The Insider

Still, Bell views the Castillo fundraising effort as skirting the line. He cautiously allows that "I can certainly see how someone could feel it raises ethical questions."

Attorney Friedman, who has more than 20 years' experience in navigating the murky channels of city electoral politics, retains a remarkably pristine perception of the motivations of campaign contributors and the officials who take their cash. "My observation over the years," says Friedman, "has been that when people make campaign contributions, what they're hoping to buy is access, not necessarily a favor or a particular vote or anything. They just want to be sure if they've got a story to tell that they have an opportunity to tell someone in elective office."

If that's true, wouldn't contributors to a legal defense fund for an elected official also be motivated by the prospect of access, if not an outright vote?

Not necessarily, contends Friedman, who claims folks who give to someone's legal defense are moved more by friendship than greed. "I think [campaign contributions] involve somebody in their professional capacity as an elective official," argues the attorney, while defense funds are much more personal and "people don't give to those things unless they have some personal relationship with the individual involved."

Looking at the roster of Castillo's defense committee, one would conclude that Castillo's friends almost all do business with the city or would love to in the near future.

He's a Stockmaniac
Railroad commission candidate and former wacko conservative Congressman Steve Stockman has spent the whole primary campaign trying to embrace Governor George Bush. But the guv's political bad-breath detector kicked in and he backed away, using a consultant to criticize Stockman in the closing days of the campaign for shoddy campaign tactics against rival Tony Garza.

Several of the tactics drawing Bush's ire included a telephone poll commissioned by Stockman in which the callers just happened to mention to voters that Garza favored "sending money to Mexico" and was supported by gay groups.

Undaunted, Stockman used his favorite ploy, a fake newspaper paid for by his campaign, to get up close and personal with Bush. The front page features the headline "Stockman: Rising Republican Star" above a picture showing the candidate and the governor virtually holding hands and goofily grinning. The inside pages of the so-called Republican News reveal far more about Stevie's personal habits than most people would care to know.

Stockman confides that his favorite movies are Hunt for Red October and Jimmy Stewart classics, and that his favorite food is "a good pizza," a choice that explains his portly silhouette when photographed leafleting polling places in Bellaire last November. When the couch-potato mood overtakes Stockman, he likes "almost anything on the History Channel, the Learning Channel or the Discovery Channel." And of course, his favorite book is the Bible.

For real gluttons for punishment, there's also a two-page color Stockman family photo album, and natch, one of the shots features his wife, Patti, chumming it up with Governor Bush.

High Priestess of the Dead
County Coroner Joye Carter's most recent request to Commissioners Court had some insiders wondering whether she's aspiring to raising the dead.

According to the commissioners court agenda item for March 3, Carter's office submitted a request last week to commissioners court for $650 to send an employee to a seminar later this month on spirituality and healing in medicine. Since Carter's patients are generally quite stiff before they get to her office, Commissioner Jim Fonteno questioned the expenditure. Faith healing does seem a bit outside Carter's job description.

Initially, Carter's chief administrative officer Alex Conforti claimed that the seminar would help Carter's assistants deal with the grief of families whose loved ones wound up in the medical examiner's chilled vaults. But the promotional material for the seminar gave no indication that grief counseling was involved.

Eventually, Dr. Carter herself called The Insider to announce she was pulling the request for the spirituality and healing seminar. She explained that an employee was simply trying to satisfy a requirement for continuing medical education, and had chosen an inappropriate way to do it.

The M.E., whose administrative woes were autopsied in Steve McVicker's "Dissecting Dr. Carter," in last week's Press, says the snafu is an example of the problems she's trying to correct.

"We don't need that workshop," says Carter, who wants her crew to attend legitimate pathology conferences. "This is what we're up against," laments the coroner. "Any old conference would have done, in the past."

For now, at least, it seems the dead will stay dead at the M.E.'s office.

Got something to say? Call The Insider at (713) 624-1483 or fax him at (713) 624-1496 or e-mail him at Insider@houstonpress.com.

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