The Insider

"It boggles my mind," says Sanchez, "how she is creating this pattern of being confrontational with people, and not dealing with them directly, and trying to lean on them through their supervisors or who she considers their higher-ups."

Sanchez was referring to Danburg's complaint to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee about the appointment of Andres Pereira, a potential Danburg rival, as Lee's gay community liaison [Insider, July 9].

Sanchez says he and Danburg then got together, and he agreed to participate in the fundraiser, though their conversation was a bit puzzling. "First, she tells me Hispanic elected officials approached her to do the fundraiser. Then she says she wanted to do the fundraiser and Marc Campos offered to help her. Finally, she says she went to Paula Arnold to do it. She told me three different stories in the one conversation."

After we traded phone calls, Danburg was ultimately unavailable for comment. She did leave a taped message saying that, as far as she knows, she has no problems with Sanchez, and he is on the sponsor list for her fundraiser. Schechter says Danburg simply asked her whether party officials had to support those on the ticket, and that Sanchez is blowing the matter out of proportion.

The organizer of the fundraiser, Campos, took a harder line. "Sanchez was wrong on this deal on Debra," says the consultant. "A party officer needs to support the ticket. If he can't respond in 30 minutes to support the ticket, he ought not be secretary. Debra is a damn good Democrat and the local party secretary should have said immediately, 'Sure, you can use my name.' "

Danburg certainly seems to be running scared for re-election in a district where she hasn't had a serious challenge in years. Factoring into her concern is the rapid residential redevelopment of Montrose, with an attendant influx of the so-called "empty nesters," affluent couples with conservative voting habits. After noting in a missive to supporters that GOP opponent Ben Dominguez actually got more votes in the March primary than she did, Danburg asked for some intelligence assistance.

"It is important that we know what our opponent is doing," declared the state rep. "We are told that out-of-state, right-wing organizations are donating as much as $200,000 to all races to beat Democratic incumbents and take over the Texas State House."

Would-be Danburg spies who hear from or receive mail from Republicans are advised to call (713) 52-DEBRA and spill your guts.

Who Killed Santa Claus?
A long-running legal fight between the father of a federal prisoner and state Representative Senfronia Thompson has concluded with the public reprimand of Thompson for professional misconduct as an attorney.

According to client Abelardo Campos, the representative took a $20,000 retainer fee from him in 1994 with the promise to use her influence as a state legislator to get his son paroled or at least transferred to Texas from a jail in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Dissatisfied with the lack of action in the case, Campos fired Thompson a year later and tried to reclaim part of the fee. Thompson refused, and Campos filed a complaint with the Texas Bar Commission for Lawyer Discipline.

The commission filed suit, claiming that Thompson had violated the state bar's Rules of Disciplinary Procedure by not depositing Campos's fee in a trust or escrow account as required. According to the pleadings, Thompson did not report the payment to the Internal Revenue Service until she received a subpoena from the state bar requiring her to produce such a notice of payment in September of the following year.

In an agreed judgment reached by the parties, Thompson will have to pay $3,000 to Campos, plus $1,500 to the Commission for Lawyer Discipline for legal fees, and take three hours of continuing legal education in the area of ethics.

Perhaps more embarrassing than the reprimand are the contents of a letter the state rep sent Campos back in 1995 when he was considering filing his grievance. Thompson virtually dared her client to take his case to the state bar.

"I discussed with you more times than I have fingers and toes that there were no guarantees in this life except death," declared the representative. "I do not have any magic crystal ball and I am not a palm reader or fortunate [sic] teller."

Warming to the subject, Thompson then told Campos that the federal government "will not be pushed around and I don't know anyone who is crazy enough to apply any kind of pressure in an effort to move your son to Texas." Thompson did not add that she had found someone crazy enough to give her $20,000 to try that.

And just in case Campos thought lawyers like her didn't do their job for free, the state rep imparted these words of wisdom:

"You may believe in Santa Clause [sic] -- let me be the first to inform you, I am not Santa Clause [sic]," wrote Thompson, who then concluded ominously, "Santa Clause [sic] is dead."

Thompson's reputation as a lawyer may not have expired, but it's certainly ailing among those who take public reprimands seriously.

Know something The Insider ought to know? Give him a call at (713) 280-2483, fax him at (713) 280-2496 or e-mail him at insider@houstonpress.com.

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