By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Back during the mayoral election, did the district attorney's office not say and did I not eagerly report here and on the radio that a bunch of vote fraud indictments were about to pop? Tell me I dreamed that.
All during the election, I got calls from political insiders whispering on the phone, "Schutze, you are nothing but a swampland-buying Brooklyn Bridge sucker, because the only thing they care about over there at the DA's office is influencing the outcome of elections, and when this election cycle is over, the whole vote fraud thing will be dropped."
Election is over. Weeks go by. No indictments. No rumbles on the grapevine. I resist believing things that make me look stupid. But finally last week my wobbly hand reaches out shaking and quaking and picks up the phone to make the one call I don't want to make.
Terrence Gore. He's the guy Tom Dunning, the downtown business candidate for mayor, fired from his campaign in a high dudgeon when The Dallas Morning News broke a story saying Gore had been helping semi-blind ladies see better when it was time for them to fill in the dots on their absentee ballots.
I know Terrence. He's a nice guy. Means well. Feels sorry for blind people. Wants to be of assistance to candidates. What would they call that at the Morning News? Convergence. But he really was in the big middle, and if there is anything doing now on the vote fraud indictments, Terrence Gore will have the skinny for me.
I get on the line with him, and it's like, "Where have you been, Schutze?" He's mad. He's not just ready to dish: He's pent up.
Dunning had called Gore a "part-time part-time" employee and said he had no idea why Gore or anybody else was out there gathering up ballots from sight-impaired shut-ins on his behalf.
"He tried to do this spin job on me," Gore told me on the phone, "and I didn't appreciate it."
The question, as I understood it, was always about the food chain. If the money paid to Gore for ballot-gathering was Dunning money, how could Dunning and his campaign act as if Gore's activities were a surprise to them?
Gore said, "Dunning was going to try to make me a scapegoat or something. If he didn't have personal knowledge of what was going on, the people he entrusted running his campaign did. And to put it on one guy, when I didn't have the purse strings for nothing, it just ticked me off."
Especially since the Dunning staffer who had hired Gore--the supervisor over Dunning's African-American phone bank operation--was Gore's mom. I mean, come on. I'm with Terrence on this. I think his own mom knew who he was. I don't see her putting her hand on the Bible down there in the grand jury room swearing she has never heard of her own son. I think that would elicit judicial skepticism and could possibly even lead to involuntary confinement.
Terrence was mad. He wanted to shoot a big hole in this whole story about how he was just some kind of rogue employee out there acting on his own. So guess what he did. He went to the public integrity unit of the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, which was running a high-profile criminal grand jury probe of vote fraud at the time, and he offered to lay it all out.
"I went to the DA. I talked with [investigator] Ben Stool [of the public integrity unit]. He called me at home one night."
Gore says he offered to provide Stool with paperwork that would show the linkage up the food chain from the absentee vote operatives out on the street to state Representative Terri Hodge (D-Dallas) and from her to political consultant Kathy Nealy, who is the main African-American subcontractor on establishment political campaigns run by Dallas political über-guru Carol Reed.
I called Nealy four times over five days for comment, but she never called me back. Hodge did call and confirmed that she met with Gore during the Dunning campaign to discuss the absentee vote effort and that she was a Dunning supporter. But she insisted she had no official or paid connection with the campaign. Gore told me he could have stitched things up a lot tighter than that for the district attorney's investigation.
"I told him I was willing to give a complete statement on anything and everything I knew about what was going on with the Dunning campaign, including connecting the dots between Nealy and Hodge. And I never heard back from the man."
He says he was loaded for bear.
"I had everything, every person I had talked to, every person whose door I knocked on. I had complete records of everyone I had contact with during the runoff election, and I told the DA that that stuff was available for them: 'You should send someone over to get it.'
"I didn't hear from nobody."
Let's take a break here. I also talked to Assistant District Attorney Eric Mountin, head of the public integrity unit and Ben Stool's boss.