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September 20, 2004
Monday 8:08:44 P.M. CST

Exclusive: Top Ten List of October Suprises

Timing is everything in politics.

If presidential election history is a guide, there WILL be an October Surprise between Thursday, October 28, 2004 and November 2, 2004.  The goal of an October Surprise is to shake the electorate to make sure that a particular presidential candidate wins.  The most interesting October Surprises are the ones controlled by the presidential campaigns or by individuals who have a political agenda because they determine the date and time of the surprise.   

The race between President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry will undoubtedly be a close one.  Any damaging surprise can tilt the vote in key battleground states and determine the outcome. According to independent pollster John Zogby, the only pollster who accurately predicted the outcome of the presidential race in 1996 and 2000 and the one relied on by for electoral college analysis, the current race will come down to the wire, despite the recent fluctuations in recent polls by other news organizations.

The Top Ten List of October Surprises that could affect the outcome of the presidential race is as follows:


The hunt for Osama Bin Laden is like the hunt for the Holy Grail in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. If he is found, he will validate President Bush's war on terror, his primary campaign issue, and bring unexpected electoral success.

Interestingly, President Bush did not mention Osama Bin Laden when he accepted the Republican nomination for President on September 2, 2004.  Two reasons could account for Bin Laden's absence.  First, the President or his presidential advisors (i.e. Karl Rove) might want to lower expectations to heighten the surprise just in case Bin Laden is found.  Second,  Bin Laden will not be found and the President does not want to raise any hopes.

Some skeptics believe that he has already been found and will be "officially found" in October. Remember, it's the timing that matters.  


It happened in Spain and it could happen in the United States.  For several months there has been speculation that Al-Qaeda may want to disrupt the presidential elections.  Even though it is not Al-Qaeda's modus operandi to strike when the spotlight is on their activities, a terrorist strike is still possible, even with the increased security and intelligence since 9-11.

If an attack is imminent, expect the Department of Homeland Security to raise the threat level to "RED".  The fear of a possible attack will affect the way people vote.  It is no coincidence that Vice-President Dick Cheney and U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert have told the American people that a vote for Kerry is a vote for a new terrorist attack.  

Don't be surprised if there are armed guards by your voting booth.


Somewhere under the sands of Iraq a weapon of mass destruction may be found in October.  Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction was the main reason for removing the vicious dictator and going to war.  Finding at least one weapon will vindicate President Bush and justify a continued American presence in the oil rich country.


Someone close to the President or Vice-President will take the fall for leaking the name of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA agent and wife of Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson.  An independent prosecutor has questioned various reporters who have identified the White House source.  Stay tuned for the shake-up.  


It happened to Barack Obama's Republican opponent in Illinois and it could happen to John Kerry.  The media have been trying to unseal Kerry's divorce papers to publish juicy and embarrassing details, if any.  The publication of embarrassing details could affect the public's perception of Kerry's character in key battleground states.


She may be in Africa, but she could spice up a close campaign by granting media interviews to discuss her prior relationship with John Kerry.   Kerry's former intern has denounced reports of an alleged affair.  However, strange things do happen as an election gets closer.


Michael Moore is about to get richer.  On October 5th, the date of the Vice-Presidential debate in Ohio, his larger than life op-ed piece about the Bush Administration and the war on terror will hit video stores.  In a recent survey, more than 30% said they were going to skip the theater version and wait for it to be released on VHS/DVD.

With the number of casualties mounting in Iraq, Fahrenheit 9-11 may lead voters to ask, "Why are we there?"  


Mushroom cloud?  Dam building?

Iran and North Korea are the other members of the once popular term, "Axis of Evil".  Unlike Iraq, they do have weapons of mass destruction or will have them very soon.

A threat by Iran and North Korea to sell weapons of mass destruction to terrorists may spark a preemptive strike by the Bush Administration and keep Americans focused on the war on terror.


New documents about President Bush's record may come to light, but they will not be reported by CBS News or Dan Rather.  After receiving a journalistic black-eye, Bush's National Guard papers may be too radioactive for CBS to touch.  Don't be surprised if other media outlets of 527 groups divulge the information.


Texans for Truth, an Austin, Texas based 527 group created in response to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attacks on John Kerry's record, has offered $50,000 to anyone who served with President Bush in Alabama.  The President has been unable to identify any witnesses. A surprise witness may step up to the plate to claim the reward at the last minute and restore confidence in the President's National Guard service.

Stay tuned for the surprises!

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March 28, 2004
Sunday 9:10:24 A.M. CST

Clarke Pops Bush/Cheney Anti-Terror Balloon

One thing is for sure: Richard Clarke will not be invited to any more White House Christmas parties.

This past week, Richard Clarke, a former Bush White House insider on terrorism, gave the John Kerry Campaign an early Christmas gift - doubt.  In a presidential election, the most potent weapon a candidate can use is doubt, especially on an issue that will make or break a presidential campaign.  In this case, it is the Bush/Cheney record on antiterrorism.  President Bush has made his anti-terror stewardship a key part of his "War Presidency" campaign.  His approval ratings on the issue were sky high that Democrats could not attack Bush without appearing unpatriotic.  Then came Richard Clarke.  The release of his best-selling book and his testimony before the nonpartisan 9/11 Commission popped the anti-terror balloon that once flew high above the skeptics and critics.  Now the campaign issue has quickly descended into hostile political territory.  

Against All Enemies is compelling.  If Clarke's allegations are true, it is an indictment on the Clinton and Bush's administrations' lackadaisical approach to fighting counter-terrorism,  Most damaging, however, is Clarke's assertions that the Bush White House considered Al Qaeda and the war on terror secondary to getting Saddam Hussein.  The Bush White House and the Republican leadership adamantly refute Clarke's allegations and have launched an all out war on destroying Clarke's credibility.  Clarke, a registered Republican, worked for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, and the current President.

The severity of the allegations is measured by the response to quash them.   Every key official in the Bush White House, the Bush/Cheney Campaign, and the Republican leadership have taken extreme measures to set up a political firewall to prevent the damage from spreading.  National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Vice-President Dick Cheney have appeared on various television and radio talk shows to dispel any misconceptions about the President's commitment on terror. Ironically, Rice refuses to testify under oath before the 9/11 Commission to refute the charges on executive privilege grounds.  Even Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert have called on the Bush White House to declassify secret testimony Clarke made to Congress to prove he is a liar.  Presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry entered the fray yesterday and called the ferocious response "character assassination".  Kerry also challenged the Republican debunkers to prosecute Clarke for perjury if they can prove it.

The response may have come a little too late.  A Newsweek poll released yesterday shows that Richard Clarke's has caused significant damage to President Bush.  The survey shows that Bush's rating has fallen to 57 percent.  It was once 70 percent. Political observers note that if this issue can be neutralized and President Bush is forced to focus on the economy and jobs, John Kerry has a good chance of changing addresses in November.     

The firestorm created by Richard Clarke has yet to be quelched.  If the doubt created by Clarke continues to mushroom, the Bush/Cheney Campaign will have to quickly rethink their reelection strategy before it's too late.

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January 24, 2004
Saturday 4:25:24 P.M. CST

Bush Poll Numbers Disappointing

Somebody call Karl Rove.

Almost one week after President Bush delivered his State of the Union speech, his favorable approval ratings have fallen, according to a Newsweek poll released earlier today.  The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

According to the poll, President Bush has a 50% approval rating, down 4 points from a poll conducted January 8-9, 2004.  The drop is disconcerting since the President has had several key accomplishments since taking office almost three years ago.  While poll numbers are anything but certain (except maybe the Zogby Poll), they do provide a guidepost on American sentiment at a specific point in time. More importantly, they provide political pundits with something to talk about on Sunday talk shows.

The poll shows that 52% of those polled don't want to see President Bush re-elected while 44% do want to give the President a second term.  37% are strongly supportive of the President while 44% are not. The good news for President Bush, however, is that 78% say it is very likely or somewhat likely that he will get a second term.

With the recent Iowa Caucuses results and the advent of the New Hampshire Democratic primary, the poll is bound to give John Kerry a morale and cash boost.  In a hypothetical match between Kerry and Bush, Kerry beats Bush 49% to 46%.  However, because of the margin of error, the race would be a statistical dead heat.  A Bush-Clark and Bush-Edwards match-up would also fall within the statistical margin of error.  The President could still beat Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman.

The economy and jobs still dominate as the key campaign issue.  According to the poll, 83% of those polled believe that their vote will be influenced by the state of the economy and job availability. 75% believe that health care is the second most important issue.  Education follows health care with 74%.  Homeland security and the situation in Iraq is the fourth most important issue with 70%.  Ironically, homeland security has been one of President Bush's key selling points.

The Newsweek poll may be a wake-up call for the Bush-Cheney team, but what may be more important is the criticism President Bush received from conservatives after the State of the Union speech.  Stephen Moore, the leader of the Club for Growth, told the Washington Times, a conservative publication, that President Bush was a "big government Republican."  The Club for Growth supports Bush's tax cuts.  Moore noted that under President Bush spending has increased at a higher rate than under President Bill Clinton. Furthermore, Bush has not vetoed a single spending bill since taking office.

Even though the General Election is several months away, poll numbers will definitely fluctuate. However, they will, at the very least, give President Bush and the Democratic candidates momentary grief or relief during the 2004 campaign cycle.

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June 28, 2003
Saturday 5:55:18 P.M. CST

Morales' Actions Baffle Court, Supporters

Former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales is not his usual self.

The Harvard educated and politically savvy lawyer who was once a promising star in state and national Democratic politics is now behind bars in the Barbecue Capital of Texas.

This past Thursday U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, Texas revoked Morales' personal recognizance bond after he purchased two luxurious cars--Mercedes and Lexus--for $70,000.  Morales purchased the vehicles even though he provided the federal court with a sworn financial affidavit to justify his inability to pay for a criminal defense attorney. Morales insists that the public defender will represent him temporarily while he finalizes agreements with private lawyers to represent him.

In the affidavit, Morales indicated that he is self-employed; however, contrary to media reports that Morales stated he had no income, Morales in fact left the question regarding monthly income blank.  Morales did indicate that he had significant credit card and mortage debts.  According to the affidavit and recent reports, his credit card debt is over $160,000.  His mortgage is $825,000.

Morales' car purchases did not help his case, which Morales and some supporters believe is politically motivated because of the $17.3 billion tobacco settlement he secured for the State of Texas.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is aggresively pursuing its case against Morales.  They presented Judge Sam Sparks with several documents regarding Morales' recent financial activities. After revieving the documents, Judge Sparks was incensed and sent Morales to jail in Lockhart, Texas in Caldwell County until the date of his trial in October.  Morales has been charged with several felony counts, mail fraud, illegally using campaign contributions to purchase a home, and lying on loan applications.  

The recent purchases of the two vehicles may complicate matters for Morales since he obtained two loans on the representation that he was making approximately $20,000 a month, even though he did not specifically say that in the sworn affidavit filed with the court.  Morales was previously rejected for two loans due to his excessive obligations.   

The unexpected turn of events has even caught his closest supporters by surprise.  No one expected the politically astute Morales to be making such huge purchases at a time when he is being carefully scrutinized by federal authorities. Morales has not offered any explanations for his recent actions.  

Morales may appeal the judge's decision or sit in a jail cell in Lockhart, Texas until October.  If he sits in jail, his trial may be postponed until he has adequate time to prepare his defense.

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March 30, 2003
Sunday 10:00:15 P.M. CST

Affirmative Action or Affirmative Access?:  Equal Opportunity in 21st Century America

There will be no jokes on April Fool's Day for the proponents and opponents of affirmative action.  On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the admissions policies at the University of Michigan are constitutional or a mere guise for racial quotas.  The Supreme Court will revisit its Bakke decision which set the boundaries for the consideration of race in higher education admissions.  Even though there was no majority opinion in Bakke, university officials have considered race as a factor in university admissions.  In Bakke, the Court did not specifically say how much weight should be given to race in higher education admissions.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued recent rulings on affirmative action, but not in the context of higher education.  Thus, this is the most significant and controversial affirmative action case to be considered by the Court.  President George W. Bush opposes the Michigan program because it leads to racial quotas.  However, he has not said that race should never be considered in higher education.  Not everyone in The White House agrees. National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice said she supports the consideration of race as does Secretary of State Colin Powell. President Bush supports a concept called “affirmative access,” a term which has not been clearly defined by The White House.  

The U.S. Department of Justice filed briefs opposing the undergraduate and law school admissions program at the University of Michigan.  The briefs did not call for an outright ban on the consideration of race.  Instead, the government is urging the consideration on non-racial alternatives to diversify a student body.  Various corporations, political and military leaders have urged the Supreme Court not to dismantle affirmative action.

In anticipation of the arguments this Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education released a report on non-racial alternatives to achieving diversity in higher education.  The report places emphasis on socio-economic status.  The report, however, makes no mention of legacy admissions, a practice which many proponents of affirmative action argue benefits white students.

The concept of diversity in the classroom is not what causes controversy.  It is the means used to achieve it.  Proponents believe that affirmative action achieves diversity by considering the same factor which was used to exclude minorities in higher education admissions.  Opponents believe that affirmative action is “reverse discrimination” and that it stigmatizes racial minorities because they were not selected on merit.  They point to non-racial alternatives such as the 10 Percent Plan in Texas as viable alternatives.

President George W. Bush has praised the 10 Percent Plan in Texas as an example of affirmative access.  The plan does not consider race.  Instead, it guarantees undergraduate admissions to the top ten percent of high school graduates to Texas' universities.  The bill was authored by the late State Representative Irma Rangel in response to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Hopwood decision that dismantled affirmative action in Texas.  President Bush signed the bill when he was Governor of Texas even though only a handful of Republicans supported it in the Texas House of Representatives.  Critics say that the plan has not had uniform success and that affirmative action is needed to achieve Pre-Hopwood numbers.      

The arguments before the Supreme Court are likely to be spirited and a 5-4 decision is expected.  Court observers note that the future of affirmative action in higher education lies in the hands Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.  O'Connor is a former mentee of the late Justice Powell, who wrote the opinion which many universities have cited to justify the use of race in college admissions.  Observers speculate that because O'Connor considered Powell a man of respect and honor, she is unlikely to completely dismantle affirmative action in higher education. Instead, they note, she will refine Powell's Bakke opinion and hold that diversity is a compelling governmental interest in higher education.

While no one really knows how she will rule, her comment in “The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice,” an upcoming memoir about the U.S. Supreme Court, sheds some light on her personal philosophy.  In the book she said, "Diversity is its strength, just as it is the strength of America itself."  

A decision is expected by late June.

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January 31, 2003
Friday 8:27:22 p.m. CST

House Committee Assignments:  Legislators React

Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick released the committee assignments for the 78th Texas Legislature yesterday morning.

"I have selected an outstanding leadership team to guide the House through the legion of complex issues that we must consider during the next four months," Craddick said. "These men and women represent the hopes and dreams of all Texans. Quite literally, the future of our state rests in their capable hands."

Craddick characterized his leadership team and the committees they will lead as a microcosm of the Texas populace, with representation spread among parties, genders, races, professional credentials and urban and small-town values.

"Texas government is government by citizen legislators -- selfless men and women who hail from every part of this diverse, expansive state and whose backgrounds are as diverse as the Texas' breathtaking terrain," said Craddick, the first Republican speaker since 1873.

"That's why our system of government works so well -- because the work of the Texas House represents the interests of all Texans."

Some legislators reacted differently to the appointments.

State Representative Vicki Truitt (R-Keller) landed key appointments on the two most important committees in the Texas House - Appropriations and Calendars.

"I am thrilled by my appointments," said Truitt.  "I'm going to be putting a lot of hours, but I am honored that Speaker Craddick chose to put me in a leadership role, especially in the area of health care."

"There is a lot of prestige associated with being on Appropriations and Calendars. Since I was elected, my goal has been to be strategically positioned to serve my constituents.  With today's appointments, I'm positioned well to serve."

State Representative Irma Rangel (D-Kingsville), the first Mexican American woman elected to the Texas House of Representatives, lost her chairmanship in the Higher Education Committee, but was pleased with her appointments.

"I never once spoke to Craddick about which appointments I wanted but I still managed to end up as vice-chairwoman of my committee," she said. "I got what I wanted without making promises to anybody. My only promise is to the people of my district and the students of Texas."

State Representative Ray Allen (R-Grand Prairie) was appointed chair of the Corrections Committee, which largely deals with prison-related issues.

"I am deeply honored by Speaker Craddick's appointments," said Allen.  "I intend to work hard as Chairman of Corrections to pursue needed correctional reforms while we institute best management practices to make sure taxpayer dollars are effectively and wisely spent. Speaker Craddick's appointments represent an elevation in statewide leadership opportunities for many experienced legislators."

State Representative Rene Oliviera (D-Brownsville), former chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, was appointed as vice-chairman of the Public Education Committee.  He will also serve on the House Business and Industry Committee.

"Speaker Craddick has made certain that our students and teachers are well represented by selecting me as Vice Chairman of the committee," Oliviera said.  "He has demonstrated his concern for our children through his actions."

Freshman lawmaker Dan Branch (R-Dallas) was thankful for his appointments to Appropriations and Public Education Committees.

"It is an honor to be selected by Speaker Craddick to serve on both the Appropriations and Public Education Committees during such a critical period," said Branch. "How we address our fiscal problems and our challenges in Public Education will determine the future of our state."

State Representative Ismael "Kino" Flores (D-Palmview), an early supporter of Tom Craddick was appointed as Chair of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee

"I am delighted that the Speaker has demonstrated his confidence in me and my staff to take on such an important role with statewide legislative leadership.  Be assured that I will leverage my chairmanship and position on the new leadership team to the benefit of the Valley," said Flores.

State Representative Frank Corte (R-San Antonio) was humbled with his appointment as Chair of the Defense Affairs and State-Federal Relations Committee.

"Since 9/11/01 the State has entered a new era of security with a renewed focus on our precious resources and facilities close to home.  I am humbled and honored that Speaker Craddick has entrusted my leadership to direct this new Statewide perspective."

Representative Lon Burnham (D-Fort Worth), the only lawmaker to oppose Craddick in his bid for the Speakership, was appointed to the Agriculture and Livestock Committee.

"I guess you have to maintain a sense of humor about it. I am probably the first-ever member of the agriculture and livestock committee that doesn't eat red meat," said Burnham.

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JANUARY 22, 2003
Wednesday 10:15:03 P.M. CST

How Lobbyists R.A.I.D. the Texas Legislature

It happens every session.  Lobbyists are ridiculed as lobsters, fat cats, and influence peddlers for engaging in a constitutionally protected activity. They have been ranked just above attorneys for their values and ethics, an oxymoron to some who closely follow the legislative process. However, the “Third House,” as the Texas lobby is commonly referred to in the Texas Legislature, wields tremendous power and plays an important role in the lawmaking process.

Former lawmakers, legislative staff and well connected individuals comprise the Third House.  During the legislative session, lobbyists roam around the Capitol looking for opportunities to further their client's interests. It is a job that requires skill and talent.  The most effective lobbyists are the ones who know how to R.A.I.D. the Texas Legislature.


Chase Manhattan Bank says it best: The right relationship is everything.

This is very true for lobbyists.  Relationships with lawmakers are directly related to a lobbyist's marketability and credibility.   In the “It's Who You Know, Not What You Know” world of the lobby, a relationship with a key lawmaker or a member of the executive staff can open the doors of influence.

Good relationships and trust are essential to maintaining the legislative symbiosis that exists between lawmakers and lobbyists.  Lobbyists need lawmakers to protect their clients interests and lawmakers need lobbyists to assist them with their reelection campaigns.    

A smart lobbyist recognizes that good relationships can lead to what is crucial in the lobby business - access.


Access is the bread and butter (or the steak and ale) of a lobbyist. Without it, there is no meal to eat.

Clients hire lobbyists who have access to lawmakers and legislative staff and who will influence their particular interest. The more access a lobbyist has to an influential lawmaker, the greater marketability. The law of supply and demand determines the lobbyist's fee.  The more demand and less supply the higher the fee.

A lobbyist's word is the key to access in the Texas Legislature.  If a lobbyist lies or deceives a lawmaker or staff, access will be denied.  Being truthful, no matter the consequences, will increase a lobbyist's credibility.


In the Texas Legislature, scientia est popentia.

Information is the bloodline in the Texas Legislature.  It is the commodity that lobbyists offer lawmakers and clients.  On any particular issue, lobbyists will promote information that is beneficial to their client's interest.  It's a “half picture” approach that can be very successful.  

Lobbyists who have information can have a great impact on the process.  However, a lobbyist who conveys the perception that he knows something important even though he does not can also be very influential.  

While a lobbyist can provide information, it is ultimately the manipulation of information that drives the legislative engine.


The goal of a lobbyist is to get a favorable commitment from a lawmaker. A lobbyist must deliver for the client.  If a favorable decision cannot be reached, a lobbyist has failed to properly R.A.I.D. the Texas Legislature.

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NOVEMBER 10, 2002
Sunday 7:00:10 a.m. CST

Choo! Choo! :  All Aboard the GOP Victory Express

For lobbyists and special interests groups that did not support Republican candidates on November 5th, the road to redemption begins by buying an expensive ticket on the GOP Victory Express.  The ticket is known as a “late train” campaign contribution.  Late train contributions are not illegal.  They are designed to give lobbyists and special interest groups the opportunity to build (or rebuild) relationships with lawmakers and statewide officials who will influence their clients' or organizational interests during the 78th Texas Legislature.  The Texas Legislature convenes on January 14, 2003.
Texas does not set limits on the amounts of campaign contributions.  However, there is a time limit on when candidates or officeholders can receive campaign contributions.  Under the Texas Election Code, campaign contributions are prohibited 30 days prior to the commencement of the 78th Texas Legislature.  Thus, the last day to receive campaign contributions is December 14, 2002.   Between December 14 and June 2, 2003 (sine die) lawmakers and statewide officials cannot raise any money.

Even though there is no set amount on a late train contribution, the standard $250 pre-election contribution will not suffice.  Late train contributions can range from $1,000 to $35,000 or greater. Statewide officials, such as the governor or lieutenant governor, can get bigger contributions than a state representative or state senator. The amount depends on various factors including, but not limited to, the leadership position held and the level of influence in the legislative process.
Between now and December 14, 2002, several fundraisers will be held.  Most of them will occur in The Austin Club, a three story, members-only political hub in Austin, Texas.  Lobbyists will sponsor two hour popcorn and peanut receptions for various lawmakers to raise money before the deadline.  Lawmakers who are likely to get key committee appointments (i.e. Appropriations/Finance, Calendars, etc.) in the Texas House of Representatives or Texas Senate will raise more money than other lawmakers.

The GOP Victory Express will be making pit stops as it travels throughout Texas.   Lobbyists and special interest groups that rely on legislative relationships to support their livelihood need to jump onboard before it's too late.
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