Capital Tonight: Bitcoin and the FBI become factors in governor’s race

Sen. Wendy Davis is in the headlines again this week, but not exactly in a way her campaign might have hoped.

The Dallas Morning News reports a toll road authority that had paid Sen. Davis for ongoing legal work is part of an investigation by the FBI.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we discussed whether the ongoing questions about conflicts of interest will gain more traction in the governor’s race, where Sen. Davis is seeking to win against Attorney General Greg Abbott.

REPORTER ROUNDTABLE

Meanwhile, Abbott’s campaign for governor is going high-tech. The campaign announced this week that he will now be accepting Bitcoin contributions.

We sat down with Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune, David Barer of The Dallas Morning News and KUT’s Ben Philpott to discuss the politics behind crypto-currency and the latest attack ads in the race for lieutenant governor.

CHECKING THE FACTS

Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas and the Austin American-Statesman joined us to check on claims by both President Barack Obama and outspoken Rep. Louie Gohmert.

Capital Tonight: Attack ads resurface in lieutenant governor’s race

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has broken his weeks-long campaign silence. In a new ad released Wednesday, the incumbent is bringing up his opponent’s financial past, suggesting Sen. Dan Patrick’s bankruptcy filing nearly 30 years ago is an indication of his suitability for lieutenant governor.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we look at how the Patrick team is responding to the ad, and we hear why one former campaign consultant says the strategy could backfire.

NEW POLL NUMBERS

A new poll puts Sen. Ted Cruz at the top of the heap when it comes to potential 2016 Republican primary candidates. Political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi joined us to evaluate what the numbers mean for Cruz, and for Gov. Rick Perry.

MAKING THE GRADE

All this month, schools are measuring students with the STAAR test. But what about using it to evaluate teachers? We spoke to Jennifer Canaday of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, who says the idea could be disastrous.

Capital Tonight: Polling director defends results against Democratic group’s criticism

Legalizing gambling is an decades-old debate in Texas, and a new dustup over bingo hall regulations may be a sign that state lawmakers won’t be ready to make the leap anytime soon.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we explained the fight over a popular pull-tab game and why it could carry over into the next legislative session.

BEHIND THE NUMBERS

New poll numbers show Texas Democrats with double-digit deficits to overcome in order to win in 2014, but the results are drawing criticism from Lone Star Project, a political strategy group aligned with Democrats that’s claiming faulty methodology.

We sat down with Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen to defend the results and go behind the numbers.

T

ON THE AGENDA

Gov. Rick Perry is popping up in the polls again, and the results are night-and-day compared to his 2012 campaign. Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report joined us to analyze his surge in popularity.

New Dewhurst ad targets Patrick’s troubled financial past

Updated to include Sen. Patrick response.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is out with a new television attack ad today. The new 30-second spot is highly critical of Sen. Dan Patrick’s financial history. Patrick filed for personal bankruptcy in the 1980s, when fallout from the oil bust forced him close a chain of sports bars he co-owned. Many have been critical of the fact that he never paid back more than $800,000 in debts.

Patrick has defended his bankruptcy, saying he never tried to hide his troubled financial past. Patrick has used his history as an example of how Texans can overcome hardship, and attributes his success as a businessman to lessons learned from his past failures. “I learned from that. It made me the fiscal conservative that I am because I am 63 today, I was 35 then,” he said in an online interview. 

You can watch the full Dewhurst ad here:

UPDATE:

Patrick was quick to respond to Dewhurst’s attack, calling the negative ad a “string of lies, half truths, and a rehash of events from 30 years ago.” Below is a statement from Patrick campaign strategist Allen Blakemore.

“Six weeks before the Runoff Election and during Holy Week, David Dewhurst takes his campaign straight to the gutter.  Over the next seven days, he is spending over $1,000,000 polluting the airwaves, spewing raw sewage, and personally attacking Dan Patrick.  Mr. Dewhurst’s ad offers no excuse for his own record of failure to secure the border, failure to address property taxes that are driving people from their homes, and a failure to deliver a fiscally responsible budget.

Mr. Dewhurst’s negative campaign of personal attacks will fail.  The voters know David Dewhurst and his record, and over 70% have already rejected his message and are looking for an authentic conservative like Dan Patrick to lead as our next Lieutenant Governor.”

 

 

Capital Tonight: Political world reacts to Castro-Patrick debate on immigration

It started out as a Twitter spat, but on Tuesday night, Sen. Dan Patrick and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro finally met face-to-face for a debate over immigration reform and border security.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at highlights from the debate, plus we spoke to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose attempts at immigration reform in Washington have drawn widespread attention.

EXPERT INSIGHT

What does our immigration system look like now? The co-director of UT Law School’s Immigration Clinic, Denise Gilman joined us to focus on the facts about conditions on the border, the reasons for illegal immigration and more.

CAPITAL COMMENTATORS

One of the questions in Tuesday night’s debate centered around former state Rep. Aaron Peña, who’s accused both the Democratic Party of taking Hispanics for granted and the Republican Party of going too far with anti-immigrant rhetoric. We sat down with Peña and Democratic strategist Harold Cook to get their take on the debate, and to dig into some new poll numbers on statewide races.

REROUTING DRIVER FINES

The state’s driver responsibility program is getting a second look, after criticism that it unfairly targets low-income Texans. We heard what local judges think about a possible change.

Republicans hold double digit lead in statewide races

Republican Greg Abbott continues to hold a double digit lead over Democrat Wendy Davis in the race for Texas Governor, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey.

The poll puts Abbott at 51 percent, to Davis’ 37 percent. Those numbers are similar to the last PPP poll, conducted in November.
In fact, Republicans hold a double digit lead in every statewide 2014 race.

In the race for Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Leticia Van de Putte trails regardless of who her potential Republican opponent might be. Senator Dan Patrick, who came out ahead in the Republican primary, leads Van de Putte by a 16 point margin. A match-up with Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst puts Van de Putte 18 points behind.

Van de Putte’s Republican opponent will be determined in the May 27 runoff election.

 

Capital Tonight: Campaign politics apparent in education hearing

Politics surrounding the lieutenant governor’s race spilled over into Monday’s Senate Education Committee hearing. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Sen. Dan Patrick clashed over the implementation of new testing requirements, but the possibility that they could face off in the race for lieutenant governor was also a factor.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at how policymakers are following existing legislation, as well as the possibility of introducing new regulations after the explosion of a fertilizer storage facility in West.

CANDIDATE CONVERSATION

Congressman Roger Williams sat down with us to discuss Paul Ryan’s budget, border security, the possibility of immigration reform.

TROUBLE WITH TOLLWAYS

Harvey Kronberg provided his take on a potential conflict of interest regarding Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. According to The Dallas Morning News, Davis voted on legislation concerning the North Texas Tollway Authority project while she performed legal work for the organization.

Report on UT regent referred to district attorney’s office

The legislative committee investigating UT Regent Wallace Hall has referred a draft report to Travis County officials for possible criminal prosecution. The report, released last week by special counsel hired to investigate Hall, accuses the regent of “gotcha! governance,” “bullying” and “tarnishing of the reputation of UT Austin.”

The Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations was originally convened to look into Hall’s request for massive amounts of documents from the University of Texas, part of what Rep. Jim Pitts referred to as a “witch-hunt” against UT President Bill Powers. But the draft report went much further, pointing out Hall’s actions during the investigation itself as possible grounds for impeachment. Among other things, the report accuses Hall of attempting to coerce witnesses and the disclosure of confidential student information.

Now, investigators are categorizing their findings as possible criminal violations. In a letter to the full committee, co-chairs Carol Alvarado and Dan Flynn said:

“As Co-Chairs, we believe that the Committee has a responsibility to do all it can to safeguard the credibility of its inquiry, the integrity of our state’s institutions of higher education, and the privacy rights of students at the University of Texas. The report notes that Regent Hall’s conduct with respect to protected student information is serious enough to implicate two possible offenses in the Penal Code. In addition, Regent Hall’s conduct may constitute a criminal offense under the Texas Public Information Act.”

Today, the House Sergeant at Arms sent the full draft report to Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg and County Attorney David Escamilla, along with the letter outlining those same charges.

The joint committee has not officially adopted the report. If they do, they could still refer their investigation to the Texas House for impeachment proceedings. If the House passes articles of impeachment, the Senate would then conduct a trial.

Capital Tonight: Standout moments from the Civil Rights Summit

The legacy of President Lyndon Baines Johnson was honored this week, throughout a three-day summit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act being signed into law.

Four presidents and numerous civil rights icons, experts, authors and celebrities took part in telling the story of how far we’ve come thanks to Johnson’s efforts and how far we still have to go. In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we highlighted the standout moments from the summit and discussed what they mean for the politics of today.

REPORTER ROUNDTABLE

From a committee report on UT Regent Wallace Hall to the latest fight in the governor’s race over pre-K education, there was plenty of other political news this week.

We sat down with Christy Hoppe, The Dallas Morning News‘ Austin bureau chief, Texas Tribune reporter Reeve Hamilton, and San Antonio Express-News Austin bureau chief and Houston Chronicle reporter Peggy Fikac to talk about the stories our viewers might have missed.

CHECKING THE FACTS

Plus, Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas and the Austin American-Statesman joined us to look into claims made by Congressman Michael McCaul and the Wendy Davis campaign this week.

Capital Tonight: Obama, Bush draw parallels between their accomplishments and LBJ’s

The country’s first black president was a featured speaker on the final day of the LBJ Civil Rights Summit. President Barack Obama gave the keynote address at the three-day event, commemorating the signing of the Civil Rights Act 50 years ago.

The President spoke candidly about President Lyndon Johnson’s struggles to create change in the country, and he drew several comparisons between his presidency and the legacy of LBJ.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we heard how President Obama and former President George W. Bush view their time in office in light of LBJ’s accomplishments.

INCOME INEQUALITY

Segregation may be over, but the income gap between whites and nonwhites is still largely in place. We sat down with economist James Galbraith for a discussion on what income inequality looks like today and the steps lawmakers are taking to curb it.

PROGRESS & POLITICS

Voting laws in Texas were on the minds of many this week. Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson joined us to give his take on that issue. And our political strategists, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, debated more of the political issues unique to Texas.