Monday, September 18, 2006

The Light and the Truth

While discussing the role of money in Texas politics -- as though it were new and a surprise -- Brownfield News editor Lynn Brisendine said the following on August 20, 2006:

"The Republican candidate for the Texas House of Representatives for District 85, Jim Landtroop, a Plainview insurance agent, received thousands of donated dollars for his campaign from a big builder in Houston and a doctor from San Antonio. Both of these guys are major players in Austin and both have their own agendas. I think it a legitimate concern that neither have much in common with West Texas and especially District 85. But, it would seem their money talks in Austin, and soon perhaps in District 85."

Interesting. Here's what another local newspaper editor thinks:

View From The Lamplighter by Ken Towery
February 16, 2006

"...former State Representative Pete Laney, having given up on West Texas and moved down to Austin to live off his $100,000 state pension, is advising local citizens (via the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal) how they ought to vote on who might replace him. There are many ironies in the Pete Laney thing. Within our own memory of Speakers of the House, which goes back to the 1950s, there has never been a Speaker so beholden to what we might call "special interests", or the "lobby", as Pete Laney. Pete was very successful, over the years, in playing all sides of every issue. In that sense he was a good politician. Much better than most. The only problem was, one never quiet [sic] had complete trust in him, He claimed, for instance, to represent West Texas, but everyone in politics knew his political base, as far as the lobby was concerned, was in the big cities. That's where the votes for Speaker were, and that's where he had to go to get the votes necessary to become Speaker. And that's to whom he had to make his commitments."

You can read Mr. Towery's qualifications in an earlier blog.

In his last three campaigns -- 2000, 2002, 2004 -- Pete Laney raised $2,153,462. In his 2004 campaign, Laney self-financed $238,379. That means that about $1.9 million was in political contributions. In another blog ("Fish to Fry," June 13, 2006) I detailed the top zip codes from which contributions were given to Laney. Except for his own 2004 contribution to himself, none of the top contributing zip codes were within his district. Of the 45 "down-state" contributing zip codes, Austin had 17 spots, Dallas/Fort Worth had 11, and Houston had 5.

If "out-of-district" contributions are going to be a source of concern for the election, it’s important that we realize that for over thirty years, District 85 elected a man who, for the last three elections anyway, was beholden to money from Austin, DFW and Houston.

It's admirable that Brisendine posted his comments under commentary, rather than as actual news. When a spotlight is focused, however, the light can illuminate things that he might prefer to remain hidden. Pete Laney's romance with down-state money is public information, and only the ignorant or extremely partisan would hold out-of-district contributions against anyone wishing to replace him.

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