I attended a cool event last night, a forum sponsored by Clean Up Texas Politics on the effect of big money in our political campaigns and what's going on to fix it. Mayor White gave a keynote address, City Council member Pam Holm moderated a roundtable discussion, there were other worthwhile speakers (more on all this in a sec), and best of all, there was free food beforehand.
White made a number of good points about campaign ethics during his address, drawing on numerous bad examples from the 2003 municipal elections (see here for one of the things he mentioned; he also used with her permission the story of a mailer which made a false claim about Pam Holm). He put some responsibility for clean campaigns on the voters, basically saying that at some point you have to refuse to vote for someone you'd otherwise support if that person does sleazy things in the name of winning, and that you have to let that candidate know that he or she is in jeopardy of losing your support under those circumstances. Hard to argue with that.
One of the more interesting speakers was Mickey Jo Lawrence, former member of the Texas Ethics Commission, appointed to that position by then-Gov. Bush. She helped bring a bipartisan feeling to the event, and gave a good overview of how powerless and constricted the TEC has been. It's not as bad as it once was - commissioners no longer fear that they'll be arrested if they try to ask questions of a potential witness, and no, I'm not joking - but it's still pretty bad. She touched briefly and subtlely on the issue of corporate campaign contributions, and though she never came out and said so, one could see that she supported Ronnie Earle's efforts in the TRMPAC case.
The subject of corporate campaign contributions was mentioned several times. Fred Lewis of CleanUpTexasPolitics spoke about a bill to be filed by Reps. Eiland and Smith that would close the current loopholes that allowed for the creative interpretations we saw in 2002. Other bills, to do things like impose donation caps and ban sham "issue" ads a la McCain/Feingold, also with bipartisan sponsorship, are in the works. I'm told that Mark Strama will have a non-sponsor role to play, which fits with his campaign from last year.
I'm sorry I couldn't stay for the panel discussion, since the opening statements were pretty lively, but they were behind schedule and I had to get home. Panelists were John Cobarruvias of Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings, Linda Stall of Corridor Watch, and Jane Laping of Mothers for Clean Air. Cobarruvias was quite blunt as he tore into the influence of homebuilders and how they've rigged the system (see here and here for some background; apparently Jordan Fogal was in attendance, but alas, I didn't get a chance to talk to her). If he ever decides to run for office (John Davis is his state rep), I think he'd make a race out of it. For a relative newbie to this sort of thing, Stall was a very good speaker. She sounds natural and authentic, her cause is one that a lot of people don't know much about (see here and here for more), and she fed off the responses she got as she spoke about it. Laping, alas, was not a natural speaker - she was reading from notes, and kept losing her place. I suspect she did better in the moderated discussion, but I'd departed by then.
All three panelists will be taking part in online discussions at CleanUpTexasPolitics.com. I don't see anything about it on there now, but Laping is scheduled for tomorrow, with the others to follow in the coming days. I'll post a link when I know more; I'm told there will be a transcript available afterwards as well.
Last but not least, you might think that an event that drew 250 people, featured the Mayor as keynote speaker, and had various politicos like Sylvia Garcia in the audience might attract a reporter or two. Sadly, no - I can't find any press coverage of this. Too bad, and our loss for it. I gather that there will be more of these events in the future, presumably elsewhere in Texas, so check the CleanUpTexasPolitics.com site and see if one is coming to an auditorium near you.
UPDATE: Greg adds on.Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 02, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack