The Insider

As a cat, he'd have exhausted all his political lives by now. If he were a magician, his top hat would have run out of rabbits long ago. But hand it to the Ninth District's former congressman Steve Stockman of Friendswood: He's proving it's nearly impossible to keep a determined, cagey ultraconservative down for the count.

Stockman is alive and well and reinvented as a very highly paid political consultant in Houston's Seventh Congressional District GOP slugfest to replace retiring Congressman Bill Archer. He's so well paid that local professionals in the field wonder what he's doing with all the money. Clues may come from his past campaign maneuvers, when he was the darling of militias and the National Rifle Association on Capitol Hill.

As usual, tracking Stockman's financial trail through Federal Election Commission filings requires the skills of a Wild West scout. His latest liaison is with Houston lawyer Mark Brewer, who is using a $559,846 loan to himself to fund his race for the Seventh. Brewer's initial campaign report listed contributions but no expenditures. After the FEC began asking questions, Brewer filed an amended report that offers some tantalizing entries.

The filing shows Brewer made two $100,000 payments to General Media Consultants of McLean, Virginia, a firm not listed in the phone directory and unknown to GOP consultants contacted by the Insider. On the same day of those transactions, the Brewer campaign made a $50,000 payment for media consulting to Stockman, who listed an address in Friendswood.

Later, Stockman and his wife, Patti, gave $1,000 each to Brewer's campaign in June. They listed their address as 8180 Greensboro Drive in McLean, the same address as the previously unknown General Media Consulting group. It's all too reminiscent of the mid-'90s, when the former congressman used his home as the base for an equally unknown political consulting firm that received big bucks from his campaign account.

Consultant Allen Blakemore has worked for GOP westside kingmaker Dr. Steven Hotze. Blakemore is no stranger to the fine art of funneling campaign cash through the good doctor's network of companies and political action committees. He finds the cash outlay to Stockman outlandish.

Blakemore cites fees charged by leading GOP consultants, including Herb Butrum, Sue Walden and Karl Rove. None of them remotely compare to payouts for Stockman. "It is beyond the pale -- just the $50,000. And then $200,000? The question is: What the hell is going on?" The question is of more than passing interest to Blakemore, who represents Cathy McConn, former Republican National Committee member and Seventh District candidate.

A downtown-based GOP fund-raiser suspects Stockman is behind a telephone polling effort that drops in negative, and in some cases unsubstantiated, allegations about Brewer's opponents. They include businessmen Peter Wareing and Ron Kapche, state Representative John Culberson and McConn.

The Brewer campaign did not return a call, and Stockman could not be reached for comment.

The Insider must admit to a certain nostalgia for the chubby onetime-homeless Montrose party boy. He became a hero on the right when he knocked off aging House Democratic chieftain Jack Brooks in 1994.

By 1995 Stockman had created another political consulting firm, Political Won Stop, which operated out of his house in Friendswood. The firm became a virtual black hole for Stockman campaign cash, absorbing $126,000 that year. Two young campaign volunteers were listed as the consultants running the operation.

In 1996 the Insider paid an unannounced visit to the Stockman home-cum-campaign-workshop on Whitman Way. The congressman tried to file assault and trespassing charges against yours truly. That went nowhere when the Harris County District Attorney refused to act on the complaint. Prosecutors heard a tape of the incident that proved nothing had happened beyond a rather uninformative interview attempt.

The Insider sued the congressman for libel. That was dropped after Stockman's 1996 defeat by Democrat Nick Lampson.

Ah. Such fond memories from the century past.

Stockman initially made sounds like he might try a political rebound against Houston Congressman Ken Bentsen. He then lost in the race for the GOP nomination to the Texas Railroad Commissioner two years ago. This time around, he's content to milk the Brewer campaign for all it's worth.

Under Stockman's guidance, Brewer's campaign centers on the slogan "Mark will fight to turn out the lights at the IRS." He also promises to "protect the rights of one of America's greatest assets: the unborn."

"I rely on him pretty heavily for advice," Brewer told a reporter when asked about Stockman's consultant qualifications. Brewer also explained that opponent McConn had introduced the two.

Given Stockman's track record, that may turn out to be the most adroit political maneuver McConn makes in the race.

GOP Knives Come Out

Governor and presidential candidate George W. Bush had a deluxe stocking stuffer for Houston attorney Martha Hill Jamison on Christmas Eve. Jamison's the daughter of former Texas Supreme Court chief justice and unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hill. She was preparing to celebrate the holiday with her family when she got the call that Bush had appointed her to the 164th District judgeship.

Jamison, whose legal experience is primarily in mediation and arbitration, had been on the judicial waiting list for some time. Her father, who served as a Bush appointee to the Lottery Commission, worked the phones to get endorsements for Jamison. Her other influential supporter was Bush's personal counsel, Harriet Miers, who chaired the Lottery Commission and is a law partner with Hill in the recently merged law firm of Locke, Liddell & Sapp.

It was an unusual judicial appointment by Bush standards. Jamison, a longtime Democrat who ran for judge on the party ticket in 1994, only recently converted to the Republican Party. The appointment also came less than a week before the deadline for filing in the GOP primary, and after three other candidates had already entered the 164th primary race.

The post previously belonged to the last Democratic district judge in Harris County, Katie Kennedy, who resigned to take a court appointment overseeing the distribution of breast-implant settlement money.

Now the question of the moment in Harris County GOP circles is whether the governor's team will fight to help his appointment hold her seat in a primary where opponents are already delving into Jamison's Democratic record. Among the bones being excavated are old Jamison campaign expenditures for an advertisement with the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus and a luncheon at Planned Parenthood. In conservative GOP ranks, associations with those two groups are as potentially lethal to candidates as the Ebola virus. Jamison also supported Senate Democratic candidate John Odom against Phil Gramm back in her yellow-dog Dem days.

Consultant Allen Blakemore, who works for 164th candidate and attorney Frank Gerold, says that the governor's team has not yet pressured candidates to drop out.

Consultant Mary Jane Smith, who represents candidate Patrick Timmons, says Jamison doesn't understand how GOP primaries are very grassroots and "very lately dominated by the religious right."

"And she has some characteristics in her makeup that are going to be difficult for them to swallow," Smith says. "And frankly, Governor Bush is going to be very busy up in New Hampshire and Iowa and other places, and I don't see him coming in to campaign for her."

Bracewell & Patterson attorney Pat Oxford, an adviser to Bush's team on judicial appointments, counters that Jamison is not being thrown to the Republican wolves.

"She's his appointment, and I expect [Bush] to defend her fully," says Oxford. Bush and others have spent much energy trying to get Democrats to change parties, he says.

When former Democrats are defeated, "that has a chilling effect on other Democrats that are thinking of crossing. So for that reason alone, the governor's supporters like myself will be campaigning hard for her," Oxford says.

Jamison, who looks a bit like the sitcom actress Delta Burke, seems unconcerned. She dismisses the HGLPC and Planned Parenthood donations in 1994 as minor campaign-related activities. "ŠI don't know that they symbolize much more than that."

Jamison was hopeful that other candidates for her bench might have a change of heart. "I certainly would understand if there was another race or another time that would be better for them."

As for the influence of the religious right in the upcoming GOP primary, Jamison has a quick comeback: "As a Sunday school teacher, I don't see why that would be a problem."

Might depend on the Sunday school.

Drop your news nuggets in the Insider's collection plate. Call him at (713)280-2483, fax him at (713)280-2496, or e-mail him at insider@houstonpress.com.

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