Phil Gramm’s Cabinets

Gramm, like the Clintons, had questionable business dealings with an S&L crook.

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In 1987, Phil Gramm and his wife Wendy were building a house in Maryland. Gramm did not trust the craftspeople of Maryland (or so he later claimed), so he asked one of his campaign fundraisers, Jerry Stiles, to do the house’s interiors (cabinets, carpeting, etc.). A Dallas builder, Stiles–like Jim McDougal–financed his projects with the money in his S&Ls. Stiles was also under investigation by the Dallas office of the FBI for his flagrant corruption.

Stiles agreed to do Gramm’s interiors for $63,000. The work was done in Texas, then shipped to Maryland, together with carpenters who assembled it while living in nearby motels. The total bill came to $117,000.

Gramm, however, paid only the agreed-upon $63,000. FBI agents who later investigated Stiles on S&L-related charges found this $54,000 discrepancy suspicious. (“Jerry’s been building for 50 years and he’s going to be off by 50 percent? There’s no doubt in my mind that he knew what he was doing,” says one agent.)

When he learned the FBI was investigating Stiles, Gramm revealed his compromised situation to the Senate Ethics Committee and paid Stiles the $54,000 balance for the work. The Ethics Committee did not question the FBI agents familiar with the case, and subsequently the FBI investigation came to a swift and decisive halt. (“It died a graceful death,” says one of the agents.) After the dust settled, Stiles reimbursed Gramm the $54,000.

Stiles’ corrupt S&L empire collapsed in 1989, costing taxpayers an estimated $200 million. Stiles is currently serving a 55-year sentence in Texas for 11 counts of conspiracy and fraud.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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