Subpoena Envy

A legislative panel summons local GOP leaders to a show-and-tell

"If unopposed, I'll return all money less expenses. This isn't conditional. It isn't an offer. If I don't have an opponent, I don't need your money in my bank. All I need is your help to keep doing the job I love."

Cohen eventually won the GOP nomination unopposed, but only after spending a prodigious amount of his contributors' cash to clear his electoral highway of a speed bump named Joe Libby. The judge's July 15 campaign report shows he paid $45,000 to the law firm of old friends Stanley Schneider and Troy McKinneyto challenge Libby's candidacy. They filed a lawsuit accusing Libby of filing for office with petitions full of fraudulent voter signatures. Cohen also paid a private investigator $16,722 to look into Libby's petition effort. The challenger eventually surrendered under pressure and withdrew his candidacy.

A veteran political organizer marvels at the $45,000 legal bill. "Even if you figure that Stanley charges $300 an hour and Murry paid top dollar, that's still 130 hours of legal work, or three solid weeks of work. A lot of lawyers do that campaign stuff for free for their candidates."

Interestingly, Schneider and McKinney performed the same service for Cohen back in 1988. The judge successfully sued to have Republican opponent Jim Scott disqualified from the race because he did not have the required number of voter signatures on his petitions.

(Cohen opponents would be well advised in the future to forgo the petition route and pay an honest filing fee. And to make damn sure their law license is in order.)

After expenses, Cohen reports, he has $19,000 left in his campaign account. As of last week, none had been refunded to contributors, although the justice promises small paybacks will be in the mail soon.

"It will be at least 10 percent of the amount they gave, and close to the full amount of what's left," vows the jurist. He plans to keep a small contingency fund even though he is unopposed in the general election.

The Dirt Queen Does Philly

The Washington Post's "reliable source" was all over a convention brunch encounter last week between Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter and a glamorous blond Republican donor who billed herself as "The Dirt Queen of Houston." Columnist Lloyd Grove first narrated the harmless flirtation between the married 70-year-old senator and the real estate broker, and then pulled the $10,000 GOP contributor aside to get some particulars.

According to Groves, the Dirt Queen was attending her first convention, trolling for new business and looking for an interesting man. She claimed that a fellow member of the gold-plated Senatorial Trust told her, "Don't worry, with all the folks you'll make contact with, you'll get your $10,000 back right away." The woman boasted that she specialized in doubling and tripling her clients' money.

Had Groves run a computer check on his statuesque subject in the creamy silk Armani suit, he would have discovered she was a dirt queen in more ways than just selling land. The lady was none other than Susan Menke, convicted of participating in the theft of $128,927 from Houston's Hermann Estate, which endows Hermann Hospital, back in the mid-'80s. Menke served jail time for that theft, then slowly rehabilitated herself with the help of Bush buddy and former commerce secretary Robert Mosbacher. He hired her to research land transactions for his Cinco Ranch holdings. From there she branched into Republican politics and soon found herself chatting up bigwigs at the Philly brunch -- and explaining to The Washington Post what she wants in a man.

"He's got to be a spiritual leader … and he's got to be successful," she told Grove. "I'm successful, so I want someone at least as successful as I am, because I believe the man should be the leader and the woman should be submissive….I'm a born-again Christian, so he has to be a Christian man who walks the talk."

We don't know about her walk, but Susan can definitely talk the talk. And talk. And talk.

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