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Polland later told Wendt he had no knowledge of Hutson's activities. While Wendt's copy was killed, the Review carried an editorial attack on GOP District Judge Martha Hill Jamison. It cited donations she had made to Planned Parenthood and the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.
"Over the past few election cycles, under the watchful eye of Harris County Republican Party Chairman Gary Polland, conservatives in this county have all but eliminated liberal representation," the Conservative Review stated. After warning that liberals in disguise might try to creep in the back door of the party, the paper declared, "we will not be fooled by candidates like Martha Hill Jamison, whose past actions are totally against our shared conservative principles."
Wendt later apologized to Jamison for the attack. He says he never had any indication that Polland was connected to the Harris County Conservative Review, and remains grateful for the attorney's help in Wendt's acquittal on charges stemming from the City Hall arrest. He is angry at Hutson and feels used.
Hutson refused to discuss the Review and declined to reveal any Polland links to it.
"You're going to have to ask Gary about that, okay? If you want to submit something to me, that's great. But in all honesty, you're calling me on my cell phone and I'm in the middle of a meeting and don't have time to talk to you."
Polland describes Hutson as a friend who has done volunteer work for the Republican Party but is not paid from GOP funds. The chairman claims his only connection with the Review was to allow it to run excerpts from his own party newsletter.
This despite the fact his close associate published it, his former client Wendt was used as the front man, and the publication mimicked Polland's own director's report. The publication even has an endorsement slate that, with one exception, is identical to the one in Polland's publication.
It may be a circumstantial case, but as the veteran criminal defense attorney knows, plenty of his clients have been convicted on a lot less.
While Polland got short shrift in the public spotlight at the June state convention, his real coup came behind the scenes. He harangued party caucuses into inserting into the state GOP platform a denunciation of two 14th Court of Appeals justices, Republicans John Anderson and Paul Murphy. In his mind, they committed party heresy by ruling that the state's hoary old sodomy law was unconstitutional because it criminalized sexual behavior for gay people that is permissible for straight couples.
Consultant Blakemore says he worked with Polland on the effort to get the denunciations inserted in the party platform. Oddly, Polland now claims he had no role whatsoever in the effort.
Not content with the plank in the platform against the judges, Polland turned his tempest to the GOP chairs in 14 Houston-region counties covered by the 14th Court of Appeals. He wanted them to sign a letter calling on Anderson to change his opinions in the case or resign from office. In issuing that kind of ultimatum, Polland risked violating both State Bar of Texas canons of ethics and state penal codes forbidding attorneys and others from privately pressuring judges on pending legal matters.
"At the Victory 2000 dinner [after the convention], several people said, 'Let's do a letter,' and Gary was kinda leading the charge," recalls Paul Simpson, party treasurer and former general counsel. "They said, 'You write it.' For whatever reason, I agreed to do it." Simpson drafted a letter and sent it to Polland, who made a few changes and then mailed it.
"As the Texas Republican Platform states," the missive says, "homosexual behavior tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family and is a hazard to public health your opinion blatantly defies the Republican Party Platform and creates potential for further damage to our society."
Simpson says he almost immediately had second thoughts about the wisdom of contacting the judge.
"From a political basis, I didn't think it was something we ought to be doing," explains Simpson. "And from a legal basis, we shouldn't be doing this to a judge ." Simpson says it's "sacrosanct" to him never to talk privately to judges about cases, even those not directly involving him.
Simpson says it took several days to convince Polland and others that the letter was a mistake. By that time, some of the county chairmen had already balked at signing the letter, which had been anonymously faxed to Anderson. The jurist distributed it to other justices on the appeals court. District Attorney Johnny Holmes was contacted as well, and Polland's bright idea had blown up into a judicial brouhaha.
It was left to Simpson to deliver the follow-up note advising the chairmen to drop the matter. "We believe Justice Anderson's opinion was incorrect and the result deplorable. However, after further consideration and reflection [o]ther means of political action, we believe, will be more appropriate and effective."
Consultant Blakemore worked with Polland to get the denunciation of the judges written into the state party platform, but he believes the chairman erred in launching the letter-writing campaign.
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