Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sins of Omission: As “Gay Panic” Hits Runoff, Still No 1040s From Locke, While Chronicle Soccer-Stadium Story Manages to Leave Out the Good Parts

Following an interesting and informative Bradley Olson story on Saturday documenting a potential unholy alliance between Gene Locke and, as Olson describes it, "staunch social conservatives who are either actively planning on attacking [Annise] Parker's sexuality or strongly considering it,” the Chronicle on Sunday offered a look at the runoff candidates’ positions on the city’s contributions to a new soccer stadium that was notable for a glaring factual error as well as the germane context that it left out.

The paper erroneously described Locke as a former chairman of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, which presumably has a hand, or would have a hand, in structuring and administering whatever financing arrangement emerges from the apparently stalled negotiations over the facility. Actually, the law firm in which Locke is a partner, Andrews Kurth, is the general counsel to the publicly funded authority, and Locke himself acted as its lawyer at least until April (if not beyond), when, as the doughty Texas Watchdog put it, he gave up “the $640-an-hour fees that went with the job” to run for mayor. And Locke, as far as can be discerned from the public record, is still listed as a partner in Andrews Kurth, meaning he’s still benefitting from whatever work the firm is doing for the authority (as well as other tax-funded local government entities). All this has been batted around fairly extensively in the ground-level media, most notably by Texas Watchdog but also occasionally in this space, when the Lord grants us the time to perform our important community work, and other places as well. Yet nowhere in the Chronicle story is the name “Andrews Kurth” mentioned, nor does the report point out that Locke, as of his last campaign finance disclosure to the city, had received a total of $7,500 in contributions from the Dynamo’s owners, including $3,000 from California billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, and another $2,000 from Dynamo president and former sports authority executive director Oliver Luck (who is identified in the Chronicle story as a fund-raiser for Locke). These contributions, of course, would be wholly irrelevant to the stadium question and were made simply because the donors are concerned about good government in Houston. (Sleepy Chronicle columnist Rick Casey –– hey, we were thinking the other day, what happened to his cuz and onetime Chronicle stablemate, Whitney Casey? –– did report that former welterweight champ Oscar De La Hoya had given $2,000 to Locke, but Casey cited this act of selfless generosity as a “celebrity” donation and failed to mention that the Golden Boy has been reported to have a minority ownership stake in the Dynamo).

(The Chronicle story did include –– you saw this coming, right? –– some contextual fluffery from none other than Bob “You-Need-A-Quote” Stein of Rice University, the yeoman journalist’s bestest friend, whose son-in-law, it is disclosed, works for the Locke campaign, a factoid that only gives rise again to perhaps the most pressing civic question facing Houston today: Is there nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide, from Bob Stein? [Of course, we can’t argue with the CW that Stein dispenses to the paper, but the dude needs to start screenin’ his calls .])

All of this makes a nice set-up to the Locke campaign’s refusal to even respond to Texas Watchdog’s request that he and Parker make public their households’ IRS returns for the past three years (Parker has released returns for both herself and her partner).

As for the emerging gay-panic narrative –– and how predictable was that? –– we will for the time being forgo the temptation to pound out 2,000 or so choice words on the subject and instead direct all concerned citizens to the succinct deboning of the non-issue by blogHouston’s Kevin Whited.

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