So I am here, back in the overflow room at the Federal Palace of Justice downtown watching the Dallas City Hall federal corruption trial, and I see that we have come to one of the most fundamental and time-honored traditions of Dallas politics: that fine old institution called "walking-around money."
Victor Vital, attorney for Sheila Hill, wife of former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, asked FBI agent Allen Wilson if he knew what "walking-around money" was. Wilson gave the wrong answer:
"I have an understanding of what that means," Wilson told Vital on the stand a few minutes ago. "It would probably be the cash that you have in your pocket."
Ummm, not exactly, Agent Wilson.
Everybody and anybody who has ever been around City Hall politics knows that walking-around money is the cash you send down to South Dallas to pay the preachers for their support. Or pay somebody else. White people have been sending walking-around money to South Dallas for a long, long time.
Is it a bribe? Well, not exactly, not according the arcane post-Reconstruction political culture of Dallas. So what is it? Well, it's ... uh ... it's walking-around money. People gotta walk around, don't they?
In 1987, when political consultant Lorlee Bartos declined to pay walking-around money to the preachers as consultant to mayoral candidate Annette Strauss, she was accused of racism. No less a luminary than former city council member Sandra Crenshaw once told me, "Schutze, you're a hippie, and you have all these ideals. and that's great, but down here politics is about our money."
The walking-around money.
Clearly, the defense team plans to argue that Don Hill may have received a lot of money from people that doesn't show up in the deposits to his campaign account, but that was all ... you know. Walking-around money.
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Wilson gave Vital the Boy Scout answer: "It doesn't make sense to me to put $100 in [the account] and keep $4900 out. That's the only way know how to answer that."
But Vital has an another answer in mind. It's how we do things here in Dallas. And guess who he's going to call as an expert witness?
Former council member and lawyer Domingo Garcia.
Why don't these feds understand us?