Last week Hair Balls took note of the legislative skill and daring of state Representative Dwayne Bohac, who stage-managed a rush committee vote to kill a socialistic, do-gooder bill that would have further hampered the efforts of corporations to take part in Texas democracy.
Did Bohac, a Houston Republican, appreciate our efforts? Alas, he did not.
We had mentioned -- in passing, really -- that Bohac was one rep who knew how to make sure that the perennially outgunned voice of big business was finally heard in the lege. The phrase used, if we remember correctly, was something along the lines of Bohac having "drunk deep from the corporate trough."
Bohac called and heatedly denied he had ever taken corporate money. "It's illegal," he said.
True enough. But -- this being Texas -- it's not illegal if you just use a few intermediaries to muddy up the money trail.
Bohac was one of seven Texas House candidates who benefited from the disgraced corporate PAC put together by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in an effort to fund a Republican takeover of the state legislature. Key members of that PAC were indicted on allegations of funneling $190,000 to the Republican National Committee, which then doled out the dough to local candidates.
Bohac got $12,370 directly from DeLay's PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority. He also got $20,000 from the Republican State Elections Committee, which was distributing the DeLay cash, and he was one of 18 House members to benefit from $2 million worth of mailers distributed by the Texas Association of Business.
Bohac said he doesn't "know anything about that [DeLay] PAC I'm busy -- I have very important things to do here, like representing my constituents."
As for our other claim -- that he helped rush through a vote at his desk on the House floor without notifying the bipartisan sponsors of the bill -- Bohac said the vote was announced in the normal way, over the floor loudspeaker. Then why would both the sponsors, Republican Todd Smith of Euless and Democrat Rafael Anchia of Dallas, complain about the ruse? "I have no idea," Bohac said.
Not that he wasn't diplomatic about it, in his own way. If they couldn't find their way to the desk for the vote, he said, that was "their fucking problem They're not two-year-olds."
Bohac told us he would speak with the two reps; he told the Press they had written him letters taking back their complaints. (Nominations for this year's Profiles in Courage Award are hereby closed.) Bohac said he would fax the letters to the Press, but he never did.
Bohac was right about two things -- one of the sponsors succeeded in getting a hurried revote; we had printed that both had been refused.
And we had the wrong desk. The vote was actually at the desk of the committee chair, Mary Denny.
Better Living Through Science
Kudzu is mostly known as a nuisance to Houstonians. It's the incredibly fast-growing vine that can quickly smother whatever it decides to grow upon. Around town are plenty of telephone poles and abandoned shacks covered in the green leaf.
Now, it appears, there may actually be a use for the stuff. Researchers in New York and Massachusetts say that a pill made from kudzu can cut down on binge drinking.
Media coverage of the study emphasized that test subjects drank fewer beers at one sitting after taking a kudzu pill. What was buried in the stories was why they drank less: Using kudzu got them just as drunk on fewer beers. "The long answer is a theory that the herb can make alcohol go to your head faster," said a Harvard University press release on the subject.
Frat boys seeking to cut down on their Milwaukee's Best bill will now start growing hydroponic kudzu next to their dope. Just as drunk for half the bucks is quite a deal.
Not to the bar industry, of course. "From a business perspective, that's definitely something we don't want," says Jen Eberhardt, the Houston Press Best Bartender of 2004, who now works at Berryhill Baja Grill. "We'd only sell half as many drinks."
Deal with it, dude. And be sure the telephone pole out front stays neatly trimmed.
As the home of Kenny Lay and Jeff Skilling, Houston was expected to be a big supporter of the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. What was unexpected is just how big a supporter it's been.
A month after it opened, the movie still comes close to selling out the 500-seat downstairs theater at the Landmark River Oaks on weekend nights. Even weekdays -- typically a time when Houston movie seats go empty -- have been lucrative, regularly bringing in more than $1,000 a night. Those are numbers not seen since Fahrenheit 911 or when the River Oaks was exclusively showing The Blair Witch Project.
On Monday, May 16, the movie sold almost $1,000 worth of tickets for four showings. By comparison, four showings of another Landmark movie that night, 3-Iron, brought in just $106.
"For three weeks we were sweating bullets over this, so it was such a sigh of relief when the opening weekend grossed what it did," says Rob Arcos, city manager for Landmark. "We thought it would gross $22,000 the entire first week, but we did that just on Friday to Sunday. The rest was gravy."
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The movie has grossed about $60,000 in Houston so far, out of $1.6 million nationwide.
Arcos expects it to play here until June. The longer it stays, the bigger cut the theater gets of each ticket sold. (Theaters make most of their money from concessions.)
Which is good, because the River Oaks, surrounded by food places, faces some white-collar crime of its own.
"We catch people trying to sneak food in more than anything," Arcos says. He wouldn't speculate whether Enron groupies tended to try to bend the rules more often than others.