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Hightower: FBI Inquiry Is Political

September 28, 1990

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ The FBI is inquiring into the campaign finances of two Texas Democrats, one of them running against the son of U.S. Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher and the other against a candidate backed by President Bush’s eldest son.

The inquiries are politically motivated, says one of the Democrats, Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower.

On Monday, FBI agent Greg Rampton obtained from the secretary of state copies of 1988-90 campaign finance reports filed by Hightower and lieutenant governor hopeful Bob Bullock.

″I resent the FBI getting into my political campaign with these kinds of overt acts of political activity,″ Hightower said Thursday. ″It amounts to Nixonian dirty tricks here.″

Bullock’s Republican opponent is Rob Mosbacher Jr., son of U.S. Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher. Hightower faces state Rep. Rick Perry, a Republican who has received backing from the president’s eldest son, George W. Bush.

″Two Democrats who the administration seems most interested in getting: Mr. Bullock because he’s had the gall to run against Mr. Mosbacher’s boy ... Myself because I’ve been something of a burr under the saddle of the Bush administration on their price-busting, farm-bankrupting agriculture policies,″ Hightower said.

Perry and Mosbacher said they had nothing to do with the FBI inquiry.

″I don’t know anything more about it than I’ve read in the papers,″ Mosbacher said.

″I don’t know anybody in the FBI, and I can assure you that none of them have talked to me,″ Perry said. But he said the inquiry shows that ″irregularities in (Hightower’s) agency have caught the attention of federal authorities.″

At a news conference, Hightower said Rampton had questioned many of his agency’s employees and tried to get one to wear a hidden microphone.

″They tried to put a wire on one of my employees and send him in to talk to me. They have harassed our office staff,″ he charged.

Neither Byron Sage, agent-in-charge of the Austin FBI office, nor Rampton returned telephone calls from The Associated Press. Their office referred inquiries to FBI spokesman Claude Martin in San Antonio, who didn’t immediately return a call.

Bullock, the five-term state comptroller, said the FBI inquiry may have stemmed from complaints by a disgruntled former employee. Bullock and Hightower, who is seeking re-election, said they had done nothing wrong and had nothing to hide.

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