Political Shark Alert!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into City Hall's waters...

However the situation resolves itself, things could be a lot worse. Councilmembers can be grateful they are out of the eye of the storm, unlike back in 1997. At that time, there was a battle over proposed privatization of city wastewater facilities, and the French corporation PSG's lobbying team drenched the officials with cash inducements.

Former port commissioner Betti Maldonado, later convicted in an unrelated bribery-conspiracy sting, marveled on an FBI tape that PSG operatives were passing out bundles of campaign money that totaled as much as $50,000 for some councilmembers. Maldonado said she resigned from her contract with PSG lobbyist Peppar & Post because she "began to feel some pressure from them and thought that what they were trying to do was not right."

Several sources familiar with the events suggested that Maldonado resigned because she was miffed that a fellow consultant, Willard Jackson, had received a larger cut of the lobbying contract than she was offered.

In a sign that some things never change, Jackson is back at City Hall lobbying for U.S. Filter. And now that the city campaign season has officially begun, the combatants are free to begin contributing to the elected officials of their choice. If it were council instead of the HAWC shaping the deal, the result might be a PSG-style tsunami of campaign cash.

"There's a reason we set up the board," Councilwoman Annise Parker says. "The city is not out of the loop. If we can get a good work product and it keeps councilmembers out of the crosshairs of the lobbyists, I think that's a good thing."

Next time you read the contractor- and politico-induced media "exposés" about the HAWC, keep that in mind.

Not That Sudan!

Republican sources report that an unlikely candidate is pushing himself to become the next U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas. The wanna-be is none other than Phil Sudan, loser to Democrat incumbent Ken Bentsen in the 25th Congressional District election last fall.

Sudan called a number of GOP types asking for help, including former U.S. attorney Dan Hedges, who is a member of the panel put together by Texas's senior Senator Phil Gramm to recommend nominees for the appointment by President George W. Bush.

"Gramm's never gonna support Sudan," scoffs one Republican attorney, who is less than overwhelmed by Sudan's civil law experience. "He picks out real live prosecutors and good lawyers. He's not going to pick out a guy like that."

One of Phil's zanier campaign ads defined what he was not; it started with "Not the Africa Sudan!" The Bushies might consider adding another verse: "Not the U.S. Attorney Sudan!"

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