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written by HOUCONPAC founder, Jim Box
In 1981 Charlie Wortham the President of HCA, and his best friend Billy Freitag, the Past President, came to me and said, “Quite a few of us spend a lot of money on politics but we don’t think we’re getting the most bang for our buck. We feel what we really need is for you to help form a PAC (Political Action Committee) for the Houston Contractors Association.” At the time, I worked for Walter Mischer, another Past President of HCA, and also a pretty well-known political guru. Needless to say, I agreed to give it a try.
As best as I can remember, the original members of the start up committee were Lee George, Jack Holloway, Gail Turner, and Wayne Rogers. There was also an attorney from Brown and Root who did all our legal work. I was the committee’s first chairman. We established a $500 personal contribution as our original membership fee and we slowly gained momentum. After serving two years as Chairman, I suggested to the committee that I take a lesser role in the operation of the PAC. Walter Mischer, while more than qualified to fill the position recognized that his business was taking him more into development and away from construction. I recommended a contractor actively involved in the business who was politically motivated as my replacement.
The second Chairman was N.M. “Mac” Brown. With Mac’s enthusiasm the PAC grew. Each year it got bigger and bigger. In 1984, Sammy Caliva established the precedence of giving the proceeds of the golf tournament to HOU CON PAC. As a matter of fact, he gave me, now the longest serving member on the PAC, an award for my service to the construction industry. At this point in time, it was popular to have names such as Good Government Fund, MPAC, and others but we wanted to be sure that everyone knew that this was the Houston Contractors Association; consequently it was named HOU CON PAC. Ironically, now it’s the law.
The PAC originally supported just local Houston City Council and local Harris County Commissioners. At one point, I arranged for Doc Arnold, a lobbyist friend of mine who had just served a number of years as a state rep from the Mesquite area, to explain the benefits of state level involvement. Doc Arnold helped me emphasize the importance of us getting involved in at least some degree in state races because many things that happen at the state level impact our local contractor members. Somewhere along the line, the practice was established that the immediate Past President of the association would automatically be PAC Chairman, and that policy continues on today. Because of our membership HOU CON PAC had impact from day one. I will assure you today all viable candidates covet our contribution, but most importantly they covet our endorsement.