By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
On this Tuesday afternoon, Simpson is particularly excited. The day before, he went to a Wolf Camera & Video store and found a camera that has a lens powerful enough to zoom in on a car's license plate from across the street.
The find was almost as exciting as Simpson's discovery that Mapsco stores sell a computer disc that lists all the people in Dallas County who have been arrested. And it only costs $49.95.
"I love arrests," he says.
Not one to pass up a chance to gossip with a reporter, Simpson was more than eager to get together over lunch. Of course, this was before he realized that the story was going to focus on him rather than his political agenda.
In early 1995, Simpson says, he began "evaluating" the city of Dallas. He concluded that the city's leaders had lost sight of "basic mainstream American concerns" and that someone had to put the city back on the right course.
"It seemed as though the only people involved in government at the local level all had some type of vested interest in the outcome of a situation and were unable to act objectively for what was just in the best interest of the community," Simpson says.
Greed. Damn greed. According to Simpson, today's politicians are too self-serving and can be bought and sold like whores. Long gone, he thinks, are the old days when a "benevolent oligarchy" of the city's most powerful men efficiently ruled Big D though the Dallas Citizens Council and, more recently, the Dallas Breakfast Group.
Not that everything back then was rosy, Simpson says, but when the R. L. Thorntons and John Stemmonses of the city snapped their fingers, buildings got built and roads got paved. Nowadays, he says, the roads are crumbling, the public schools are in disarray, police don't respond to crimes fast enough, and government agencies are inefficient.
A man of means, Simpson began picking up the phone some two years ago and cold-calling conservative political insiders to see if they'd be interested in creating a forum--a new Citizens Council, of sorts, with Simpson in charge.
That is how the North Texas Leadership Council--with Simpson at the helm--was launched. Two years later, the "council" still consists primarily of Simpson, working out of his tiny office, supporting himself with donations, and faxing tidbits of political intrigue to the 200 or so people on his mailing list.
Simpson says that when he created the NTLC, he borrowed heavily from the Washington-based Leadership Institute, an organization that recruits conservatives and trains them in the public policy process.
The institute offers classes in broadcast journalism, public relations, and Capitol Hill training, according to information posted on its website. When the institute hosts its annual convention this November, the featured speakers will include Oliver North, Steve Forbes, and Phyllis Schlafly.
Simpson's NTLC is a virtual carbon copy, as described by Dallas County Commissioner Jim Jackson, an early Simpson convert.
"The original idea for the North Texas Leadership Council was that it would furnish a place for leaders of different conservative groups to come together and act as kind of a coordinating board," Jackson says. "I don't know if that's what I'd call it today. It's grown more into a think tank."
With Jackson on board, Simpson quickly found a home at the right end of the political spectrum. Soon, he counted folks like former Dallas City Councilman Jerry Bartos and even Vance Miller, the son of real estate magnate Henry S. Miller, among his supporters.
Miller says he's known Simpson for about three years and is convinced that he is a man of integrity. "He does very, very solid work," Miller says. "It's a pleasure working with him."
Like Miller, Bartos says he was attracted to Simpson's personality, and he recalls helping Simpson figure out an appropriate title for his new group.
"I had a lot of input on their name," says Bartos, who thinks he's still on the organization's board of directors. "They were talking about naming it to the Metroplex. I said nowadays, everything is regional."
So, North Texas was combined with Leadership and Council. Just like that, Simpson's baby was born: The North Texas Leadership Council. The name sounds big. It sounds important. And Simpson has the public relations skills to back it up.
In the spirit of the Dallas Breakfast Group, which still counts the city's most powerful CEOs among its membership, Simpson began sponsoring his own monthly breakfast meetings in 1995. The meetings usually take place on Thursdays inside the S&S Tea Room in the Inwood Village Shopping Center.
Simpson says he has invited speakers from the Leadership Institute to some meetings, while others afforded local candidates a chance to present their political platforms and discuss local issues.
Although conservatives like Jackson and Bartos constituted the NTLC's early get-togethers, Simpson's networking skills have attracted attendees from across the political spectrum. Nowadays, Simpson has no problem attracting crowds of 50 to 60 people.
Dallas Councilwoman Donna Blumer is a big fan of the meetings--and of Simpson.
"The way I met him, he just called from out of the blue. Oh golly, it's been a couple of years ago," Blumer says. "He was making random phone calls, and he invited me to a meeting he was having."