The Insider

Prayer Lunch Indigestion. A conservative kingmaker meets his match in "Mama Bear"

"If some decent guy was running against her, that would be one thing. But to have this religious-right friend of John Devine that's never tried a case -- well, that's a little extreme," the source says. "Even the people that don't like Sharolyn don't want to be supporting this guy. They think it's a big deal to be judge."

Consultant Lange responds that while Davis is primarily a mediator, he has tried "a significant number" of court cases.

Link contends the America 2000 event is unrelated to Hotze's other political activities so there was nothing wrong with contributing to it.

"The purpose of that luncheon is to make sure pastors distribute information to get their parishioners to vote," says Link. "Endorsement ballots are not distributed to these pastors, and that's why I would have paid money to get out conservative Republican votes." Link notes that he did not actually give money to America 2000.

In the past, moderate Republicans have charged that Hotze launders political contributions by moving them through a network of political action committees and nonprofit corporations, including America 2000. A Harris County grand jury investigated those allegations last year and declined to issue indictments. According to Link, that should put to rest questions about Hotze's political activities.

"I think Dr. Hotze is an honorable man, and I think Allen Blakemore is an honorable man also. I thought everything was looked into prior to this, and was found to be within the confines of the law. I do not think either of these two gentlemen would conspire to direct any of these funds to anybody's campaign."

Blakemore can understand people misconstruing his work for Hotze and America 2000 as a joint effort, but "nothing could be further from the truth," he says. "In fact, if that linkage were made, it would take the form of an illegal corporate contribution."

Blakemore says he doesn't keep records of how much time he spends on each client's campaign, and argues that most political consultants have a number of candidates with contradictory allegiances.

"Is Mayor Lee Brown fueling the Mike Stafford for district attorney campaign, because Lee Brown pays [fund-raiser] Sue Walden more in terms of a retainer than does Mike Stafford?" Blakemore says. "So Lee Brown's funding the Stafford campaign? I don't think so."

Justified or not, the campaign by Wood and her backers against the prayer lunch eventually had Hotze waving a white flag. After judges began calling to beg him to get Sharolyn off their backs, Blakemore says, all judicial contributions were returned to sender and a host committee for the luncheon dissolved.

"It is fair to say that she made life miserable enough for enough judges down there that they didn't feel like they could come and be a host," says the consultant. "They were like, 'Gosh, I wanna come and participate, but Sharolyn has raised enough of a fuss that I've got a problem.' "

Wood consultant Smith predicts that Hotze's endorsement won't defeat an established judge. "Sharolyn has strong name ID, and she can raise a ton of cash. Sharolyn will win."

Until she does, you can bet a lot of judges will be feeling her pain.

Prayers are nice, but the Insider prefers hot tips. Call him at (713)280-2483, fax him at (713)280-2496, or e-mail him at insider@houstonpress.com.

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