The Insider

Send Money or Face the Wrath of a Vengeful God
Steven Hotze has been a very busy political impresario this election season. Of the 50,500 requests for mail ballots the Harris County Clerk's office had received as of last Monday, at least 17,000 arrived on forms distributed by Hotze's Conservative Republicans of Harris County and his Texas 2000 marketing firm. As usual, the material Hotze distributed with the ballot applications included a large serving of religion: "Our elected representatives are ministers of God who have been delegated their authority by God to uphold the standards of His Word. They are responsible before God to punish those individuals who violate His Laws and to protect those who keep His Laws."

Hotze claims to have raised $114,000 for his mail and automated phone bank program, but that apparently isn't enough. In a missive on his allergy clinic letterhead, the doctor has appealed to GOP officeholders for more cash, claiming he has sent brochures containing sample ballots to 271,000 households but needs an additional $31,710 to mail the remaining 151,000 ballots. Likewise, Hotze says his phone bank has already made 320,000 prerecorded calls, but he needs $45,000 immediately to ensure he can complete another 500,000. The convenience-minded allergist advises the officials to contact his clinic manager "and we will send a courier over to pick up your check."

Hotze's rival in Christian conservative circles, Dr. Terry Lowry (doctor of theology, not allergy), publishes the Link Letter, an election-time compendium of ads and endorsement sheets aimed at conservative churchgoers. Usually filled with boiling invective against gay rights and liberals, the publication is uncharacteristically benign this time around. It even includes a front-page warning cautioning voters not to be misled by such dirty election tricks as phone callers implying that a particular candidate is gay.

Of course, Lowry may not be practicing what he's preaching. On his sample ballot at the back of the Link Letter Lowry includes the admonition "no" beside the names of Republican (and convicted felon) Tom Kelly, the opponent of Democratic state Senator John Whitmire, and Jeff Pynes, the GOP challenger of Precinct 1 Constable Jack Abercia. Despite the non-endorsements, Kelly and Pynes both purchased ads in the Link Letter. They appear together on the same page, wedged next to a "gay rights platform." Ol' Terry certainly knows how to take a candidate's money while sticking it to him, doesn't he?

Thank the Little People Who Made It All Possible
If Proposition One takes its expected drubbing Tuesday, a number of corporations may have some explaining to do to their stockholders. In its final pre-election filing, Harris County Citizens for Proposition One reported collecting almost $900,000 and spending about $800,000. The pro-stadium effort attracted some 700 small contributions ranging from $1 to $100, but the real heavy lifters were $100,000 donors Enron, Shell, Compaq and the Houston Rockets, whose contribution consisted of radio ads during basketball games. The Aeros also tossed in $25,000 worth of radio ads. Anteing up $50,000 each were Texas Commerce Bank and NationsBank, while Hines Interests and Exxon forked over $30,000 apiece.

On the economic revitalization side, the pro-stadium campaign spent more than $700,000 on TVads and another $56,000 on Chronicle ads. Even Terry Lowry's Link Letter received $1,500. With his usual devilish touch, Lowry slyly placed a satirical anti-Prop One ad lampooning "the Dome Boys" on the page leading into the rather drab pro-stadium ad. But stadium supporters should take heart: at least their ad wasn't butting up against a gay rights platform.

Rent the Tent
After six months of internecine warfare, the Variety Club children's charity has settled its civil war by splitting its tent down the middle. The faction still supporting controversial former executive Laura Rowe is surrendering the Variety Club designation and establishing a new charity, tentatively called "Houston Charity for Children." Meanwhile, the Variety Club's Tent 34 chapter will go forward in Houston with a new managing board drawn from the anti-Rowe faction. The split was formalized in state District Judge John Devine's court last week by agreement between Variety Club International, the umbrella for 70 charity club locals around the world, and the departing Tent 34 board. After hearing one witness, Devine stopped the proceeding and ordered the opposing attorneys to meet in his chambers, where a shotgun divorce was hammered out.

Under the settlement, the new charity and the reconstituted Tent 34 will split the furniture at the Kirby Drive office, which the new charity will retain as its headquarters. Most of the Tent's well-stocked bank account will be liquidated, with contributions going to charities the Variety Club supported in the past. The remaining $120,000 will be divided between the two charities as seed money for future activities.

The new charity's board will be headed by former Tent 34 chair (or "chief barker") Gary Becker, while the new Variety Club will be run by a group that includes former chief barkers Pat Fant and Alan Markoff. Meanwhile, Rowe, whose lavish fundraising style triggered the split, may sign on with the new charity to exercise her magic touch once again. She had no comment on that possibility.

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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