Hillary's Texas Money Bundler

Has the Clinton Campaign cloned another Ms. Chung Seto of NYC Chinatown bundling fame, or a Boss Parr from a long-past Texas Senatorial race?

Hillary has a Texas border town bundler, Alonzo Cantu, who, according to the Washington Post, 
"...persuaded more than 300 people in Hidalgo County, where the median household income in 2006 was $28,660, to write checks ranging from $500 to $2,300 to the senator from New York." 
According to the Post, Clinton has raised $640,000 from donors in and around McAllen, the principal city in Hidalgo County, while Obama is running at $2,086.  One donor, Cantu's brother-in-law, is quoted as saying, with a smile, "The last thing you want to do is get on Alonzo's bad side."

Cantu's bundling role among a less affluent population is reminiscent of Ms. Seto's fundraising success
among waiters and dishwashers in NYC's Chinatown.  Perhaps in the days ahead we'll know if all of Cantu's donors can be found. Or not.
Meanwhile, this story reminds those of us who live in Texas of another political campaign here back in 1947.  The Senatorial election that year was between a legend in Texas politics and a young congressman from Austin.  The legend, Coke Stevenson, had been the Speaker of the Texas House, Lieutenant Governor, and twice elected Governor.  The congressman was Lyndon Johnson. 


When the Texas Election Bureau closed on Election Day, Stevenson led by 854 votes.  But the counting wasn't done, and neither was the voting.  Resolution of the contested results would be a precursor of the 2000 Presidential Election drama in Florida, except more crudely complicated.  Johnson eventually won by 87 votes in an election where 988,295 votes were allegedly cast.  "Allegedly" is the operative word.



The story of the '47 Texas Senatorial election is told by Robert A. Caro in the second (of three, so far) volume of his highly acclaimed biography of Lyndon Johnson.  In Means of Ascent, he describes how Johnson stole the election from Stevenson with a tactic that Governor W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel had used to defeat Johnson in the 1941 Senatorial election.  Caro tells why statewide candidates delayed reporting results from their "friendly" counties.


An axiom of Texas politics held that ‘The lead in the runoff always wins'; in other words, the candidate ahead by the end of Election Day, at which time most of the vote had been counted, almost invariably could ‘hold out'-delay reporting-enough boxes to keep a reserve to counter changes made by the other side; since both sides were changing votes, the side with the lead could keep the lead by changing enough votes to offset the other side's changes. (pp. 309-310)
In 1941, Johnson, over-confident of a win, let all his counties report on Election Day.  O'Daniel held some of his back until he knew how many votes he needed to win.  Johnson learned from his mistake, and didn't repeat it in 1947.  After the polls closed, his friends in Hidalgo, and other nearby Southeast Texas border counties, found the votes he needed to win.


Johnson's big vote bundler was George Berham Parr, who solely controlled the Democratic Party machine in Duvall and Jim Hogg Counties, just north of Hidalgo County.  Parr also exercised significant influence in other Southeast Texas border counties including Webb, Cameron, Nueces, and Hidalgo.  Caro quotes the description of Parr, El Patron, written by a Corpus Christi Caller-Times reporter named James M. Rowe, who knew Rio Grande Valley politics well:


It is not easy for the average person to imagine what it was like...to oppose Boss Parr in his own county. A word from him was sufficient to get a man fired from his job or denied welfare payments or surplus commodities distributed to the needy.  Merchants who opposed him faced the sudden loss of most of their trade.  Little farmer and ranchers were intimated by the pistoleros. (p.185)
Parr's most ominous pistolero was his six-gun totting enforcer, Luis Salas.  Days after the polls closed, Salas added 200 votes for Johnson to Ballot Box 13 in Jim Webb County. The fact that all the votes were recorded in the same handwriting was a clue.  But the box was never examined by those who adjudicated the election results; it had disappeared by then.


Revised returns gave Johnson a 3,000 vote margin of victory in Hidalgo County. In the six Southeast Texas border-area counties most heavily influenced by the Boss Parr machine, Johnson tallied 10,323 votes to Stevenson's 1,329.  In Parr's home county of Duvall, it was Johnson 2,908 - Stevenson 38.  It all makes the chads and dimples show of South Florida look like child's play.  



So what does this have to do with Hillary's McAllen bundler?



In 60 years, Election Day practices have changed considerably in Texas. Today, it's not easy anymore to use patronage and intimidation to stuff ballot boxes. But, when that kind of money, $640,000, comes from that many donors in what a Washington Post writer describes as a "border town of stucco bungalows and weed-covered farm lots," it does raise eyebrows from those who know the Democrat political history of Southeast Texas, and who remember the stealth donors from NYC's Chinatown.


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