Dan Morales' brain explodes

I am sure that Dan Morales is right. No one is paying attention to the fact that he tried to steal $250 million of his famed tobacco settlement. 

None of the people of color care about his firm anti-affirmative action stance.

And no doubt, none of the good Christians in Texas mind that his wife is an ex-stripper.

Poor Dan. He thought it was still 1998. But you know when I think about Dan quitting politics in 1998, I think about that song line "You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille." The Democratic Party was headed downhill and Dan Morales quit on us.

In the end, WorldPeace

John WorldPeace
The next governor of Texas
No more corruption. No more Monicas.
God Bless Texas

March 4, 2002

Morales says tobacco inquiry 'not an issue' 

By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News 

AUSTIN - Former Texas Attorney General Dan Morales said Thursday he is confident that a 3-year-old federal investigation of his actions in the state's landmark tobacco settlement will not be an issue in his campaign for governor. 

One day after his surprise decision to jump into the governor's race, the Democrat discounted the potential impact of the lengthy investigation into whether he tried to channel hundreds of millions of dollars to a lawyer friend as part of the attorney fees in the tobacco settlement. 

The investigation has been stalled for several months, and few people have been questioned in the case since last summer. The inquiry is pending before a federal grand jury in Austin. 

"I don't think it will be an issue in any event," Mr. Morales said. "Back when current Attorney General John Cornyn first made the allegations in 1999, I could see how they would have some currency for six months, maybe even a year. 

"But after three years, I don't think people buy that anymore. It is not an issue. I think Texans care a lot more about the fact that Texas got $17 billion than the fact that some lawyers got $3 billion from the tobacco industry. That was not tax money. That was money from the industry." 

Mr. Morales, who called the allegations "political garbage," has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the case. Lawyers close to the investigation have said that federal prosecutors have so far found no evidence that the Democrat received any financial benefit. 

Under the 1998 settlement, leading tobacco companies agreed to pay the state $17.3 billion over 25 years as compensation for medical expenses incurred by the state in treating smoking-related illnesses. 

The five private lawyers hired by Mr. Morales to sue the industry received an additional $3.3 billion that is being paid by the tobacco companies over several years. 

The long-running investigation by two U.S. attorneys and the FBI has centered on allegations that Mr. Morales secretly gave Houston lawyer Marc Murr, his former law partner and longtime friend, a state contract worth as much as $520 million. 

Mr. Murr initially asked for the fees but later abandoned his claim after Mr. Cornyn began investigating claims that Mr. Murr had done little to earn the fees. Mr. Cornyn turned over the records from his investigation to federal prosecutors. 

The campaign manager for Mr. Morales' primary opponent, Laredo businessman Tony Sanchez, said Thursday the federal investigation could affect Mr. Morales' candidacy this year. 

"We will go after the votes to win this election. But we are running straight ahead with our campaign and will work to persuade voters that Tony Sanchez is the best man for governor," said Glenn Smith. 

Mr. Smith also said he has heard reports that Mr. Morales may be running for office this year at least in part to inhibit the federal investigation of the tobacco case attorney fees. The five private lawyers have been told they are not targets of the investigation. 

Mr. Morales said, "That was not a consideration." 

Political experts said the federal inquiry probably won't be a significant factor for Mr. Morales in the primary election. But the general election could be another matter. 

"Morales was the state official who was responsible for the tobacco settlement. Texas got $17.3 billion, and that money has been put in trust funds to pay for an array of health programs," said Tony Proffitt, a political consultant and one-time adviser to former Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock. 

"He can say he worked hard to get that money, and many Democratic voters will appreciate that, so it can be a positive for him." 

Should the former attorney general win the nomination, "there is no question that rumors of the investigation will become part of the political porridge in the general election campaign," Mr. Proffitt said, noting that Republicans can be expected to try to make it an issue. 

"It will be one side saying where there is smoke there must be fire, and Morales will say if there was anything wrong, why haven't there been any charges filed after more than three years." 

Mr. Proffitt said, however, that if a grand jury hands down an indictment this year, "It would certainly change his situation." 

Federal prosecutors have declined to say how long the investigation will continue.