Naked City

Off the Desk

Did the Dems win by electing Republican Bill Ratliff lieutenant governor? Yes, said a source close to several Democratic senators. Ratliff was elected by the surprise candidacy of Laredo Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat who brought the women of the Senate (two Democrats and two Republicans) together behind her candidacy and kept Waco Republican David Sibley out of the Lt. Gov's office. With solid gender backing, Zaffirini denied Sibley a win on the first vote, as an 11-11 split between Sibley and Ratliff provided the momentum Ratliff needed to ultimately prevail in a series of votes held last week.

"There were three candidates Democratic senators would have been comfortable with: Ratliff, [Lake Jackson Republican Buster] Brown, and [San Antonio Republican Jeff] Wentworth," the Senate source said. Sibley, said to be the preferred candidate of new Gov. Rick Perry, was considered by Democrats to be the most partisan candidate in the race. "There's no doubt that Bill Ratliff was elected by more Democratic than Republican votes," the source said. Unable to elect Buster Brown -- the Democrats' first choice because he likely has no political future -- the Dems blocked the election of the most powerful and ambitious member of the GOP Senate majority. In short, Sibley got Zafted...

Are we in a recession, and will the Bushies save us? Yes and no, says James Galbraith. In an article published in TheStreet.com, the LBJ Public Policy School economist rides an aircraft metaphor to a crash and suggests that the pilot doesn't want to pull the plane out of a dive. "Third-quarter GDP growth was already down to 2.2% -- stall speed. Based on what we know now, the fourth-quarter numbers will be worse ... Is there a faction on the Federal Reserve or in its near proximity that would actually prefer to take a recession now?" Galbraith observes that that Bush economic advisor Larry Lindsey sold his stocks, perhaps to weather the crash. Rather than act to pull the economy out of a recession, the Bush economic brain trust would prefer to have a recession now and hope it's over by the 2002 congressional elections. The hope, Galbraith writes, "is that it will tarnish the golden record of the Clinton years, give Bush an early crisis he can cure with a tax cut, eliminate the pressures to expand social programs (by reducing the surplus), recreate the fiscal problems of Social Security -- and in all ways advance the Republican agenda"...

Is the Bush debate tape investigation over? The Public Integrity office of the U.S. Dept. of Justice continues to look into the mailing of a videotape of George. W. Bush's debate practice session to Democratic Rep. Tom Downey just before the first presidential debate. A source following the investigation said that when the federal grand jury convened at Austin's federal building two weeks before Christmas, local FBI officials were ordered to leave the hearing room as the team from Washington went to work. A Postal Service surveillance camera showed an aide to Mark McKinnon mailing a package around the time the debate tapes were sent. McKinnon, who did much of Bush's media work during the campaign, will appear before the grand jury, said his Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, adding that his client has been told that he's not a target of the federal investigation. McKinnon has done nothing wrong and will cooperate with the investigation, Hardin said...

Is Austin ready for another campaign finance proposal? Longtime neighborhood leader and former City Council candidate Clare Barry thinks so. She's behind a new group that's putting together a ballot initiative that would provide public funds for qualified candidates who abide by a $100 limit on contributions, while limiting all other candidates to $200 per contribution. The initiative, which would require voter approval of a city charter amendment, kicks off with an organizational meeting this Saturday; call 440-5757 for details.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Bill Ratliff, Judith Zaffirini, David Sibley, Rick Perry, James Galbraith, Larry Lindsey, Mark McKinnon, Rusty Hardin

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