Naked City

Mark Strama's Pinko Commie Friends

Mark Strama
Mark Strama

In his lengthy tenure as a mover and shaker in Texas business and politics, Lowell Lebermann has been called a lot of things, but "anti-business" is not one of them. That is, not until earlier this month, when state Rep. Jack Stick referred to Lebermann and other business leaders in that vein. It happens that the group of local boosters is supporting Democrat Mark Strama's bid to unseat Stick in the District 50 legislative race. The bunch of ne'er-do-wells, in addition to Lebermann, includes former Dell CFO Tom Meredith, GSD&M advertising President Roy Spence, PR guru and former chamber Chair Kerry Tate, and ex-mayor and chamber Chair-Elect Kirk Watson. Theirs and other names of pro-business people appear on an invitation to a meet-and-greet event for Strama, to be held Sept. 21 at the Austin Club.

In response, Stick sent a letter to many of the same lobbyists and potential donors on Strama's invitation list, warning them not to fall for his challenger's dirty tricks. "That fundraising letter," Stick pointed out, was "signed by some of the most liberal anti-job growth, anti-business, anti-conservative activists in the state." He added, "You'll learn more about some of my opponent's 'John Kerry' behaviors in the days to come."

Not to be outdone, Lebermann and company wrote a response to Stick's letter, which again went out to the same recipients. "Contrary to what you may have heard," they wrote, "we are all active members of the Texas business community and together we have helped [create] thousands of jobs in Texas." Taking the row further still, the Strama campaign churned out a press release this week that called attention to Stick's derision of the business group. In it, Meredith offers a reminder that Stick spent the last legislative session fighting for a redistricting plan put forth by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, which placed District 50 constituents in now-Houston-based Congressional District 10. "While he was engaging in partisan power plays," Meredith said, "we in the business community were actually trying to build companies and jobs."

The exchange is but one example of what's at stake in this race as Democrats seek to regain footing in the House. In the 2000 election, Stick was one of several Republican House candidates who benefited from a well-orchestrated drive to create a GOP-controlled Legislature. The effort, carried out by the state's largest business lobby PAC and a Texas GOP PAC, was fueled by massive campaign contributions from undisclosed corporate donors. A criminal investigation is under way to determine if the PACs illegally used corporate money to turn the state on its head. Meanwhile, the most recent campaign finance reports, filed in July, show Stick's fundraising efforts lagging behind Strama by more than $100,000. The next fundraising reports are due at the Ethics Commission by Oct. 4.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Election 2004, Jack Stick, Legislature, Mark Strama, District 50, Lowell Lebermann, Kirk Watson, Kerry Tate, Tom Meredith, GSD&M, Roy Spence

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