The Insider

Kelly, who was 17 at the time of the robberies, claims he was wrongfully convicted. No one was hurt in the crimes, which netted less than $200, a fraction of the amount Whitmire received for supposed legal work for the Harris County Adult Probation Department. Kelly told a Chronicle reporter last May that "only people with vindictive and small minds will not give a person a second chance." Republican Governor Bill Clements apparently thought so, and cleared Kelly's felon status with a pardon in 1979.

Kelly is given virtually no chance of beating Whitmire in his heavily Democratic district, and Shelley's letter came some five months after the Republican challenger's long-ago criminal exploits were publicly disclosed. Shelley did not return an Insider phone inquiry, but a consultant who knows the lobbyist figures he's just trying to get on the senator's good side for future legislative battles.

Rodney, the Movie
Once you see the upcming PBS documentary featuring ramblin' Rodney Ellis loose on the state Senate floor with a hidden microphone, the more incomprehensible is the senator's explanation that he was unaware other folks were being taped. Ellis flounces around, cracking jokes and looking for all the world like a performer vamping for the camera while sopping up compliments on his mastery of the process from the likes of Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock. Off the floor, Ellis is hardly more humble, observing in a sit-down interview that probably more than half his colleagues have lower IQs than he does, a statement that cuts directly against his claim that he was stupidly unaware of the power of a hidden mike.

"We failed to ask PBS questions [about the mike's range], and they're not to blame," says Ellis aide William Paul Thomas. "Sometimes experience is the test before the lesson, and we've learned."

No less an authority than former lieutenant governor Bill Hobby has told associates that he believes Ellis' effectivness as a lawmaker has been permanently damaged by the escapade. On the bright side, compulsive weight-watcher Ellis shouldn't have much of a problem fighting the pounds over the next year. They say crow eaten in large amounts is a very low-calorie diet.

The Insider can be reached at 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax), or e-mail him at Insider@houston-press.com.

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