By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
But I believe Garcia is a liar. It's only my opinion, but I think the accusation he made that front-running mayoral candidate Laura Miller tried to buy his endorsement in the runoff campaign is a lie.
And I think you should know that people from his campaign and from Tom Dunning's campaign have been ordered to appear before a criminal grand jury investigating election fraud in the last two weeks.
Most of the people from the Garcia and Dunning campaigns subpoenaed by the grand jury have been associated with "early vote" efforts--a type of campaigning and a type of person that the Laura Miller campaign doesn't touch with a 10-foot pole.
Garcia's charges against Miller are sickening. The way he got himself into this mess was stupid. He ran for mayor in the recent special election and came in a distant third. He had spent most of the campaign painting Tom Dunning, the establishment candidate, as a racist for belonging to the Dallas Country Club.
The day after Garcia lost, he couldn't wait to endorse Dunning, which is exactly what anybody who knew him expected him to do. And believe me: There was no prior deal here. It wasn't necessary.
Domingo Garcia hates Miller, who came in first. There was never any chance he would endorse her. She knew that. She and her husband called Garcia and asked for his endorsement, but that's just the ritual dance of politics. They had to do that so it couldn't be said they had dissed his supporters by not even asking.
Domingo has his own big problem with supporters. How do you spend two months telling your people the other guy's a racist and then throw your arm around him the morning after you lose and ask everybody to go vote for him in the runoff?
What about the racist thing? Was that a joke?
Smoothing it over for the Anglos is easy enough, because the Anglos don't care. Garcia gets Dunning to agree to try to get a black physician admitted to the Dallas Country Club within the next few years.
Talk about a joke. This is some kind of sick retro humor. If Dunning succeeds and the black guy gets in, should we all celebrate by putting on our tie-dyed T-shirts and our cutoffs and going downtown to dance the frug?
But explaining things to the Latino audience is a bit more ticklish. So Callejo, a lawyer and longtime Latino activist, goes on Spanish-language TV and basically tells people not to worry, that Domingo is going to bleed this rich Anglo dog for a lot of cash. Dunning will have to pay off Domingo's campaign debt and help finance his state House race in return for the endorsement. She's giving Garcia political cover. So what if he's taking a dive on the racism issue? That's just a black issue anyway. And Domingo's going to get money for it.
It's typical poor-people politics in Dallas, the politics of despair, poverty and impotence. We can't sit at the table, but we can make them pay us off. It's a logic that appeals to poor, alienated, naïve people. Callejo, who is rich and smart, can sing that song with the best of them.
But in this instance something went wrong. This kind of stuff is never supposed to get outside the barrio or the 'hood or the ghetto or wherever it's talked. It's within the race. But this time somebody gave a tape of the interview to the Anglos; they translated it out of that secret language, Spanish, and put it on the white-people TV news. Now everybody is accusing Dunning of paying Domingo for his endorsement!
So what does Domingo do? He floats a great big helium-filled accusation up there. He says that in an untaped phone conversation to which only he and Miller were privy, Miller offered to bribe him for his endorsement. Clearly he hopes to divert the attention from himself and Dunning to Miller. In the process he basically gives us two choices: Believe me. Or call me a liar.
He's a liar.
That's only my opinion. I know only what everybody else knows. Well, I also listened to Domingo's version of this from his own lips and at length. I hung up sick in the stomach. Given the only two ways he has allowed me to vote on this issue, I knew as soon as I hung up what my personal decision would be.
He's a liar.
You make your own decision. But it would have been totally out of character for Miller to even hint at, dream of, slyly suggest or otherwise refer to such an arrangement. Call Miller a fanatic, call her a hatchet woman, call her a former Dallas Observer columnist, I don't care; but Miller has never shown one ounce of money sleaze in her whole life.
In addition, she knew Domingo wasn't coming with her anyway. And in addition to that, Domingo had nothing to offer. On my own spreadsheet, I find that Dunning won eight precincts that were Hispanic majority; Garcia won 24; and Miller won 37. So where is Domingo's big Latino juice?
Later he tried to reinforce his accusation by saying that an intermediary for an intermediary had called and left a message asking if Domingo would discuss certain things about Miller, which Garcia assumed meant a bribe.
What's he got on his phone machine anyway? "Hi, this is Domingo. If you are calling to offer me a bribe for my endorsement, please press 1."
But it's enough for the Dunning people. (Dunning, by the way, did not return calls for this story.) Desperate for a way to slime Miller, who has just gutted them in their own North Dallas base, they seize on Domingo's lie about Miller as a way to slop the slime on both of them. So what if they slime their own new best minority friend in the process? Minority friends aren't like real friends anyway.
The Dunning people, with help from the slime-meisters on The Dallas Morning News editorial page, start painting the cash-for-endorsement deal as strictly a Garcia-Miller dispute.
OK, if this is going to be all about the politics of smoke and smears, then I think there are some things everybody should know. Last summer the Dallas Observer published a long investigative story about vote fraud in Dallas ("Absentee Minded," August 30, 2001), which showed how absentee ballots are scammed from minority voters and peddled to campaigns for as little as $5 apiece. Since then, the Dallas County District Attorney's Public Integrity section has been conducting an investigation into possible vote fraud in Dallas. Eric Mountin, head of the public integrity section, has told me he expects to produce criminal charges within the next month or so.
Obviously Mountin won't tell me who is being called before the grand jury or what is being asked of them. But I have other sources, and those sources have told me, for example, that one of the first things the grand jury does when it starts questioning a new witness is hold up a copy of our story and ask him how much of it is true.
One witness told the grand jury it was all true except for one thing. He said one of the public officials quoted in our piece as saying he didn't know anything about it--and no, it isn't Garcia--was a liar.
One of Dunning's people went in with a prepared statement attacking the district attorney for investigating vote fraud in the first place and accusing him of trying to frighten minority voters away from the polls.
Now, let's stick with that point for a moment, because the use of the race card by the Dunning campaign is very important. I asked political consultants working for all three campaigns if they would let me see how they spend their candidate's money. Rob Allyn, Miller's consultant, opened his books to me. Don Hicks, the African-American political consultant who ran Garcia's Southern Dallas campaign, opened his books to me.
But if you touch the Dunning campaign on this issue, they've got a spring-loaded race card just waiting for you. Kathy Nealy, who has received $178,500 in consultant fees already from the Dunning campaign--a fortune, a sluice of cash--said angrily on the telephone: "I'm not going to show you anything, Mr. Schutze. Why don't you ask Rob Allyn what he spends his money on. I find this very racist, Mr. Schutze."
Which race am I insulting? The old rich white guys who play golf at restricted clubs?
Better question: What do I want to see in the budgets of these consultants? I want to see how much of their money actually goes to legitimate campaign expense and how much of it may be winding up in the pockets of various preachers and leaders who are endorsing candidates.
What Allyn and Hicks showed me looked like legitimate campaign expense. But Dunning's consultant called me a racist and slammed the phone in my ear. To an investigative reporter, that's like five quick yanks on the end of your fishing pole.
If Tom Dunning wants to make this about money and influence, then I have one thing to say: Show me the Kathy Nealy money.
Tom, check it out. Ask questions. Get yourself informed, so you know what's really going on in your own campaign down to the nuts and bolts. And then do two things:
1) Tell us in detail what Kathy Nealy spends her money on.
2) Stand up in front of the cameras and the microphones, haul up your drawers and tell us in a big strong voice that nobody associated in any way with your campaign has been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury that is currently investigating criminal election fraud in Dallas County.
I dare you.
I double-dare you.