A Report From the Texas GOP Convention
Molly Ivins in the Ft. Worth Star Telegram, June 19, 2000
HOUSTON -- My favorite thing at the Texas Republican Convention
was the advertising in the back of the hall that constituted an almost perfect
record of the major scandals, conflicts of interest and bad public policy that
have occurred during the W. Bush gubernatorial administration.
There they all were, proudly displaying their gratitude to Bush and the party.
It was a near-perfect metaphor for American politics today.
Dow Chemical had several of the small billboards for each part of the
Dow and the rest of the chemical industry were given one-third of the seats on the
Texas equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency when Bush got into office.
He appointed a lobbyist for the Texas Chemical Council to the Texas
Resource Conservation Commission. This citizen had spent 30 years working for
Monsanto. He used his position as one of the top environmental officials of Texas
to go to Washington to testify that ozone is benign and to oppose strengthening
federal air quality standards. Being in Houston during the lovely summer ozone
season reminds us all how grateful we must be for this kind of zealous
watchdoggery of our air quality.
Also advertising its gratitude to Bush was TXU, formerly Texas
Utilities, which under Bush's deregulation scheme is trying to stick
consumers with $3.7 billion in "stranded costs" -- a.k.a. dumb
management decisions. Enjoy that on your summer utility bill.
And how nice to see an ad from a grateful Metabolife.
According to the May 22 issue of 'Time' magazine, Texas was fixing to
regulate ephedrine, an amphetamine-like stimulant widely used for weight
loss. Ephedrine products had been linked to eight deaths and 1,400 health
problems in Texas, so the health commissioner was ready to regulate.
But according to 'Time,' Metabolife International of San Antonio hired
San Antonio law firm headed by some of Bush's closest political associates,
and instead there was a meeting with the commissioner, who then decided to
bring in an outside lawyer to negotiate a settlement with ephedrine producers.
Metabolife's Washington lobbyist, who had given $141,000 to Bush's campaigns
and raised at least $100,000 for his presidential campaign, was also a player.
Stricter limits on ephedrine were dropped.
Next up, an ad for Pilgrim's Pride, the chicken company of Lonnie "Bo"
Pilgrim of East Texas. Some of you may remember Lonnie-Bo from the
famous time, pre-Bush, when he strolled onto the floor of the Texas
Senate and started handing out $10,000 checks to senators in the midst
of a hearing on workers comp law.
Lonnie-Bo was also a big funder of Texans for Public Justice, a tort
reform outfit, and gave $125,000 to Bush for his gubernatorial campaigns.
As you know, tort reform under Bush has gone so far that the state is
now paradise for insurance companies.
Next up, Promised Land Dairy, owned by James Leininger, who crusaded
for tort deform and is hot on school vouchers and other Christian-right causes.
Leininger gave $1.5 million in contributions and loans to Lt. Gov. Rick Perry,
helping to provide the razor-thin margin by which he defeated Democrat John Sharp.
Leininger also provided a huge loan to Comptroller Carole Keaton Rylander in 1998,
as well as $65,000 to Bush in '98.
How nice to see an ad for Philip Morris Cos. Inc.
Philip Morris provided employment for Karl Rove, the man running Bush's campaign,
from 1991 to 1996. Rove was paid $3,000 a month to lobby for Philip Morris while also
working for Bush. This was during the time that Texas was suing the tobacco companies.
What a pleasant stroll down memory lane these little billboards provided.
Meanwhile, various Republican orators were at the mike describing the
as "a struggle for the soul of the American people" (U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay) and a battle
between our values and the "indecency" of Al Gore. (Everyone was on the
virtues-and-values theme, usually referred to "our virtues" and "our values.")
And I was just strolling along that wall of ads, studying those virtues