Skip to main content

Big Numbers, Little Numbers

George W. Bush, who for fundraising purposes can be referred to as Godzilla, ended June with contributions of $37 million for the first half of the year, about $700,000 more than his campaign had estimated a couple of weeks ago. That means, among other things, that he'll give up federal matching funds and with them, the limits on how much he can spend during the primaries.

George W. Bush, who for fundraising purposes can be referred to as Godzilla, ended June with contributions of $37 million for the first half of the year, about $700,000 more than his campaign had estimated a couple of weeks ago. That means, among other things, that he'll give up federal matching funds and with them, the limits on how much he can spend during the primaries.

The smaller lizards in the jungle raised less, but they're not up for election at the moment, and they were also crippled by law. State officeholders in Texas can't raise money for their state campaigns during legislative sessions. Bush was able to raise presidential money because that's a federal race.

Everybody else in state office is reporting six months of spending and only one month of fundraising. That said, Lt. Gov. Rick Perry raised $306,000 during the first half of the year while spending $765,000. Attorney General John Cornyn brought in $88,000 while spending $153,000. Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander can now brag that she's out of the hole. She raised $473,722, spent $226,507, and retired the last of her campaign debts. Land Commissioner David Dewhurst raised $100 -- that's not a typo -- and spent $287,000.

Two members of the Texas Railroad Commission -- Charles Matthews and Michael Williams -- will be on the ballot in March. The third commissioner, Tony Garza, won't be. Even so, Garza says he raised over $200,000 during the period (which includes some early payments for a fundraiser he held in early July, after the reporting period. Matthews pulled in $209,000 and spent $81,000, while Williams, in his first fundraising foray as a state official, raised $239,000 and spent $26,000. Matthews is running for a full six-year term, while Williams, a Bush appointee, will run in 2000 for a term that expires in the year 2002. (He replaced Rylander at RRC.)

Learning From the Previous Generation

Bush's campaign aides say the committee spent about $7 million, and got to mid-year with $30 million in the bank. They received money from more than 74,000 people, and you can see names and amounts on the Internet, either at Bush's site ( or at the Federal Election Commission (

In announcing the decision to leave the matching funds on the table, Bush launched something of a pre-attack on Vice President Al Gore. Skipping over the Republicans he faces himself, and over Gore's current opponent and former Senate colleague, Bill Bradley, Bush said he might need money between next year's primary and the summer political conventions, when "I may be facing a Democratic candidate who may attempt to travel around the country handing out expensive promises at government expense." The main reason, however, is that he can avoid spending limits if he turns down the money, and he's shown no weakness in raising all the money he needs.

Both reasons are informed by a recent example. In 1996, Bob Dole was strapped for cash and accused Bill Clinton of handing out goodies during that political dead time after the primaries, dominating TV at a time when Dole couldn't affords ads. Dole was broke, in part, because he spent all his money during the primaries and couldn't spend more without going over the limit imposed as a condition of taking matching funds.

Bush also said he'd like some campaign finance reforms and listed three: instant disclosure, higher limits on individual contributions, and a ban on corporate or union giving that's not approved by members or shareholders.

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

A reader points out that even if George W. Bush got a record percentage of Hispanic votes in the last gubernatorial elections, it didn't amount to all that many votes, relatively speaking. For the sake of argument, stick with the numbers from the William C. Velasquez Institute, which noted November's total turnout of 3.74 million voters (down 657,000-plus from 1994), and concluded, on the basis of polling, that Hispanics made up 12.7 percent of those voters. A total of 473,000 Hispanics voted last year, by the Institute's estimate. If Bush got 39.1 percent of the Hispanic vote, that means he got about 185,000 votes. How many registered voters have Latino surnames? About 1.77 million, according to the Institute. If you compare Bush votes to total Latino voters, including those who didn't vote, Bush got about 10.4 percent of the possible Latino vote.

That's not so much a shot at his support among Hispanics so much as a measure of how many people don't vote. Do the same analysis to all voters: Bush got 2.55 million votes from a pool of 11.54 million registered voters. That's about 22 percent of all Texans who were registered to vote.

The numbers are rough -- for one thing, the rolls weren't purged of duplicate voter names and so the total number registered is high, both for all voters and for those with Latino surnames. But you can say at the end of it that, turnout was lousy, and that Bush's support among Hispanic voters in Texas, though historically strong for an Anglo Republican, was, at just over 11 percent, only about half as strong as his support from Texans as a whole, at 22 percent.

One other addendum to last week's item: We noted that Bush got 39.1 percent of the Hispanic vote and that his Republican counterpart in California, Dan Lungren, got only 14.4 percent of the Hispanic vote in his losing campaign against Democrat Gray Davis. Now that Bush is in a national race, there's another calculation to make. Bush, as noted above, got 185,000 votes from Texas Hispanics, according to the Velasquez Institute. Lungren, though his percentage was puny in comparison, got 167,000 votes from California Hispanics.

That's partly because California's gubernatorial race drew a much better turnout, but it's partly because California has more voters and more Hispanic voters, too. If Bush can draw two-fifths of that state's Hispanics and get a decent turnout, there are a lot of votes to be had.

Nature Friendly -- Not Nature-Proof

The Robert Johnson building going up across the street and to the North of the Capitol is finally being sealed off from the weather. But some of the walls on the inside of the new office building are being replaced, because the leaks from outside the building ruined the wallboards.

Even with that problem, the folks at the General Services Commission hope they can move state employees into the building by April 2000. If they make that date -- it's not a certainty -- they'll be more than 15 months late. The original plan was to have the new offices ready in time for the legislative session that began last January.

When we last wrote about it, the contractor and the state were still arguing over how to fix the building. Apparently, the contractor won that round, and they are now sealing the exterior skin of the building against the elements. The original plans for the building called for a membrane between the inner and outer walls. That didn't get installed for reasons that vary with who's recounting the story. As a result, the building leaks.

The renovation of the John Reagan building, which is catty-corner to the Johnson, was supposed to be well underway by now. But that project can't start until the people now in the building have moved into their new offices, in the Johnson building. GSC doesn't have a start date set for that renovation; they're just waiting to see when the first project is complete. The delays at the new building apparently won't affect the state museum down the street, named for former Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.

Another Year of Relative Obscurity

Politicos who'd like to keep their campaign finance records as quiet as possible have about a year left: Texans probably won't see the first of the newly required electronic campaign finance filings until next July, mainly because of the time it takes to get a system up and running.

The new law, which requires almost all state campaigns to file their contribution and expenditure reports electronically, takes effect in September. The Texas Ethics Commission is asking for public comment about how that should all work. Early in September, the commission will hold public hearings. They'll put the new system out for bid after that, then wait for the winning vendor to customize its software for Texas.

Once that's done, the software will be made available to campaigns, and for the most part, they'll be forced to use it. There's a "Flintstones Loophole" that allows campaigns to opt out of electronic filing if they'll sign affidavits swearing they don't use computers to keep track of contributions, donors or expenditures. And there's an out for campaigns that are so small (under $20,000 a year in expenses or contributions) that they don't need or don't use computers.

For most other state campaigns, the days of reporting to the state on paper are about to end. So is the relative unavailability of the reports themselves; when this is up and running, reports will be posted quickly on the Internet, where voters and reporters and opponents can see them.

The agency that watches all of this says it will probably be April, at the earliest, before they'll have software to give to the campaigns. Results will come three months later: The first reports filed electronically will probably be those that are due on July 15, 2000.

That means, among other things, that the primaries and the primary runoffs next year will be reported the old way, and that next year's general election filings will be a combination of electronic and paper filings. The first political cycle that will have electronic filing from start to finish will be the one leading up to the 2002 elections.

Who's Behind that Curtain?

For every newspaper that Texas has lost in the last eight years, a zillion Internet sites have popped up to offer news, sometimes brought to you by journalists and sometimes not. Add a new one for political junkies that is apparently brought to you by... well, that's not entirely clear.

Capitol Spotlight, found at, offers a rundown of the day's political, and some government, news from Texas papers and other sources. It's essentially an online clipping service, offering a list of links without purporting to generate news of its own. One exception is that it has a "whispers" section that reports some rumors and political gossip.

When we wrote in to see who was behind it, we got a note back from Pat Jones, who describes himself as a non-political "techie" whose boss doesn't want to associate with the site because it's political in nature. He said he was surprised at the response he got when he sent notice of the free site to a long list of Capitol staffers and lobbyists and political activists.

"I can't tell you the name of my employer since he is concerned the Capitol Spotlight is political and may offend someone," he wrote. "My employer does not own or control the Capitol Spotlight."

Fair enough.

But we scratched the paint a little to see who the boss might be, and the tale gets even weirder. The ownership of the Internet site traces back to Milton Rister, a longtime Republican consultant based in Georgetown. That's partly based on the fact that Rister used to pay the bills on the phone number listed in the Internet registration. He no longer has that number, but it is forwarded to his current number. Still, Rister says the whole thing is a mystery to him and says it's not his site.

There is not a particular bias to the Capitol Spotlight, though it refers to the "Texas Democrat Party", dropping the "ic" on the end of Democrat, as the Republican Party does in its press releases and other correspondence. Jones says the apparent conservative tilt is just a sign of the times, with a Republican governor running for president and all the statewide offices held by the GOP.

Numbers: Populations

Houston's still the biggest city in the state, but behind Houston there have been some changes in the batting order, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's estimates of 1998 population.

Dallas, which started the decade in the number two position, is behind San Antonio. All three are among the nation's ten largest cities. El Paso jumped to the number four spot, ahead of Austin and Fort Worth. The numbers from the Census are for populations inside the cities, and not for metro areas. Five of the state's ten biggest cities, for instance, are in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. Likewise, two small Texas cities, Frisco and Cedar Park, made the list of the five fastest-growing small towns in America. But neither is a standalone. Frisco has been swallowed by the DFW Metro, and Cedar Park is part of the Austin Metro's boom.

Eleven of the 100 largest cities in the U.S. are in Texas, according to the census.

Twenty-three of the state's cities now have more than 100,000 residents, compared with twenty in 1990. Those cities together have 8.4 million people in them, or 945,000 more than they had eight years earlier. That's a growth rate of just over 22 percent.

Numbers: High Tech

Austin's high horse is a little too tall, according to a study of high technology industry by a California firm. The Miliken Institute says, not surprisingly, that San Jose and the Silicon Valley hold the biggest concentration of high tech industry. The second slot nationally went to Dallas, long a center of defense electronics and telephone switching equipment and such.

Austin, which has touted itself successfully as a successor, or at least a younger sibling, to San Jose, ranked 21st in the firm's study. Austin did better when the cities were ranked by their growth rates as high-tech economies, coming in tenth nationally on a list topped by Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Numbers: Student Loan Defaults

Back when the banks and the savings and loans were in deep trouble in the 1980s, this was called forbearance: The U.S. Department of Education is ready to give more than a dozen black colleges in Texas and elsewhere another three years to fix their high loan default rates.

Texas has nine historically black colleges. Seven of them have student loan default rates of over 25 percent. If they don't improve the numbers by 2002, the federal government could cut off funding for future loans. SallieMae, which handles the loans, says the default rates are high, in part, because the schools have higher-than-average numbers of low-income students.

On the list from Texas: Texas Southern University in Houston, Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Wiley College in Marshall, Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas College in Tyler, and Southwestern Christian College in Tyler.

TSU, a state school with 7,300 students, is by far the largest of the group, and is also the largest of the 14 black colleges across the country with high default rates.

Numbers: Public Schools and the Baby Boomlet

The baby boom's biggest year in elementary and high schools was in 1970, when enrollment peaked at 49 million. That's being challenged by the children of those boomers, according to the Census Bureau, which says elementary and secondary enrollment in 1997 hit 48 million.

The numbers are expected to remain large for several years -- an interesting thing to know if you're planning school construction or fiddling with long-term school finance formulas.

And the students are more diverse now than then. In 1970, 85 percent of those students were white, 14 percent were black. In 1997, that had changed to 78 percent white and 17 percent black. Hispanics of all races rose to 14 percent from 6 percent.

Even without that boomlet, enrollments in higher education, at 9.4 million students under age 25, are now at record levels. There's a bubble on the other end as well: 4.5 million kids are in public and private nursery schools, compared with 500,000 in 1964.

Basketball and other Ballot Measures

Now that the San Antonio Spurs are alive, so is the idea of a new basketball arena for their home. The last time this was considered, the polling information came up craps: Voters didn't want a new arena no matter how the issue was presented to them.

But the success of the team, and the income/expense ratio of a high-priced team in a relatively low revenue arena, has inspired the owners and their consultants -- Austin-based Public Strategies Inc. -- to poke around and see if there's a chance voters have changed their minds. That effort was underway before the Spurs beat the New York Knicks for the national championship, but picked up steam, and some political support, when the trophy came home.

That said, the idea of a basketball-only venue financed in whole or in part with public dollars is still going to be a hard sell. San Antonio voters see the last such development every time they drive by the Alamodome, a stadium built to attract a National Football League franchise that never came to the dance. And these are the same voters that have turned back several attempts to build a long-term water supply, partly on the argument that such a venture might involve tax money. Overlay the normal amount of San Antonio politics (the county wants one location, the city another), and you have the makings of something interesting possibly landing on the November ballot.

• Houston might get a little action on the November ballot, too, with voters being asked to vote again on whether race, gender and ethnicity should be a factor in the awarding of city contracts and jobs. A group called the Houston Civil Rights Initiative proposed an initiative worded one way, but that was changed by the city before the election, so voters saw a different wording. The petitions asked voters whether the city should be banned from discriminating on the basis of race, sex or ethnicity. The city's version flipped that around, asking voters if they wanted to end the use of affirmative action. Voters, who got the city version, turned the measure down.

But Edward Blum, who led the effort in the first place, sued. That went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, and a Houston judge now says she'll order a new election. The city plans an appeal, so November is a long shot. But it's still possible.

Random Political Notes

Add Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp, R-Lampasas, to your racing sheet for the CD 11 seat now held by U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco. She's not definitely in it yet, but she's looking closely. Democrats think Edwards is safe for two years -- at least until after the next round of redistricting in 2001. But Republicans are looking at that and other seats on the theory that marginally Democratic districts could swing to the GOP if the Republicans run strong candidates and if the top of the ticket is occupied by Gov. Bush, followed by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, followed by a Republican House candidate. The theory goes that a Republican with support of just under half the voters in a normal year might make it over the top if Bush and Hutchison pull lots of Texans to the polls.

• You've seen the national news coverage of Republican presidential candidates grousing about what they call the Republican Establishment, and about George W. Bush's domination of the financial primaries for president. That looks like sour grapes. But don't discount this as a problem only at the top: It's got the conservative tom-toms beating, and the political pros in the party are watching carefully. The email and fax networks are humming with daily news about Bush and other candidates who, for example, haven't signed off on every line of the GOP platform. A recent missive from the Eagle Forum characterizes that as a disavowal, and blasts Bush for signing onto "Clinton's Education Agenda." Similar efforts from other groups are feeding the GOP's fears of a third party.

• Attorney General John Cornyn's Ten Most Wanted list of child support evaders seems to be working, at least as a means to publicize the problems with child support in Texas. But that's not a new idea. His predecessor, Dan Morales, put a similar list of offenders on the Internet, but didn't give it the same publicity push. Other states have similar sites.

Political People and Their Moves

David Beckwith, former press secretary to Vice President Dan Quayle and to U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, got poured out at the George W. Bush presidential campaign after less than three months on the job and right after he moved his family to Austin. Insiders say Beckwith and longtime press aide Karen Hughes got competitive and that the governor sided with Hughes... The empty chairs at the Texas Democratic Party are filling back up with the hiring of Sherry Boyles. Boyles will take over as executive director. She most recently worked on the Capitol staff of Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, but she worked for the party before as field director before she left to manage the Railroad Commission campaign of Democrat Richard Raymond in 1998. Boyles is interviewing communications people, and says the empty finance position might not be filled right away... Longview lawyer T. John Ward gets the nod from the U.S. Senate, becoming a federal judge for the Eastern District of Texas. He'll take over the seat left empty by William Wayne Justice, operating out of Tyler... Two Republican consultants -- Todd Smith and Associates, and Milton Rister -- say they'll hook up through an "exclusive strategic alliance" for the next cycle. The two met on Clayton Williams' gubernatorial campaign in 1990... We have a feeling this isn't over, but Ruth Burgos Sasscer, who resigned as chancellor of the Houston Community College System, rescinded that resignation... Police blotter: Tammy Dewhurst, wife of Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, pleaded not guilty to driving while intoxicated after her car crossed into oncoming traffic and collided with another car. No one was seriously hurt, and Dewhurst has hired Austin lawyer Roy Minton to defend her... They won't say much because there's a pending tax case behind it and no criminal charges have been filed, but Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander found two cans of peaches and $900 in cash on her front porch, along with a note apparently asking for help with a tax matter in her agency... Brazos County's district attorney wants another shot at former Texas A&M regent Ross Margraves Jr. of Houston; Bill Turner has appealed a decision throwing out Margraves' conviction on official misconduct charges.

Quotes of the Week

Austin lawyer Kent Hance, a former congressman and Texas Railroad Commissioner, making a point about oil demand by citing studies that show the Chinese would choose a car over a computer: "Michael Dell might not like their answer, but they're tired of walking."

Illinois detective and former cop Ernie Rizzo, on doing political opposition research: "Politicians are the easiest people in the world to set up. They're all whores. You stay with them for a week and you'll catch them doing something -- women or money or something. Forget about the millions spent in political campaigns. You don't need that. Everybody got to the top by stepping over somebody. Find the weakest link and attack it."

Former Christian Coalition honcho Ralph Reed Jr., who's now a political consultant, on the success of the religious right in national politics: "People are developing a sense of frustration, even despair, that 20 or 25 years of political engagement has not really reversed some of the things we most wanted to put to an end, like abortion on demand."

Monte Shaw of Iowa, chairman of Elizabeth Dole's campaign there, on news that George W. Bush was paying $43,500 to rent a 60,000-square-foot space next to the building where the August 14 Iowa straw poll will be held: "That's a lot of money for renting a piece of grass for a couple of hours."

U.S. Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Stamford, on the projected federal budget surplus: "Anyone who plans on spending these 'guesses,' either on tax cuts or spending programs, has no right to call himself a conservative or responsible."

Brian Wice, a Houston attorney, on accused killer Angel Maturino Resendez getting sent to Houston for his trial: "He stumbled into a jurisdiction that is to capital murder cases what the New York Yankees are to Major League Baseball."

Rear Adm. J. Michael Johnson, bemoaning Puerto Rico's decision to kick the Navy off an island the service had been using for target practice: "We're bombing the ocean. You can't miss."

Texas Weekly: Volume 16, Issue 3, 19 July 1999. Copyright 1999 by Printing Production Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher is prohibited.

Texans need truth. Help us report it.

Yes, I'll donate today

Explore related story topics