Slaughter of reform will heat primary
- And of course Kinky Friedman has hired Jesse Ventura's
former campaign manager.
April 30, 2005, 9:40PM
Slaughter of reform will heat primary
By RICK CASEY
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
The bloody slaughtering of a campaign-finance reform
bill on the floor of the Texas House of
Representatives last week could add considerable
sizzle to a potential gubernatorial primary fight
between Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey
Hutchison next spring.
The assassination of the bill, which was cosponsored
by 93 of the House's 150 members, was hardly a
The bill would have barred secret corporate money from
being used in the last days of an election to attack
one candidate or praise another.
As I reported in an earlier column, the chairman of
the House Elections Committee, Rep. Mary Denny,
benefited from just such corporate money in a tough
race in 2002.
So, hugely, had House Speaker Tom Craddick. Millions
in undisclosed corporate contributions were used to
help elect members who would secure him the
speakership. That machinery, and Craddick's connection
to it, is under grand jury investigation.
Bold try for direct vote
Denny had stalled the bill into a coma until some
backers boldly tried to directly vote it out onto the
Suffice it to say that if Craddick wanted a bill
cosponsored by nearly two-thirds of the House to come
to the floor for a vote, it would have come to the
floor for a vote.
But now it is dead, which has me rooting for a
Hutchison/Perry contest if only for the entertainment
value. Consider the likely players.
�Dave Carney is Perry's chief political consultant. He
is also head of Americans for Job Security, a
Virginia-based conservative group that has spent
millions for misleading "issues ads" in races all over
One was a special election last year to replace Mount
Pleasant State Sen. Bill Ratliff, who retired from the
AJS ran a barrage of ads in the days leading up to the
election. They accused Republican State Rep. Tommy
Merritt of supporting a sales tax hike. What they
didn't say was that the proposed hike was to be used
to lower school property taxes � exactly the scheme
being pushed by the Republican leadership in both
houses. Merritt lost but retained his House seat.
As the member who made the motion to bring the
campaign-reform bill to the House floor Thursday, he
can expect a primary opponent with more secret
corporate money behind him or her.
Secret corporate millions
�Mike Toomey is Perry's former chief of staff.
Previously he played the lead role in doling out $2.1
million in undisclosed corporate cash raised by the
Texas Association of Businesses for the 2002 election.
Some of it went for mailings praising Chairman Denny
sent in the heat of the campaign only to frequent
TAB says the corporate expenditures were legal because
they didn't explicitly urge a vote for Denny, but they
clearly were campaign mailings.
So Perry can expect to have two men on his side with
considerable experience in using secret corporate
millions to help favored candidates and hurt those
who, like Merritt, won't play along.
But, I'm happy to say, Hutchison won't be entering the
fray without a hatchet. She has hired Terry Sullivan,
who last year directed a bare-knuckled primary
(against a former governor) and November campaigns to
elect Republican U.S. Rep. Jim DeMint to the U.S.
Senate from South Carolina.
A factor credited in the victory was an ad against
DeMint's Democratic opponent, for the way she spent
money as state superintendent of schools.
It was run by Carney's shadowy Americans for Job
So Sullivan clearly knows what he will be up against
in a race against Perry. Expect him to be prepared.
Now that the Democrats can no longer provide any
fireworks, it's good to know that we can rub two
Republicans together and get ignition.