Virginia Republican J. Marshall Coleman went to Texas yesterday, and thanks to his gubernatorial opponent, many Virginians may get to see Coleman's quest for money from that state's oil and bank barons.
Coleman had just entered the first of two fund-raising receptions there when his campaign manager, C. Anson Franklin, said he spotted an uninvited television crew and a still photographer among the guests at the Houston Petroleum Club. They had been hired by Robert Squier, media consultant to Coleman's Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Charles S. Robb of McLean.
More than 50 people, including some of the richest Republicans in Texas, attended the events, arranged by the state's first GOP governor, William P. Clements Jr. Franklin said the typical guest probably gave Coleman about $1,000.
Clements shrugged off the presence of Robb's TV crew. "Let's be honest about this," he said. "There is nothing unusual about 'outside' money. When I ran, people from Colorado, Oklahoma and elsewhere contributed. So what's new?"
Coleman backers have been issuing warnings about "Texas money" underwriting the campaign of Robb, son-in-law of the late president Lyndon Johnson of Texas. Yesterday Coleman attempted to downplay their charges, quipping, "We just didn't want to concede the Lone Star state to the Democrats."
Squier, a Washington political consultant, acknowledged last night that he had hired the photographers. Last year he filmed a similar event for Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Ind.) whose opponent, Rep. Dan Quayle, also sought Texas money for his race. The commercial that resulted from the event showed Quayle, who won the election, surrounded by rich Texans as an announcer intoned: "This is Houston -- home of big oil. What's a conservative Republican congressman from Indiana doing here?"
At the second reception, in Dallas, Clements said Virginia Gov. John N. Dalton had urged him to help raise part of the $2 million to $3 million that Coleman expects to spend in the most costly gubernatorial race in Virginia history.
Clements said that he had "visited with Mr. Coleman three or four times, but I never met Chuck Robb, though I have met his mother-in-law Lady Bird Johnson .
"We in Texas have a very strong affinity for Virginia. You'd be surprised how many historical figures came to Texas from Virginia, including Sam Houston."
His own ancestors, the Texas governor said, are from Augusta County, the same Virginia county where Coleman was born. Clements added that he and several others at the reception own property in Virginia. Clements' holdings include Wexford, the estate near Middleburg built for former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. President Reagan stayed there briefly last summer after his nomination.
The Dallas event was held in the Williamsburg Room of the Petroleum Club, on the 48th floor of the First National Bank Building, which looks out on the First International Building, better known to television viewers as the "Dallas" headquarters of oil tycoon J.R. Ewing.
As black-uniformed waiters glided across the thick carpet, serving drinks, guests snacked on nachos, guacamole, and oysters on the half-shell and watched a five-minute television commercial portraying Coleman as a man of humble origins who understands working folks.
Washington Post special correspondent Bill Bancroft contributed to this article.