Got It, Flaunt It

Those campaign donations aren't buying yard signs and pamphlets

Trying to reform campaign-finance laws in Texas -- home of Tom DeLay -- is a noble, needed effort that will eventually, we're sure, have all the success that state environmental activists have had.

Someone has to do it, though, and thankfully Fred Lewis and the folks at Campaigns for People have jumped into the fray. They've released a study detailing how the 31 state senators spent their campaign funds in the years 2001 to 2003. The study shows, to no one's surprise, that when you give money to a Texas politician's campaign, there's no telling where it will go -- state reps and senators are paid paltry salaries, and campaign laws are loose enough that they can spend their donations on just about anything, like living expenses.

Lewis, of course, is concerned about potential ethical abuses, saying things such as "senators are trying to cope with a broken system" that's rife with potential for influence-peddling.

An' Git Away From My Still! Revenooers, 
Treasury men and other such city slickers are advised 
to stay away from this house on Cortlandt in the 
Heights. Signs -- apparently from the noted boutique 
"Calligraphy By Jed" -- give fair warning that, unlike the 
rest of the neighborhood, this resident is in no hurry to 
gentrify. Whoever lives there didn't respond to our 
attempts to get an interview, and an official at the 
Houston Heights Association said his group was 
unaware of the house. Still, are a couple of signs 
enough to scare away someone determined to give 
Houston even more knockoff town homes?
An' Git Away From My Still!
Revenooers, Treasury men and other such city slickers are advised to stay away from this house on Cortlandt in the Heights. Signs -- apparently from the noted boutique "Calligraphy By Jed" -- give fair warning that, unlike the rest of the neighborhood, this resident is in no hurry to gentrify. Whoever lives there didn't respond to our attempts to get an interview, and an official at the Houston Heights Association said his group was unaware of the house. Still, are a couple of signs enough to scare away someone determined to give Houston even more knockoff town homes?

But who cares about such goody-goody stuff? We want slimy details.

Unfortunately, there are no "staff dinners" at The Men's Club, or anything like that. Still, a few things stand out:

The Healthy Eating Award goes to Senator Teel Bivins, an Amarillo Republican. Forget about the $571 tab to Pinkie's Liquor; Bivins bought food from Pizza Hut, Krispy Kreme, Iron Works BBQ, Shipley's Do-Nuts, Candy And Stuff and Cakes N More. Bivins is expected to sponsor the Carbohydrate Preservation Act in 2005.

The Senate's Best Secret Santa is John Carona, a Dallas Democrat. Under "gifts" he listed expenditures at such places as Tiffany & Co., Neiman-Marcus, Godiva Chocolates, Bailey Banks & Biddle, Williams-Sonoma, FAO Schwarz and some store called Objects of Envy. Not to mention the $12,500 he dropped at the White House Historical Society.

The Senator You Want to Dine With is Houston's own John Whitmire (nominally a Democrat). He spends campaign cash at such high-end places as Vic & Anthony's, Ruth's Chris Steak House, the River Oaks Grill (he's dropped $3,500 there in three years), Morton's Steakhouse and Damian's.

The Senator You Don't Want to Dine With is Eddie Lucio Jr., a Brownsville Democrat. His list of eateries included the unfortunately named Kuntry Korner and a veritable tableau of non-mouthwatering places: Golden Corral, Applebee's, Luby's, Subway and IHOP. Most depressing entry: $4.83 at Whataburger for "lunch for staff member."

Maybe he should get friendly with John Carona. Can a gift certificate to the Mansion on Turtle Creek be far behind?

Stuff Happens

Being a punk-ass street jerk is a shitty job. At least that's what a car full of pseudo-toughs found out on the southwest side of town recently.

Spotting an older guy walking his dog near Braeswood and Hillcroft, they pulled over, pointed a gun and started talking trash. The guy, who did not want his name used, figured it was a robbery.

Being a Vietnam vet -- and the son of a marine Harrier pilot -- he wasn't going to give the thugs the pleasure of robbing him. So he tossed the plastic bag he was holding into the open car and took off. He got hit by a pellet gunshot in the back but is in good shape.

As for the robbers, they sped away with their plastic bag of hard-earned booty. Seeing how it was full of the dog shit the guy had scooped up after his pet had done his business, cops must be looking for brown-spattered occupants and a car that now has five or six of those pine-scented tree deodorants hanging in it.

Come Out of Your Shell

The U.S. Senate has burnished its reputation for trenchant debate with its recent oratory over the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Texas played its usual statesmanlike role, of course. Senator John Cornyn, in a speech prepared for the conservative Heritage Foundation, said, "It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right. Now you must raise your children in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife."

Cornyn may, of course, have simply been following the GOP line -- led admirably by Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum -- that equates gay sex with bestiality. But in the perhaps vain hope that our state's junior senator could not possibly be so…ummm…mentally challenged, we thought maybe he had some personal experience that would lead him to make such a statement.

So we called his neighbor. Wendall Hirschfeld, 35, lives next door to Cornyn on Austin's west side.

Q. You're John Cornyn's neighbor, right?

A. Huh? Well, yeah, that's right, I am. Why?

Q. This is kind of a strange question, but the senator, in a speech about the gay marriage amendment, talked about neighbors marrying box turtles. Is this something you've ever thought of?

A. Ummm. I don't….uhh…I don't know where you're going with this.

Q. Well, I just wondered where he got the idea, and thought maybe, you know, since you're his neighbor…

A. Yeah. Well, as you said, this is kind of a strange question. [Embarrassing pause, long enough that we begin to wonder whether the reticence might just be due to his actually avoiding the subject of his box-turtle wife.]

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