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The Last Lap

Face it: This is a political off year. There's one race at the top of the ballot, and the polls, if they're right, have been remarkably stagnant for a long time. There's movement back there in the race for second, but the overall outlook is a lot like it was months ago. There's one race in the Legislature that could change how things operate — it's in the Senate — and a handful of races in the House that look to change the partisan makeup only slightly. Most of the statewide races are yawners, though it's a nervous time for Republicans at the low end of the statewide ballot.

Face it: This is a political off year. There's one race at the top of the ballot, and the polls, if they're right, have been remarkably stagnant for a long time. There's movement back there in the race for second, but the overall outlook is a lot like it was months ago. There's one race in the Legislature that could change how things operate — it's in the Senate — and a handful of races in the House that look to change the partisan makeup only slightly. Most of the statewide races are yawners, though it's a nervous time for Republicans at the low end of the statewide ballot.

But that hasn't stopped the flow of money. More money is being spent on some legislative races than on the statewide contests. And there are a handful of people in Texas — some backing gubernatorial candidates, and some not — whose spending for the year is in the two-comma range. We can count past $10 million with just four guys.

A Whole Lotta Spending Going On

Campaign finance reports for the month that ended on Saturday are in, and here's a quick glance at the gubernatorial candidates' books:

• Democrat Chris Bell raised $1.8 million, borrowed $1 million, spent $2.9 million, and had $84,106 on hand. His biggest benefactor was Houston attorney John O'Quinn, who contributed $1 million and signed as guarantor of a $1 million loan (before the report was filed, that had been widely reported here and elsewhere as a $2.5 million package; consider this report the campaign's correction of that fiction, and our apology for passing it on). Houston attorney Richard Laminack gave $100,000. Chris Mattsson of Austin gave $50,000. Mark Paran of Euless gave $34,400. And Bell had $25,000 contributions from a half-dozen folks, including Robert Bass of Fort Worth and Cecilia Boone of Dallas.

• Independent Kinky Friedman raised $1.1 million, spent $1.2 million and got to the end with $535,866 in the bank. Friedman got $350,000 from John McCall of Spicewood, $100,000 from Barbara Bowman of San Antonio, and an in-kind contribution for $60,000 in TV advertising from Willie Nelson of Spicewood. That's that Willie Nelson.

• Republican Rick Perry raised $2.6 million and had $2.9 million on hand. His biggest contribution — $500,000 — came from the Republican Governors Association PAC in Washington. Houston builder Bob Perry (no relation) gave $150,000. David Spencer of San Antonio gave 75,000, and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher of Houston gave $73,217. Perry had a stack of $50,000 donors: the Border Health PAC, Harlan Crow, Stevan Hammond, and Kenny Troutt of Dallas; James Pitcock Jr. of Houston, W. Rush of San Antonio, and Morton Topfer of Austin. Anheuser-Busch PAC gave $30,000, and he had ten contributors who gave $25,000, including former gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams Jr. and Dallas oilman T. Boone Pickens.

• Independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn raised $582,895 and ended with $421,386 in the bank. Her big contributors included George Ryan and others at his tax firm —Ryan & Co. — gave a total of $176,000. Jim "Mattress Mac" McIngvale of Houston gave $35,000. J.L. Davis of Midland and Will Farish of Hempstead each gave $25,000. State Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, contributed $6,647 in airplane expenses. Strayhorn also got wings from the Williams-Bailey law firm in Houston, Austin developer John Needham, Ronald Snider of Marshall, Larry Long of Kilgore, Steve Sterquell of Amarillo, and Pinnergy Ltd. of Austin.

Big Cheeses

Dr. James Leininger of San Antonio continues to be a financial wellspring for Texas conservatives. He gave $1,040,908 in October, to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the Republican Party of Texas, Stars Over Texas, Associated Republicans of Texas (details below) and to some candidates: Talmadge Heflin of Houston, $83,000; Michael Esparza of Alice, $50,000, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, $50,000; and Nelson Balido of San Antonio, $15,000. Leininger and his wife Cecilia Leininger have contributed $4,747,453 so far this year, according to records at the Texas Ethics Commission.

• Houston homebuilder Bob Perry and his wife, Doylene Perry, have given $4,409,000 to political causes this year, including $718,500 since the late September 30-day reports were filed. Their biggest donations were to Gov. Rick Perry and the Republican Party of Texas; they wrote $150,000 checks to each. Houston Senate candidate Dan Patrick got $50,000. James Landtroop of Plainview and Gene Seaman of Corpus each got $40,000. George Antuna of San Antonio and the Harris County GOP each got $30,000.

• Charles Butt, CEO of the HEB Grocery Co. in San Antonio, gave at least $237,500 during October, according to campaign finance reports that have been put online by the Texas Ethics Commission. The beneficiaries include the Texas Parent PAC, $135,000; Stars Over Texas PAC, $5,000; Rep. Chuck Hopson, D-Jacksonville; Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, $25,000; $10,000 each to Reps. Robby Cook, D-Eagle Lake, Mark Homer, D-Paris, and Hubert Vo, D-Houston; and smaller amounts to a handful of House and State Board of Education candidates.

• The Texas Democratic Trust brought in $415,000 and spent $419,974, leaving $6,155 in the bank. Dallas trial lawyer Fred Baron contributed $335,000. Russell Budd, cofounder of the Baron & Budd law firm in Dallas, gave $80,000. Those two accounted for all the money that came in during October. During the July-September period, the trust brought in $460,000, all but $25,000 of it from Baron. The other donor was Bernard Rapoport of Waco. While we're on a roll, the first half of the year saw $780,000 in donations, including $655,000 from Baron, $100,000 from Budd, and $12,500 each from Amy Fikes and Lee Fikes of Dallas. If you weren't adding along the way, Baron has given $1,425,000 to the trust so far this year; Budd's tab is at $180,000. If you add in Baron's contributions to other candidates and PACs, his total for the year is $1,479,560.

Their report shows $264,500 in contributions to the HDCC in October — $25,000 more than HDCC reported receiving. Watch the telegram reports for that check. The trust gave $95,500 to the Texas Democratic Party, and $28,140 to the Texas Progress Council PAC.

Big Pots of Money

Texans for Lawsuit Reform raised $988,683, spent $1,298,657 and ended October with $398,170 on hand. Their big donors were James Leininger of San Antonio, $365,000; Bob McNair and Richard Weekley of Houston, who each gave $100,000; Michael Stevens of Houston, $42,000; and at the $25,000 level, three Houstonians: Stevan Hammond, Michael Manners, and John Speer.

The group supported a mess of candidates in October, but some got astonishing amounts of money and help: Bill Welch of Austin, $321,513; Jody Anderson of Lufkin, $230,076; George Antuna of San Antonio, $164,666; Michael Esparza of Alice, $131,568; and Jim Landtroop of Plainview, $124,500. That's two challengers and three open seats. Rep. Gene Seaman, R-Corpus Christi, got $75,000 from TLR. Former Rep. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston, got $44,015. Rep. Bill Keffer, R-Dallas, got $27,958, in effect: about half in contributions and half in mail attacking his opponent, Allen Vaught. A dozen more candidates got $20,000 or less from the group. 

• The Stars Over Texas PAC raised $687,039, spent $818,758, and had $188,359 left a week before Election Day. Their candidate list includes some incumbents and some open-seat Republicans, including the late Rep. Glenda Dawson, $15,000; and Reps. Tuffy Hamilton of Mauriceville, $25,000; Gene Seaman of Corpus Christi, $182,268; Toby Goodman of Arlington, $45,000; Tony Goolsby of Dallas, $25,000; Kirk England of Grand Prairie, $10,000; Bill Keffer of Dallas, $45,000; and Martha Wong of Houston, $43,197. The non-officeholders on the list include Bill Welch of Austin, $185,000; Jimmie Don Aycock of Killeen, $5,000; Jim Landtroop of Plainview, $150,000; George Antuna of San Antonio, $55,000; and Susan King of Abilene, $22,500. The amounts include contributions as well as money spent on behalf of the candidates.

The group had a large number of $10,000 contributors. The political action committee of Grande Communications gave $25,000, as did the PAC Ryan & Co., the Dallas-based tax consultancy that's been making headlines as a contributor to Carole Keeton Strayhorn in the governor's race. That same PAC gave Stars $50,000 in September, as did House Speaker Tom Craddick and Houston homebuilder Bob Perry. San Antonio's James Leininger was the biggest donor in October, giving $135,000. Houston's Bob McNair was next, at $100,000.

• The Texas 20/20 PAC spent $95,000 on Rep. Chuck Hopson, D-Jacksonville; $15,000 on Rep. David Farabee, D-Wichita Falls; $10,000 on Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin; $15,000 on Mark Homer, D-Paris; and $15,000 on Robby Cook, D-Eagle Lake.

The contributors included Houston's Bob Perry, $25,000 and Dallas City Limits LLC, which has been advocating expansion of the state's gambling laws, $25,000. 

• Associated Republicans of Texas is out in force this year after falling into the second tier of PACs in the last couple of elections. They brought in $394,023 in October, spent $478,570, and still had $114,392 at the end of the month. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who's been collecting and spending on his own campaign this year, gave $10,000 to ART. James Leininger gave $275,000, dominating the report. Bob Perry contributed $25,000.

The beneficiaries? George Antuna, R-San Antonio, $50,000; Jeff Fleece of Austin, $10,000; Jody Anderson of Lufkin, $50,000; Joe McComb of Corpus Christi, $10,000; Kirby Hollingsworth of Mt. Vernon, $20,100; Larry Durrett of Jacksonville, $10,000; Michael Esparza of Alice, $50,000; Nelson Balido of San Antonio, $60,000; Shirley Craft of Wichita Falls, $35,100; Sylvia Spivey of Houston (running against Rep. Scott Hochberg in HD-137), $8,000; Talmadge Heflin of Houston, $10,000; and Tim Kleinschmidt of Lexington, $130,100.

• The Republican Party of Texas spent $406,054 during October, bringing in $289,332 and ending with $275,542 to play with. Bob Perry gave $150,000. James Leininger was there with $50,000. Boone Pickens of Dallas gave $25,000. The Texas Friends of Time Warner Cable gave $25,000 (there's a phone vs. cable fight brewing in the Legislature).

The party spent $246,267 at Arlington-based Murphy Turner & Associates for direct mail for candidates and the party itself. The beneficiaries of those and other mailings included Shirley Craft of Wichita Falls, $21,238; Bill Welch of Austin, $14,429; Kirby Hollingsworth of Mt. Vernon, $33,095; Joe McComb of Corpus Christi, $15,460; Larry Durrett of Jacksonville, $17,181; Michael Esparza of Alice, $24,552; Talmadge Heflin of Houston, $32,799; and Tim Kleinschmidt of Lexington, $24,170.

• The House Democratic Campaign Committee brought in $306,000, spent $418,920, and had $99,892 on hand at the time of their 8-day report. They spent $92,438 according to a telegram report filed later, but that noted only the vendor and not any candidates who might be direct beneficiaries. Most of the incoming money came from the Texas Democratic Trust, which gave $239,500.

The HDCC's favored candidates include Allen Vaught of Dallas, $5,000; Chuck Hopson of Jacksonville, $14,500; David Farabee of Wichita Falls, $14,500; Ellen Cohen of Houston, $10,500; Harriett Miller of Dallas, $16,000; Hubert Vo of Houston, $9,500; Jim McReynolds, $5,000; Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, $7,000; Joe Farias of San Antonio, $14,500; Joe Heflin of Crosbyton, $14,500; Juan Garcia of Corpus Christi, $15,500; Mark Homer of Paris, $9,500; Paula Hightower Pierson of Arlington, $17,100; Valinda Bolton of Austin, $14,500; and Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles of Alice, $7,000. They spent $54,236 with Austin-based Jeff Crosby Direct Mail, and $172,613 with Washington, D.C.-based Mammen Pritchard for direct mail, but their report didn't specify which candidates benefited.

• The Texas Democratic Party brought in $197,110 in contributions, spent $226,905 and had $129,304 on hand with a week to go. Half was from the Texas Democratic Trust. The Dallas County Democratic Party gave $15,000; and the Texas Values in Action PAC gave $35,000.

The party's biggest single expenditure was to something called the Texas Litigation Fund, based in Washington, D.C. That's got the same address as the Lone Star Fund and the Lone Star Project, all started by Matt Angle, a Democratic consultant long involved in Texas politics and a leader in current efforts to turn the party's fortunes around in Texas.

• Annie's List raised $87,475 and spent $155,792, ending the month with $110,769 on hand. That PAC's focused on helping five Democratic women: Harriett Miller of Dallas, $28,500; Paula Hightower Pierson of Arlington, $33,500; Kristi Thibaut of Houston, $11,000; Valinda Bolton of Austin, $47,000; and Ellen Cohen of Houston, $11,000.

• The Texas Parent PAC, created this year to support anti-voucher candidates of both parties, raised $180,011, spent $187,496 and ended with $23,888. Their biggest contributor was Charles Butt, who gave $135,000 in October. Joseph Phillips of Mission gave $25,000. They list 20 candidates they support, but two got most of their financial attention: $83,763 for Juan Garcia of Corpus Christi, and $25,975 to Joe Farias of San Antonio.

• Texans for Insurance Reform, a trial lawyer PAC, raised $405,380, spent $412,300 and had $75,885 at the end of the month. Big contributions came from Provost & Umphrey of Beaumont, $100,000; Brent Coon & Associates of Beaumont, $50,000; Clark Depew & Tracy of Houston, $25,000;  Johnson Burnet & Chang of Houston, $25,000; and the Law offices of E. Todd Tracy in Dallas, $25,000. Their biggest beneficiary was Valinda Bolton of Austin, $70,343, followed by Joe Farias of San Antonio, $67,033; Joe Heflin of Crosbyton, $48,511; Hubert Vo of Houston, 41,452; Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles of Alice, $34,800; Allen Vaught of Dallas, $33,829; and Juan Garcia of Corpus Christi, $32,008.

• Corpus Christi's Good Government PAC is funded almost entirely by the Watts Law Firm. They've been trying to help Juan Garcia unseat Rep. Gene Seaman, R-Corpus Christi. A telegram report filed in the last week had them spending $14,904 on mail attacking Seaman at the same time they were spending $12,500 on a "voter contact program" on Garcia's behalf. It also said they were spending $2,500 on Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, who's in a battle to hold his seat. The PAC brought in $325,000 in October — all from Mikal Watts' firm, spent $339,211 and ended with $5,950. All but $64,000 of their spending in October was directed for Garcia or against Seaman.

Out West

That Senate race in El Paso has gotten expensive and noisy. Republican Dee Margo had no money in the bank with a week to go, but spent $438,983 during October. That's a lot of TV time in El Paso, Texas. He ended with loan balances of $100,000, but was reporting new contributions of around $50,000 in telegram reports after that one-week-out report was filed. 

The incumbent, Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, raised $201,774, spent $168,127 and had $23,134 left to play with. He borrowed, too: His outstanding loans totaled $35,000. And he was getting late money after the bell like Margo: Around $32,000 poured in after the last official report.

This has the distinction of being the only race on the Texas ballot that could change the Legislature's operations. The Senate operates on a two-thirds rule that empowers a minority — in this case, the Democrats, who have just enough members to block legislation they really hate. If Shapleigh were to lose, the Republicans in the Senate would have a two-thirds majority, and full control of the agenda for the first time in more than a century.


Notes to the Financial Statements

We stole that line from the accountants who present the books of big corporations, but it fits. Herewith, some interesting tidbits from the candidates' 8-day and telegram reports (The first is required for anyone in the November elections; telegram reports list contributions received during the last week of a campaign).

• Associated Republicans of Texas gave Kirby Hollingsworth $21,100. The Republican Party of Texas kicked in $35,104 for direct mail and other campaign expenses. Together, the two groups accounted for 91 percent of the money he raised in October.

• Republican Larry Durrett paid $447,841 to Anthem Media during October to produce and air his television commercials.  That's extraordinary spending in a House race, particularly in one that's not in a major television market. He spent another $29,444 on campaign mailers, and gave $13,200 for "mailing" to the Texas Right to Life PAC. On the other side of race, Rep. Chuck Hopson, D-Jacksonville, was spending big with Rindy Miller Media, writing checks totaling $328,266 — also huge for a House race — during the month for broadcast ads.

• Rep. Gene Seaman, R-Corpus Christi, filed a telegram report this week that included $47,497 in contributions — more than many House candidates raise in a month or more. Houston builder Bob Perry gave $30,000.

• Perry also showed up on a telegram report from Republican Senate candidate Dee Margo of El Paso, who got $10,000 from Perry.

• Texans for Lawsuit Reform sent Talmadge Heflin $30,000 after the 8-day reports.

George Antuna's telegram report for November 1 shows a $65,000 media buy on his behalf paid for by James Leininger.

Zogby v. Zogby

One pollster. Two polls. Two clients. Two methodologies. Two results.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, seeking reelection, is still dominating the polls. The latest from The Wall Street Journal/Zogby: Hutchison 55 percent; Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky, 36 percent. The Libertarian is pulling big numbers for someone from his party; Scott Jameson is at 6.4 percent. Overall, that's a big improvement for Radnofsky, but the survey still has her 19 points back with a week to go.

In the race for Guv, that same poll has Republican Rick Perry at 37 percent, Democrat Chris Bell at 29 percent, independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn at 15 percent, independent Kinky Friedman at 14 percent, and Libertarian James Werner at 2 percent. This survey was done October 23-27, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

A Zogby poll done for and published by the Houston Chronicle and KHOU-TV had the governor's race at Perry, 38 percent; Bell, 22 percent; Strayhorn, 21 percent; Friedman, 11 percent; and Werner, 1 percent. The U.S. Senate race in that survey looked like this: Hutchison, 61 percent; Radnofsky, 27 percent, and Jameson, 5 percent.

The Chronicle/KHOU poll was done October 23-25, and had a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

The Chronicle's poll was done with phone calls; the Journal's with a combination of online and phone surveying. Zogby told the paper (for its Texas Politics blog) that the online survey polls more partisan voters, while the telephone survey aims at likely voters. Different pools yielded different results. He also said the interactive (online) poll might be "a slightly better predictor" because the people surveyed have made up their minds, while the traditional poll includes more undecided voters and those whose support for a particular candidate is "soft."

His finale: "We stand by both polls."

Brees Sacks His Own Mother

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees apparently wants nothing to do with his mom's campaign for the state's 3rd Court of Appeals.

Democrat Mina Brees is running against Republican David Puryear, and had an ad up saying she's the sister of former University of Texas quarterback Marty Akins and the mother of the Saint's quarterback. It included pictures of the two athletes.

But she got a letter from her son — which is now being forwarded around in Republican press releases — demanding she cease and desist from using his name and likeness in her ads. The letter, from an attorney with the company that represents him, ends with a threat of legal action: "should you and your campaign fail to comply with the terms of this letter, Mr. Brees will be forced to explore all available remedies, both at law and inequity against you and your campaign. Govern yourself accordingly." 

Political Notes

It's been a while, but remember that poll that said a Republican should be able to beat a Democrat in CD-22? The assumption then was that Democrat Nick Lampson had a huge advantage over Republican Shelley Sekula-Gibbs because his name would be on the ballot and hers wouldn't.

Polls still show that race is tight — the Houston Chronicle says it's a statistical tie — and the ballot thing is still the big question in the race for former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's seat. All other things being equal, it's GOP turf. But all other things aren't equal. Sekula-Gibbs' campaign has focused almost exclusively on tutorials on how to vote for her in the special election where her name appears and Lampson's doesn't, and how to write her in for the full term, where his name appears and hers does not. That's a big hurdle, and pollsters tell us there's no really great way for them to figure out how many points it's worth.

• Roll Call — a newspaper that covers federal government and politics — bought Austin-based Gallery Watch, an Internet-based company that tracks legislative and regulatory goings-on in Austin and Washington. They didn't disclose the price.

• Republican Van Taylor got a cabinet member in for a joint appearance with a week to go in his challenge to U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco. But you have to wonder about the visitor's name ID in Texas and in CD-17: It's Carlos Gutierrez, the U.S. Commerce Secretary, the former chairman and CEO of Kellogg. He's been in that federal gig for almost two years, replacing Texan Don Evans in that post.

• This is getting suspicious: About a week before the 2004 election, Judge Bob Pemberton's wife, Becky, delivered their first child. And she's done it again, eight days before this election (again), giving birth to Harrison Yates Pemberton.

Cindy Gonzalez, a former advisor to Gov. Rick Perry on higher education issues, endorsed Democratic Chris Bell over her former boss, saying rapid tuition deregulation has put college out of reach for some Texans.

• Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott took a political hit for using video shot by his state staff in political ads to promote his reelection. Democrat David Van Os — the Democrat trying to wrest the seat away — says it's a violation of state law. Abbott contends it's kosher.

Dave Lieber at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a new gubernatorial candidate, and the kid shows some promise. Here's the video for Austin James Lieber, candidate for governor.

Political People and Their Moves

Dr. Mike McKinney, the former legislator, chief of staff to the governor, head of state health and human services, lobbyist, and football-inspired whacker of Texas Tech fans, is the new chancellor of the Texas A&M University System. The board of regents there picked McKinney to replace Robert McTeer, who's leaving in a couple of months. McKinney's not an alum, but his sons Sean and Seth — now professional football players — attended school and played football for A&M. Dr. McKinney is currently the chief operating officer at the UT Health Science Center at Houston; he's been in various jobs in the UT System since 2002. He's the sole finalist for the chancellor job; it'll be a done deal before the end of the year.

Lobbyist Jeff Clark joins the Texas chapter of the American Electronics Association as director of public and legislative affairs, a post opened when Chrissy Comacho Borskey left for Dell.

Appointments: Gov. Rick Perry named Patrick Pirtle of Amarillo to the 7th Court of Appeals. Pirtle, currently a district judge there, will replace Don Reavis, who retired earlier this year. Pirtle's already on the ballot (without opposition) for that spot; the appointment covers the remainder of Reavis' term.

Recovering: Democratic political consultant Ed Martin, after a heart attack in Chicago. All signs are good after a real scare. But he recovered, and he voted.

Quotes of the Week

Democratic Senate candidate Barbara Ann Radnofsky, in The Dallas Morning News: "This year is not the lost cause that people think it is. It seems to me there is a perfect storm of circumstances out there. I belong here, and we can win."

Gov. Rick Perry, quoted in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the prospect of winning with well under half the vote: I'm not running for most popular. I'm running to lead this state. There is a great difference between trying to be popular and trying to lead."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in The Dallas Morning News: "I know that a lot of people, many of them friends, consider me a front-runner for governor in 2010, assuming Gov. Perry doesn't run again. I'm flattered, but right now I have to concentrate on winning re-election."

Griffin Perry, 23-year-old son of the governor and an aide in his campaign, on the Governor's Mansion, in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "If you were a small child living in that house, outside of the possibility you could break stuff, it would be great. It's probably the best hide-and-seek house I've ever been in."

President George W. Bush, asked on CNBC if he uses Google: "One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps. It’s very interesting to see that. I forgot the name of the program, but you get the satellite and you can — like, I kind of like to look at the ranch on Google, remind me of where I want to be sometimes."

Debbie Gau, an Iowa bartender, quoted in the Washington Post: "I just think politics is crooked. The rich pay to get what they want from the people in office... It's like the Mafia, with laws. They get to run what they want, when they want. They don't mean nothing that they say."

Texas Weekly: Volume 23, Issue 20, 6 November 2006. Ross Ramsey, Editor. Copyright 2006 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 (512) 302-5703 or email For news, email, or call (512) 288-6598.

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