Carole to the Rescue? Yeah, Right

Carole Keeton Strayhorn's campaign is floating a promise of quick cash, albeit only for the next month.

While the closing of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's remaining Disaster Recovery Centers (see "Beyond City Limits," p.19) may put a squeeze on hurricane evacuees still in need of financial and/or employment-related resources, Texas "independent" gubernatorial hopeful Carole Keeton Strayhorn's campaign has stepped up to the plate to extend a helping hand. Or, to be more exact, her campaign's "petition management office" is floating a promise of quick cash, albeit only for the next month. Late last month the campaign's petition managers – likely the Dallas-based National Voter Outreach folks, with whom the campaign has contracted to help amass petition-gathering volunteers, says Strayhorn son and campaign manager Brad McClellan – placed classified advertisements in the Houston Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, and the San Antonio Express-News that targeted "Katrina victims," offering the chance to "get on your feet today," and promising "$$$$$$," from $100 to $150 "paid daily" and in cash – all for signing up to collect petition signatures of registered voters. The ads ask interested parties to call a phone number that goes directly to a recorded message.

"This is the best job in the paper," the recorded voice says, "so grab a pen and a piece of paper, and I'll tell you all about it." First, the male voice says, it really is possible to earn "$100 to $150-plus" per day collecting the voter signatures needed to secure Strayhorn a spot on the November election ballot. (Under state election law, by May 11, Indie gubernatorial candidates Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman each need to collect just over 45,000 valid signatures of registered voters who did not vote in either party primary in order to secure a spot on the general election ballot.) It's easy, really, the voice promises; petition workers go to places where large numbers of people gather – tax offices, festivals, grocery stores, libraries – and "simply ask the person if they're a registered voter and get them to sign the petition; it's that simple," the recording says.

If only it were that uncomplicated. The recording makes no mention of the other petition requirements – that the collected signatures must be from voters who did not cast ballots in the March primaries, and that voters may sign only one petition for a candidate seeking to be certified as an Indie candidate for governor (in other words, that signing for Strayhorn means a voter can't sign for Friedman, and vice versa.) The recorded male voice does say that interested parties must first attend a short training session before hitting the streets – at which time we presume recruits will be given the rest of the signature-gathering rules. Still, the message clearly emphasizes quick cash over fastidious rule following, a short-term solution for folks who are likely more in need of long-term options – in short, the ads are more tacky than tactful.

McClellan, however, disagrees. While he says that no one on the campaign reviews such ads before they're placed, and that he hadn't seen the ads in question until the Chronicle forwarded them to him, he doesn't think they're at all distasteful or pandering. "Is it not a good thing for those [Katrina] victims" to get a chance to make some quick cash? he asked. Further, he noted, if the petition workers are less than diligent and happen to collect invalid signatures, they're not paid. "I am glad if we are indirectly, through the tough process in place to get on the ballot as an independent candidate … helping provide some employment for people here in Texas with the possibility of 'high pay,'" he wrote in a subsequent e-mail, "and I am hopeful we have helped out some people with some good pay for this important work." (To hear the recording from Strayhorn petition management HQ, call 713/866-8880.)

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