The Kingdom and the Power

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Wong doesn't accept Hotze's claims it was all an innocent mistake.
"The ethics of a Christian lying," she says, "are deplorable."
Hotze's mailing didn't carry his name, and on Election Day Wong stood at a polling place and questioned voters who carried the Conservative Republicans of Harris County endorsement sheet to see if they knew its source. Most did not and were shocked to learn it came from Hotze, Wong claims.

Brent Perry, the winner of this year's Republican primary in the 25th Congressional District, found himself on the wrong side of Hotze after federal judges overturned the primary results and created wide-open special congressional elections on the November ballot.

Following the judge's decision, Hotze's brother Jim declared his candidacy in the special election in the 25th District. But after the younger Hotze dropped out, Perry buttonholed Steven Hotze at a candidates' forum and asked for his support. According to Perry, Hotze bluntly informed him he didn't consider Perry a strong enough challenger to incumbent Democrat Ken Bentsen.

And within days, one of Hotze's favorite officeholders, anti-abortion activist and state District Judge John Devine, jumped into the race against Bentsen, creating a fractious crew of competing Republicans and the possibility that Devine could wind up in a low-turnout runoff, where Hotze's support would be most effective. Perry visited Devine to try to talk him out of the race and claims the judge told him Hotze had promised Devine his support, including inclusion on that potent endorsement mailer that did in Wong.

While his muscle in general elections has yet to be seriously tested, his near clean-sweep in this year's Republican primaries has left party moderates bitter and frustrated: bitter at what they claim are the un-Christian tactics of the holier-than-thou Hotze, and frustrated because his expanding influence is fueled by money contributed by mainstream Republicans.

"I don't think Steven Hotze would have any influence except over a small number of people if he was not given money to do what he does -- his mailouts, his callouts, that kinda stuff," says Judith Jones, a former ally of Hotze's who has since turned against him. "He's a theocrat. He really believes this stuff -- the purpose of civil government is to punish evil. I think that actually has a very small following. But the people who give him money are the people who give him his vehicle. If they didn't give him money, he couldn't do it."

For the November general election, Hotze is masterminding something called the "Unified Republican Candidates Campaign." His money pitch, as presented to Republican incumbents and challengers in one-on-one conversations, offers what he bills as "a four-pronged attack" whose purpose is "to provide leadership which would limit civil government, deregulate business, combat criminals, lower taxes and encourage traditional family values." In return for a candidate's contribution to his effort, Hotze promises to mobilize Christian conservative voters, push an early mail-in ballot to the conservative elderly, bombard 250,000 households with direct mail and provide three rounds of computerized automated phone calls to the same households.

Those calls would feature the voices of Senators Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison, as well as County Judge Eckels. With voices of authority like that making the pitch, what Republican wouldn't sign on to the Hotze program?

Steven Hotze was born in Houston on July 5, 1950, into a devoutly Catholic family, one of seven brothers and one sister. His father Ernest, who died last November, moved from Dresser Industries to found Compressor Engineering Corporation, the family firm now run by Steven's brother Bruce and employing a number of other family members. As chairman of the company, mother Margaret exercises an active role. Hotze attended St. Michael's Catholic School and later St. Thomas High School, where he evinced a bent for conservative political organizing early.

According to Margaret Hotze, as a St. Thomas senior her oldest son helped organize an "Up with America" rally that resulted in a downtown parade. As the class president, he teamed with a young black San Antonian, Alan Keyes, to run unsuccessfully for governor and lieutenant governor of Boys' State in the late sixties. Even then, Hotze held a firm world-view that posited big government and homosexuality as two great evils to be combated. His role models were close to home. Ernest bankrolled conservative causes, while Margaret was a GOP precinct chairman and an early anti-abortion organizer in Houston. Hotze's brothers, particularly Bruce, Jim and Chris, were conservative activists then, and are today.

The Catholic Church was too liberal to hold the allegiance of Hotze for long, and he joined the campus Crusade for Christ while a University of Texas student. "What distressed me," says a Catholic cleric who knows the family, "is that he's taken his wife and his children away from the church, and that's a great source of distress to other members of the family, all of whom are very staunch Catholics." Hotze's wife was also a devout Catholic, says the cleric, "but it was a matter of keeping the family together, and he's stronger than she is."

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Tim Fleck
Contact: Tim Fleck