The Moral of Morales
At one time Morales was not only the law in Texas but also the brightest rising Hispanic star in state politics, and his landmark 1998 $17.3 billion tobacco litigation victory -- won with a team of the state's most brilliant, junkyard-dog trial attorneys -- was the highlight of a tenure that continued the state's intermittent tradition of aggressive anti-corporate litigation. But the fight over the attorneys' fees, his abrupt departure from and then return to politics, and his determination to go his own way as a "moderate" Democrat -- running a bitter race against Democrat Tony Sanchez in the 2000 primary and subsequently endorsing Rick Perry -- alienated him from fellow Democrats even while his personal situation deteriorated.
Former Chronicle Politics Editor Louis Dubose (also co-author of books on George W. Bush and Karl Rove and now at work with Jan Reid on a book about Tom DeLay) has followed Morales' career for many years and says bluntly, "It is now evident -- and probably was to federal prosecutors -- that Morales ran for governor because if he did so, he could justify using campaign money left over in his state-officeholder account to pay criminal-defense attorneys to keep him out of Club Fed. ... Of approximately $550,000 spent on the campaign, $485,000 was spent paying his defense counsel. Some campaign. What did Al Kauffman and Dan Morales have in common? Both were directors of a Mexican American Legal Defense Fund." Dubose reviewed the tawdry record of Morales' attempt to manipulate the tobacco settlement -- not to mention Dapper Dan's astonishing attempt to obtain fraudulent loans for luxury cars, after his indictment and after he'd told Sparks he was indigent -- and concluded, "I guess he has four years to think about these things.