Campaign Central: Horseracing Interests Bankroll Anti-Phil King Spot
Sat February 16, 2008 12:00 am

The ad criticizing Phil King, the first inklings of which I posted earlier today, is up and running. You can view the ad on the Quorum Report. Here is the text:

[An electric light bulb is hanging in a dark room. A hand pulls down a chain and the light comes on.]

Voice: Politician Phil King must think we have money to burn. He pocketed thousands of dollars from utility companies and our electric rates went up 56% [citing the Dallas Morning News]. He took thousands more from big insurance and now we pay twice the national average to protect our homes [citing the Dallas Morning News]. Now he wants to impose a $17.3 billion sales tax hike that would give Texas the highest sales tax in America [list of new taxable items scrolls by, citing the Center for Public Policy Priorities]. This election, let’s tell Phil King, “lights out.”

[A hand pulls down on the chain and the light goes off].

This is a very effective ad, and it’s all true, which is more than can be said for a lot of the attack ads this season. The problem is in the fine print at the end of the ad: It is paid for by Texans for Economic Development. TEC is a gambling PAC. It received $84,000 in two donations from Retama, the San Antonio racetrack. It received $150,000 from THP PAC, which checks out as Texas Horsemen’s Partnership. This pretty much confirms what I was told this afternoon: that this ad is not just an anti-Phil King ad, but also an anti-Tom Craddick ad. By defeating several Craddick stalwarts, the horseracing folks hope that the speaker will not be able to be reelected and will be replaced by a speaker who looks more favorably on their industry.

King deserves everything that is said about him, and many things that have not yet been said about him. He’s a snake, a term that is used to describe a cunning and devious lawmaker, made half in contempt, and half in grudging respect. Jim Nugent was the archetype; he was known as “Supersnake.” But that begs the question: Is this the right tactic for this race? Did King’s challenger, Joe Tison, have the momentum in this race? Could he have won without it? I don’t know the answer. I do know that time was running out; early voting starts Tuesday. But I also know that this ad runs a big risk. King is sure to respond by saying that gambling money is out to defeat him. The issue then becomes whether the pocketbook message is more powerful than the anti-gambling message.

You do see the irony here, don’t you? The anti-Craddick faction thought it was terrible when the speaker laundered money (I’m speaking figuratively, not legally) through a PAC to give to the Craddick D’s. Now the so-called good guys are making use of the same tactic. Undoubtedly, Tison’s camp will say, “It’s not our ad. We weren’t even aware of it. They acted independently. We’re shocked, shocked, that gambling ads are going on in this establishment.” To borrow and edit what Molly Ivins used to say, “The shame is not what’s going on illegally. It’s what goes on legally.”

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