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Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican presidential nominee, has found a quiet hideaway in the State Bar of Texas building where he can brush up on his speaking skills and discuss strategy with top campaign advisers without attracting too much attention. Bush has used a room in the Texas Law Center on several occasions over the past several months, State Bar officials say. “We have been told it is for policy meetings,” says State Bar spokeswoman Kimberly Schmitt. “We really have no reason to believe he’s using it for anything campaign-related. We don’t ask them for an agenda.” The State Bar, a quasi-state agency, doesn’t charge for the use of rooms at the law center, and other state agencies, such as the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, meet there, says Tony Alvarado, executive director of the Bar. Private contributions financed construction of the center on land owned by the State Bar. Alvarado says rooms in the building are available to lawyers who need a place to take depositions and to local bar associations in need of space for a meeting. “I think as a courtesy we let the governor or his folks use the facility,” he says. Bush campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan says the governor occasionally uses a room at the law center for private strategy meetings with senior campaign advisers. He says Bush goes to the center to get away from the “hustle and bustle” of the capital and the campaign office. “It is an opportunity to get some solitude and to talk about campaign strategy and upcoming speeches,” Sullivan says. “There are 150 people here at the campaign who would like to see him and I’m sure have questions for him.” On Aug. 8, Bush spent about two hours meeting in the law center’s audio-visual room with Karl Rove, senior strategist for the campaign, and Mark McKinnon, a Democrat-turned-Republican media consultant. At any given time while the meeting was in progress, three to four Secret Service agents patrolled the hallway outside the room or lounged on sofas in the lobby area. An unknown number of agents waited with the car that transported Bush to and from the center. An agent told a Texas Lawyer reporter that she would be moved to a different part of the building when Bush exited the room and would be unable to see the people who were with him. The agent, who declined to be identified, suggested that the reporter stand in a protected area in the middle of a busy street under construction behind the law center if she wanted to see who left the building with Bush. CAMPAIGN PURPOSES? State Bar President Lynne Liberato, a partner in the Houston office of Haynes and Boone, was unaware that Bush is using the building for campaign meetings. “If the truth be told, I didn’t know it,” says Liberato, a Democrat who seems undisturbed by the revelation. Also unaware of the Bush meetings was Broadus Spivey, the State Bar’s president-elect and a partner in Spivey & Ainsworth in Austin. Spivey, a Democrat, has concerns about the Bar becoming politicized. “I don’t feel comfortable with either party using State Bar facilities for campaign purposes,” he says. If someone from the Democratic Party called and asked to use a room at the law center, Spivey says he would tell the individual, ” ‘That’s not a good idea.’ “ Two state legislators who are lawyers say they don’t see a problem with the governor meeting with his campaign staff on State Bar property. Sen. Robert Duncan, a Republican and partner in Lubbock’s Crenshaw, Dupree & Milam, says Bush’s run for the White House is an opportunity for Texas. “I don’t see anything wrong with the governor of Texas, who is running for president, to use the State Bar building from time to time to brush up on his speeches,” Duncan says. Rep. Fred Bosse, a Democrat who practices law in Houston, says he doesn’t think State Bar officials are misusing his dues money by letting the governor use the center for campaign meetings. But he thinks Democrats should be extended the same opportunity. Notes Bosse, “I would hope if Vice President Al Gore came to town and needed to brush up on his speech, they would let him have space.”

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