Thursday, August 06, 2009

Standing on the Verge of Getting It On: Peter Brown, the Friends ’n’ Family Candidate for Mayor, and the Clear-Cut Favorite of ... Peter Brown!

In observance of the biblical injunction (at least we think it is) that “by their contributions shall ye know them,” we present our second in what apparently will be a long-running examination of the July 15 finance disclosure reports of the major candidates in Houston’s November mayoral election. We hope to complete this venture sometime before the election. In this installment we administer a less-than-thorough going-over of the document submitted by Peter Brown--architect, urban planner, at-large city councilman, husband of Schlumberger heiress, annual summer vacationer in France, father of five and grandfather of 15, U.S. Army vet, a guy who if elected mayor would be older than Bob Lanier was when he took office (!) and, last but certainly not least, the only mayoral candidate bearing the coveted endorsement of Parliament/Funkadelic's George Clinton*. (“But what about Bootsy, baby?”, as some observer, perhaps us, was moved to remark after this news broke.)

We’d like to declare here at the outset that was do not consider Peter Brown to be solely a vanity candidate, even though more than 60 percent of the money he amassed in the first six months of this year came from his own apparently deep pocket, in the form of loans totaling $765,000 (for which he’s charging himself zero percent interest--there’s nothing subprime about Peter Brown!). And we were slightly off-base recently when we airly dismissed Brown as the candidate of
Stuff-White-People-Like white people, because there are obviously many SWPL white people who dig Annise Parker (like the massage therapist her campaign listed as having made a $10 contribution), and some--well, maybe a couple--who have given money to Gene Locke. Moreover, we were mildly surprised that people other Peter Brown were willing to hand over almost $500,000 to the Peter Brown campaign from January through June, despite general widespread skepticism about his chances of winning (here’s an astute but gentle analysis of Brown’s prospects, by somebody who knows what he’s talking about). It’s clear that Brown has built up quite a bit of good will in certain sectors of the community, particularly among Inner Loop development-property management-realtor types, who share his penchant for planning and mass transit and orderly growth and whatnot, and in Houston’s interlocking circles of Old Money wealth (and by this we mean people who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Shelby Hodge column, at least on the scale and frequency of, say, Rebecca Cason Whazhername). The occupation of a noticeable number of sizable-dollar donors to Brown was listed as “self-employed investor.”

The bearers of venerable Houston names who’ve opened their wallets, and possibly their hearts, to Brown include Cullen Foundation president Roy H. Cullen, down for a grand; Corbin Robertson of Quintana Minerals, also good for $1K; Joan Blaffer Johnson, Jane Blaffer Owen and Marjorie Jester Milby ($1K each), and sundry others whose venerable names we’re too lazy to type. Somewhat more generous, at least for this go-round (but from each according to his abilities, as some joker once said), were Henry Holmes Cullen of Quintana Petroleum and Louisa Stude Sarofim, chair of the Menil Collection, who donated the maximum $5,000 apiece. Also on the Brown ledger were scions of some of the city’s long-past-their-heyday Jewish Merchant families, including Robert Sakowitz, down for $500, and Marilyn Oshman, who chipped in $2,500. Then there’s Sakowitz’s sis, socialite
Lynn Wyatt, wife of former jailbird Oscar, who contributed $2.5K.

But Brown’s most generous supporter appears to be an exemplar of the city’s New Money, Frank Liu of Lovett Homes. Light-rail booster Liu himself kicked-in $5K, while Cindy Liu, whom we presume is the Missus Liu, added her very own $5K to the PeterPot (we think it’s sweet how spouses pool resources, especially went trying to get around vexatious campaign finance rules). But the Liu-related generosity didn’t end there: Brown’s report also listed $5,000 contributions from a Frank Liu of the 77007 zip code and a Kirby Liu of Hanover, N.H. (we been there and ain’t ever, never goin’ back). Both of these latter Lius were reported to be STUDENTS for occupational identification. It’s reassuring to know that even in these times of rising tuition, some students are willing to set aside the money they’ve earned washing dishes or whatever to make their voices heard in the political process (we sniff a future piece in this from the Chronicle’s Teen Columnist).

Also maxing-out for PB in the last reporting period were Michael Garver of BRH Garver Construction, who appears to have also anted up for Brown opponent Parker; Richard Bost of Environmental Resource Management; Glen Seureau, listed as president of Seureau Investments; Janet Pignataro Hansen of the Jamail & Kolius law firm; Edward Allen of Eagle Global investment advisors and wife Chinui; James Dunlap of the El Paso Corp.; Andrew Segal of Boxer Property; self-employed Meg Goodman, and James Flores of Plans Exploration. The Wu clan was especially good to Brown: Henry, president of American First National Bank gave $5,000, as did Janae Wu and Chyong Jae Jenny Wu (say that real fast--it’s fun!). (Developer Ed Wulfe--who would be a Wu if he lost the “-lfe”--gave $2.5K in the last period.) And then there were the Browns, proving again that blood is thicker than mud, in the person of Hoyt Brown Sr. of El Paso Energy, accountant Martin A. Brown of KPMG, and Catherine Brown, STUDENT, of the 77019 area code, each good for 5 grand. (We notice Brown listed no PAC donations--perhaps he swore off of them and we missed it, or perhaps he couldn't get any--but he does list, possibly erroneously, what appear to be two direct $5,000 donations from corporate interests, which we believe is not kosher, unless they changed election law while we were dozing for the past 20 years.)<>plans and proposals, a few of which might actually be politically viable). While we personally would not be willing to wager any of the fortune we’ve amassed as a self-employed investor on a Brown victory, the man obviously has potential to wreak some mischief, especially if he can lend himself another $765,000 and paper the airwaves with clever, wall-to-wall commercials, maybe using whoever it was who made Bill White’s ads (although he should have gotten started on it back in the spring). And of course there probably are several thousand Wus and Lius out there who haven’t maxed out, if not on this continent then some other.

*Brown told our old pal Bernstein, late of the Chronicle, that his favorite Funkadelic number is "Under a Groove," meaning One Nation Under Groove, although we would have guessed that he’s partial to Sexy Ways or perhaps Jimmy’s Got a Little Bit of Bitch in Him.

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