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A Boiling Pot, Full of Lobsters

Former legislators who were lobbying for various businesses last session will be working in or advising top management in the Pink Building during the next legislative session. That happens to some extent every time there's a regime change or a big staff turnover, but the combination of those types of changes has the doors spinning at the state Capitol.

Former legislators who were lobbying for various businesses last session will be working in or advising top management in the Pink Building during the next legislative session. That happens to some extent every time there's a regime change or a big staff turnover, but the combination of those types of changes has the doors spinning at the state Capitol.

The clients of the lobbyists who are advising or moving into top staff positions are in the middle of many of the coming session's major issues. They include insurance and drug companies worried about state regulation in response to higher costs, businesses seeking significant changes to the state's tort laws, utilities trying to stay alive amidst deregulation and market confusion, businesses worried that the state's budget problems will prompt lawmakers to raise taxes on corporations or on cigarettes or on business activity. Those clients have interests in almost every kind of business legislation or regulation or battle on the current legislative map.

The lobbyists advising from the outside have the easiest go of it: They've got access to top government officials and that's what their clients want. The officeholders have to keep an eye on them, cautious of signs that the relationships are too incestuous.

As for the lobbyists making the move back into state government, they'll be in top jobs where it's difficult or impossible to avoid dealing with the same issues from the inside that they've been trying to influence from the outside. They have the built-in problem of having to avoid conflicts of interest, or even the appearance of conflicts, while trying to be effective aides to the state's top officials.

The lobsters in the pot are also long-time friends of the officials they're trying to help.

• Gov. Rick Perry is on the verge of hiring two former House members who've become successful advocates for business interests seeking legislative help. Cliff Johnson, mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, is poised to become a senior advisor who'll help with legislative work and trouble-shooting, and Mike Toomey, who was chief of staff to former Gov. Bill Clements, is giving up a lucrative practice in the lobby, at least temporarily, for a return engagement as Perry's chief.

The chief of staff position opened a week after the election, when Dr. Mike McKinney, a former state representative who took the job 14 months ago, announced he is resigning to move on to a new, unspecified job. McKinney will stick around until his successor is on board.

• House Speaker-presumptive Tom Craddick, R-Midland, (who has the signatures of more than two-thirds of the House members to succeed Pete Laney, D-Hale Center), named a transition team of Bill Ceverha, Bill Messer and Bill Miller. Ceverha and Messer are former House members who served with Craddick. Messer's a lobster. Ceverha is deeply involved in Republican politics and has been helping Craddick finance the Republican takeover of the House for several years. Miller is a public relations guru and business partner in Hillco with Neal "Buddy" Jones, another of the capital's top lobsters. He's been helping Craddick with the publicity end as well as with strategy.

Craddick is looking for a chief of staff, but rumors that Texas Association of Business honcho Bill Hammond would get that job appear off-base. Hammond says there was never serious talk about it.

• Lt. Gov.-elect David Dewhurst's lobby list is shorter, but like the lists of Craddick and Perry, includes a lobbyist who is also a friend. Former Rep. Bruce Gibson, now a lobbyist/executive with Reliant Energy in Houston, is the leading candidate to become Dewhurst's chief of staff. Gibson served as one of several chiefs of staff to former Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.

Friends in High Places

The list of companies and individuals on those lobbyists' disclosure filings with the state are extensive—these are some of the state's most sought after legislative consultants. The rundown, according to the Texas Ethics Commission's website:

Cliff Johnson represents Barbour Griffith & Rogers Inc., Camino Columbia Inc., City of Austin, City of Houston, City of Temple, David Dunning, GTECH Corp., John Lewis, David Palmer, Public Utilities Board of Brownsville, Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., Stevedoring Services of America, TXU, Texas Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, Upper Neches River Municipal Authority, Waste Management Inc.

Mike Toomey represents ACS Corp., AT&T, Abbott Laboratories, Aetna ING Financial Services, American Forest & Paper Association, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Cigna, Eastman Chemical Co., Green Mountain.com, Harris County, Image API, KPMG Consulting, Liberty Mutual, Lower Colorado River Authority, McGraw/Hill Companies, Merck & Co., Phillip Morris Management Corp. (on behalf of Phillip Morris USA, Kraft Foods and Miller Brewing), Rohm & Haas Texas Inc., Southern Union Gas Co., Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Texas Bowling Centers Association, Texas Hotel & Motel Association, Texas Optometric Association, Texas School Alliance, The Brown Schools, Trinity Mother Frances Health System, Trinity Springs Ltd., and USA Managed Care Organization.

• Bill Messer, who is merging his lobby practice with Toomey's (an announcement that preceded the announcement of McKinney's resignation by only a few hours) has a client list that includes Aqua Source Inc., Association of Chemical Industry of Texas, Atlantic Richfield Co., Correctional Services Corp., IBM, McDonald's, Millennium Holdings, NL Industries, Schering Sales Corp., Scott & White Health Plan, State Farm Insurance, Structural Metals, Texas Hospital Association, Texas Chemical Council, Texas Greyhound Association, Glidden Co., Sherwin-Williams Co., Union Pacific Railroad and Williams Co. Messer and Toomey announced after the elections that they'll merge their lobby businesses, a move that would allow Toomey to leave his practice to work for the governor without sending most of his clients scurrying for a new lobbyist.

• Bill Miller and Buddy Jones list some clients in common, some separate, but their combined lists include AT&T, Abilene Chamber of Commerce, Aetna US Healthcare, Aluminum Co. of America, American Heart Association, Arlington ISD, Arruth Associated, Association of Electric Companies of Texas, Bass Enterprise Production Co., Bracewell & Patterson LLP, Brazos River Authority, Children's Hospital Association of Texas, Continental Airlines, Cousins Properties Services, Dallas Police & Fire Pension System, Eastman Chemical-Texas, Enterprise Capital Management, Farmers Insurance, Fast Growth School Coalition, Flint Hills Resources, Gallery Furniture, General Motors Corp., Genzyme Corp., Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, H.E. Butt Grocery Co., Harcourt Brace & Co., Holly Corp., IESI Texas Corp., Intel Corp., JPI Partners, Keystone Inc., Koch Industries, Las Colinas Land Limited Partnership, Mariner Post Acute Network Inc., MedCath Inc., Merrick Construction Co., Microsoft Corp., Mirant Americas Development, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, North Texas Cement Co., Perry Homes, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, Reed Elsevier, Rio Nuevo LTD., Rocket Ball Ltd., Secured Environmental Management inc., Snap-on Incorporated, South Padre Island Economic Development Corp., Southwest Housing, Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems, Texas Bankers Association, Texas Stadium Corp./Dallas Cowboys, and Williams Scotsman Inc.

Bruce Gibson is registered as a lobbyist for Reliant Resources Inc. Bill Ceverha isn't registered as a lobbyist. He is an influential GOP insider, but not a big donor: He gave $5 to David Dewhurst's campaign last year.

Don't Toss Those Crayons Just Yet

We can only come up with three reasons for the heavy national Republican political spending in Texas during the last cycle, and one of them doesn't make sense (we really don't think they felt bad about exporting all that political money from the state for so many years). It does make sense to cover the president's back. And if the national politicos get lucky, a redrawing of the congressional map in Texas could flip four to six seats from the Democrats to the GOP.

They got the Texas House and it would be relatively easy to get a Republican-friendly congressional redistricting plan out of that body. There are 88 Republicans there—enough for a majority, even with as many as a dozen scaredy-cats. The Senate, though, remains a tough row to hoe.

Under current rules, the Senate requires a two-thirds vote to bring a bill to the floor. There are 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats in that chamber, meaning the Republicans don't have the majority they need to bring up a bill the Democrats don't like. The Democrats, you might think, won't like a bill that takes the congressional delegation from the current 17 Democrats and 13 Republicans to one that has as many as 19 Republicans.

But Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, has always wanted to go to Congress and he's telling reporters he would be amenable to a redistricting plan that adds another seat in South Texas, especially if it's a seat he could seek. Assuming all of the Senate's 19 Republicans would vote for the plan (that's not as certain a bet as it seems on paper), a vote from Lucio would mean redistricting could get to the Senate floor for a vote in one of two ways: If another Democrat joined him in voting to bring the issue up for debate, or if another Democrat could be persuaded to leave the Senate chamber for a minute, lowering the number of senators needed for a two-thirds vote from 21 to 20.

Throw in some other trade bait during the session to attract interest, and congressional redistricting—which was done by a court last year after the Legislature didn't vote on it—could be back for another round in the Texas Legislature. We haven't heard much conversation about redoing the legislative maps, but if the numbers work for congressional redistricting, they might also work for House and Senate maps. Democrats would like to limit the damage, generally speaking, and Republicans are happy with the House maps, but the GOP wouldn't mind having 21 Senate seats.

Musical Chairs

U.S. Rep. Larry Combest, R-Lubbock, announced less than a week after he was elected to another term (and several weeks before he'll be sworn in for the new term), that he plans to resign next May. Combest cited personal reasons, saying he wants to spend more time with his wife.

That sets off a game of musical chairs that could ricochet through the Legislature. Among the parties who might be involved are Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, and Rep. Carl Isett, also R-Lubbock, and a couple of politicos down in Midland, including City Councilman Jose Cuevos Jr., and former Mayor Bobby Burns, who told local reporters they'd consider the contest. Likewise, Bob Barnes of Odessa told his hometown paper he'll consider running. (This could be the first round in the Midland-Lubbock-Amarillo feud that was talked about a year ago without coming to fruition. Short form: Each town wants to maximize representation. Midland and Amarillo share a Texas Senate seat and Midland and Lubbock share the congressional spot. Right now, Midland and Odessa are represented by a senator and a congressman from the High Plains and the Panhandle.)

Combest is leaving May 31, and Gov. Rick Perry could call a special election anytime he wants to after that date. He's got the option of calling it an emergency, allowing him to pick a date and have someone replace Combest right away. He doesn’t have the power to appoint a replacement.

Duncan didn't return calls asking about his intentions. Isett said he'd leave his options open, but wouldn't run if Duncan did. If Duncan does run, he could open up an election for Senate, either by quitting to run for Congress or by winning the congressional seat and resigning. That second option would require two special election dates instead of one.

Trash Talk

An email skirmish between the governor's office and the Legislative Budget Board turned nasty this week. The governor's budget director accused the LBB of dragging its feet before handing over budget numbers and said the LBB was tinkering with the numbers without input from state agencies, essentially fouling up the data that did finally get into the governor's hands. That note from Wayne Roberts in the governor's budget office included a swipe at John Keel, the LBB's executive director. Roberts said he wanted everything on an included list of information provided by noon on the day he wrote the email "so that if you can't or won't cooperate, other arrangements can be secured to get all items above. On the assumption that you may be late in arriving after the [Veterans' Day] holiday, I am sending this to other LBB senior staff so they can page you to prevent further delay in our work."

Keel responded with this: "It seems to me that you are not capable of producing your own budget. Also you can kiss my ass!" A half-hour later, he sent a terse note to Roberts saying he and/or his staff would be able to meet with the governor's office anytime.

Keel said later that the governor's office is asking for some types of information earlier than it has in the past years, instead of waiting for the LBB to write an appropriations bill that will serve as the starting point for the next Legislature. That bill is usually ready in late December. But in his email, Roberts said the budgeteers in the governor's office "don't care about LBB staff recommendations." The governor's office is putting together its own budget, apparently hoping that someone in the Legislature will submit it in opposition to the Legislature's own starting budget.

Keel said that the testy emails involve a "professional disagreement" between him and Roberts. There is also an institutional clash at work that Keel didn't mention: Texas legislators are historically jealous of their power over the budget and usually get cranky when governors try to get involved.

Moving On...

Texan Tony Garza is the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. After waiting for months to get a U.S. Senate committee hearing and then several weeks for the full Senate's approval, the Texas Railroad Commissioner, former Texas Secretary of State and Cameron County judge is on his way to Mexico City. That will open a slot on the three-member Texas Railroad Commission. More than a dozen people have put their names in the hat for an appointment to the RRC, but Gov. Rick Perry hasn't said who he'll appoint to that statewide position.

• Texas Supreme Court Justice Xavier Rodriguez, defeated by fellow Republican Steven Wayne Smith in this year's GOP primary, has resigned from his spot on the Texas Supreme Court. Smith won the general election and as soon as that vote is certified, he can be sworn in as a new justice. Rodriguez would have had to quit then anyway, and his resignation just speeds up his job search on the outside. There's a chance he could boomerang. Republicans have mentioned him as a possible replacement if any of the current justices quit before their terms are up, if, for instance, President George W. Bush asks the newly amenable Senate to reconsider Priscilla Owen for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

• House Speaker Pete Laney had to fill two open spots on the Legislative Budget Board in time for a meeting later this month, and went to Rep. Tom Craddick's leadership team instead of his own for talent. Laney tapped Reps. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston, and Ken Marchant, R-Carrollton, for spots on the LBB. That board will vote later this month on the spending cap for the next budget. The growth in state spending can't exceed the growth in the state's economy, and the LBB will look at the numbers later this month to pick the growth rate they think will fit best in that equation.

• What had been rumored for months is now official: Rep. Ron Lewis, D-Mauriceville, resigned early. There won't be a special election to fill his seat, but his successor, Republican Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton, has already been elected. Hamilton will start in January and the seat will be open between now and then. Although he's a Democrat, Lewis is close to Gov. Perry and endorsed Hamilton over a Democrat in the election. He says he'll do some lobbying and some consulting on water issues, his legislative specialty.

Look Who Turned Out

The districts for House, Senate and Congress in Texas were redrawn last year during redistricting, which means that they are roughly the same size. At least they were the same size last year. That resizing makes it easier to see where people voted in the November elections, and to give you some hints about who showed up at the polls and who didn't.

The short version was available when the ballots were counted. Republicans won because more of their voters showed up. Duh. But look at some of the numbers inside the box. In CD-21, where U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, was handily reelected, 221,825 people voted. The Democrat in that race was John Courage, who got smoked, winning only 25.3 percent of the vote. Compare that with Houston, where CD-25 had one of the best-financed and most competitive races in the state. Chris Bell, a Democrat, beat Tom Reiser, a Republican, with 55.3 percent of the vote. But only 113,661 people showed up to vote, barely more than half the number that showed up in Smith's cakewalk. And Courage got more votes losing on Election Night than U.S. Rep. Gene Green, another Houston Democrat, got while winning his race. Green didn't get much opposition—he beat Libertarian Paul Hansen—but he's from a heavily Hispanic district and the Democrats were pushing to get voters in places like that to show up and vote for Tony Sanchez and the rest of the ticket.

This is unscientific, but instructive. Smith's congressional district had 161,665 people voting Republican at the top of the ticket, and it's safe to assume they stayed there for a while. In the other two districts combined, the Democrats only pulled in 117,488 voters. Numbers were similarly low in other urban Democratic areas. U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, won reelection in CD-24, but only 112,754 voters showed up. In Dallas' newest congressional district, the solidly Republican CD-32, 147,893 voters showed up and 67.8 percent voted for Republican Pete Sessions.

Flotsam & Jetsam

Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander brags that she got more votes than any other Texas Republican and more than all but one statewide Republican official in the country. She was topped, she says, only by California controller (they spell differently over there) candidate Tom McClintock. McClintock lost that race. Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida and George Pataki of New York came in third and fourth in the Republican vote-grabbing derby.

• For what it's worth, the William C. Velasquez Institute says nearly one million Latinos voted in the general election in Texas and that 87 percent of them voted for Tony Sanchez, 76 percent voted for Ron Kirk and 85 percent voted for John Sharp. Republicans dispute the institute's claims on who got the votes. We've heard less noise about the turnout: If the study is right, then Hispanics made up 21.8 percent of the electorate, and 39.9 of the registered Hispanic voters actually voted.

• We wrote two years ago about a goof in a federal law that forced some candidates to report interest earned in their campaign finance accounts as personal income, a requirement that got attention from officeholders both because of their potential liabilities and because of the hassles of filing the paperwork. Campaigns had to ask for an exemption at a particular time, and those that didn't do so were stuck filing tax returns and, in some cases, being forced to pay taxes on what had previously been tax-free income. Congressional promises to fix the problem fell flat for months, but the law has been changed and politicians are off the hook. Best of all, the fix to the law makes the changes retroactive so that candidates who have been sitting on their hands won't be penalized. We are not advised about what happens to taxes paid under the law, so if you're stuck, get an accountant.

• CORRECTION: We inadvertently left Rep. Sylvester Turner of Houston off last week's list of Democrats who signed up to support Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, in his quest for the speakership. There were 16 Democrats on the list of 102 representatives, and 86 Republicans (Craddick didn't count his own vote or that of Rep. Ron Clark, R-Sherman, who won election but won't serve because he's becoming a federal judge). Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Political People and Their Moves

Howard Baldwin, widely credited with turning around the child support division at the Texas Attorney General's office, says he'll retire at the end of the year, move back to San Antonio and do something else for living. Baldwin is now the first assistant to Attorney General John Cornyn, who is now a U.S. senator-elect and is moving to Washington... Harris County Democratic Party Chair Sue Schechter is quitting that job the day before the next legislative session, saying that will give her successor time to put together a ticket for the 2004 elections. Schechter, a former state representative, told the Houston Chronicle that the party's shutout in countywide races—Republicans won ever contest—were not the reason she's leaving... Regional EPA administrator Gregg Cooke is leaving that job at the end of the year. Cooke, a Bill Clinton appointee, was asked to stay on for a while by the Bush administration so he could continue his work on regional clean air plans here. No replacement has been named... Rep.-elect Corbin Van Arsdale hired Donna Reynolds to run his House office. She's a former lobbyist and was the executive director of the Governor's Commission for Women in the previous administration and also worked at one time for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Van Arsdale also hired Araminta Everton, a former Capitol staffer who has been out in the private sector for the last several years... Rebecca Hairgrove Waldrop moves from her job in Sen. John Carona's office to the outside world—she's the new policy director for the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute... The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs hired D. Gary Longaker as deputy director of programs. He had been at the Southeast Texas Housing Finance Corp... Gov. Perry made his appointment at the Public Utility Commission, previously mentioned here, official: Julie Caruthers Parsley, currently the state's solicitor general, will join that three-member regulatory board.

Quotes of the Week

Democrat Tom Ramsay, who lost the agriculture commission race to Susan Combs (both are Anglo), talking to the Austin Chronicle about the election: "I hate to say this, but is may have been a racial situation. I gotta feel that for some people, they're just not ready for a Hispanic governor... Hispanic are going to be a dominant force in Texas politics, and in a perfect world, for the sake of not dividing Texas, you would hope that people would wake up to that. But they haven't yet."

Rep. Rick Green, R-Dripping Springs, reflecting on his defeat (by 360 votes) in an email to supporters: "Do not let this defeat discourage you or dim your passion and patriotism. Just because one dishonest candidate gets elected through negative campaigning and character assassinations does not mean the whole system is tainted. We just didn’t do enough to get the truth out there to the voters when our record was being lied about."

Seventh grader Craig Tyndall of Carbon Hill, Alabama, talking to The New York Times after a tornado destroyed the town's only remaining public education building: "It's good we don't have to go to school. But it's bad because we don't have a school."

UT Classics professor Andrew Riggsby, disputing some of the suggested changes to Texas textbooks at a Capitol news conference: "A small group of busybodies have used this process to wipe out facts they don't happen to care for. That's not a review. That's vandalism. You can't ignore the facts just because you don't like them."

Lobbyist Buddy Jones, in an Austin American-Statesman story about newly elected officeholders snuggling up with people who opposed them in the elections: "When you support the wrong candidate, a smart victor gives you every opportunity to support him. Those who don't won't be here very long. Those that are smart begin preparing for the next election now."

Kirby Brown of the Texas Wildlife Association, on the declining number of deer hunters in the state, quoted in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "If we don't attract more people into hunting in the future, we'll be hiring people to shoot deer someday."

Lame duck U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, quoted in The Dallas Morning News: "I know a political zealot when I see one. I am one."


Texas Weekly: Volume 19, Issue 21, 18 November 2002. Ross Ramsey, Editor. George Phenix, Publisher. Copyright 2002 by Printing Production Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. One-year online subscription: $250. For information about your subscription, call (800) 611-4980 or email biz@ texasweekly.com. For news, email ramsey@ texasweekly.com, or call (512) 288-6598.


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