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Harriet Miers and the Texas Lottery Commission


The long legal career of White House counsel Harriet Miers is now under scrutiny. President Bush yesterday named her as his choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Her nomination has stirred up interest in her years in Texas, where she was born and went on to become a private attorney, a member of the Dallas City Council and head of the Texas Lottery Commission. Joining me on the line is Wayne Slater. He's senior political writer for The Dallas Morning News.

Good morning.

Mr. WAYNE SLATER (The Dallas Morning News): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: President Bush and Harriet Miers go back a long way together. How would you describe their relationship?

Mr. SLATER: It's a good, close relationship. He was introduced to her in 1993 as he was preparing to run for governor. She advised him at that time on financial matters, campaign finance, and increasingly he came to trust her on issues of ethics and conflicts of interest and revolving doors. She became a person--I think you heard the president say yesterday, a person of unquestioned integrity, and that's the way friends say Bush saw her, as a strong, ethical person with a lot of integrity. He liked to get her advice on a number of matters.

MONTAGNE: Now then-Governor Bush, he appointed her, as we said, to head the Texas Lottery Commission in 1995. She held that post for five years. What was her tenure like?

Mr. SLATER: Yeah, it was troubled. It was a real, real problem. It was a troubled agency, but not when she arrived. She was there for about a year, year and a half, and then questions of influence peddling arrived, and during her tenure, the stormy time when two directors were fired and other lobbyists--questions were raised about the lobbyists for the lottery contractor--Republican supporters say that she was a person who sort of rode herd over an agency that was having problems, and she directed in ethical ways. Democrats say that she was really a political lawyer who was hired or at least administered a Republican-minded discipline of Democrats. One of the directors who was fired had been an Ann Richards Democrat and was replaced ultimately by a Republican.

MONTAGNE: Is that still the view between the two sides? Nothing was resolved?

Mr. SLATER: Oh, you betcha, the conflict of interest about which side prevailed. I think there's a lot of feeling among people who know Harriet that she is a strong, ethical person who was guided by the idea of protecting the integrity of the game, but still, Democrats say that this was an effort to purge Democrats along the way, and at some point later along the way, the second lottery director to lose his job raised questions of politics, and during the legal battle the lottery's lobbyist at that time, former Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, testified in kind of a related case that he was involved in getting Bush out of the National Guard. So it became a deep, deep political fight.

MONTAGNE: In another story entirely, we spoke with you last week about the indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas. Yesterday there was a second indictment. Just briefly, what does this new charge mean?

Mr. SLATER: Basically what's happened here is the prosecutor is attempting to cover all bases. The indictment charged DeLay with conspiracy involving a campaign finance matter, sending money up and back that couldn't be used, arguably, in Texas elections. The lawyers for DeLay yesterday went to court and said that matter isn't--doesn't apply in Texas, so the prosecutor came back with a second indictment. In effect, what the prosecutor has done is charge DeLay twice in different ways for the same crime.

MONTAGNE: Wayne, thanks very much for talking with us.

Mr. SLATER: OK. Bye-bye.

MONTAGNE: Wayne Slater is the senior political writer for The Dallas Morning News.

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.