crabtree wrote in an e-mail to the Observer. “If my kids were in a regular brick-and-mortar public school system, they would be getting a full dose of evolution, with no one there to tell them that what they are hearing is a lie from hell:’ The virtual academy seems to have attracted other families eager to dodge Darwin. Of the six academy parents the Observer could reach, three said they either skipped the lessons on evolution or presented them to their children as falsehoods. Staci Salazar described her family as “evangelical Christian.” She wrote: “[W]e are comfortable with them learning about what the other theories are simply because they have been rooted in the truth and knowledge will become their weapon in defense of creation.” Dan Quinn, spokesman for the liberal watchdog Texas YOU DON’T SAY: . “If my kids were in a regular brick-and-mortar public school system, they would be getting a full dose of evolution with no one there to tell them that what they are hearing is a lie from hell.” Lisa Crabtree, mother of a student at the Texas Virtual Academy at Southwest. 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 31, 2008