Archive for August, 2013

Abbott tweet draws criticism

Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is drawing criticism over a Twitter exchange he was involved in this weekend.

On Sunday, Abbott responded to a tweet from @jefflegal. As you can see in the image, he tweeted “@GregAbbottTX would absolutely demolish idiot @WendyDavis in Gov race – run Wendy run! Retard Barbie to learn life lesson. #TGDN @tcot.” In a tweet that has since been deleted, Abbott responded, thanking him for his support.

The Texas Democratic party was quick to respond. Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa released a statement, saying:

“That Greg Abbott would thank a supporter for calling Senator Wendy Davis a ‘Retard Barbie’ is absolutely disgusting and disturbing.”

Abbott later tweeted back saying, “FYI: I thank supporters on Twitter, but I don’t endorse anyone’s offensive language. Stay positive.”

Sen. Davis is considering a run for Governor. She expected to make an official announcement around Labor Day.


Perry appoints new members to Water Development Board

Gov. Rick Perry has named the three people who will replace the six, current members of the state’s Water Development Board.

Carlos Rubinstein, Bech Bruun and Mary Ann Williamson will serve full-time starting next month, with Rubinstein serving as chair. Each of the members currently holds a different government post, and all were previously appointed or hired by Perry. Rubinstein has served on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality since 2009; Bruun works in the governor’s office as the Director of Governmental Appointments; and Williamson has been a board member of the Texas Lottery Commission since 2008 and now serves as chair.

“The new board will provide leadership, planning, and financial and technical assistance for the responsible development of water for Texas,” Perry’s statement said.

The change was set in motion with the passage of House Bill 4, which calls for “active, full-time governance” from the board. The bill is also part of a larger funding plan that includes Senate Joint Resolution 1, which is set to go before voters in November.

The board is currently made up of six members serving six-year, staggered terms. Each of those terms will come to an early end on September 1, when the new appointments take effect.


Creighton releases new Agriculture Commissioner ad

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Brandon Creighton is out with a new campaign ad, today. The two-minute web spot touts his family’s Montgomery County ranching history and his efforts to “stand up and protect their rights and their way of life.”

“I believe Texas voters are ready for a new generation of conservative statewide elected officials,” Creighton says in the ad. “Serving as your State Representative over the last seven years, we have cut taxes and balanced budgets. But what I am most proud of is my stand against the continued overreach of the federal government.”

Creighton has served in the Texas House of Representatives since 2006. He’s hoping to secure one of the three wide-open statewide elected seats this November. Current Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples is running for Lieutenant Governor.

Regent Hall responds with accusations of ‘secret favoritism’ at UT

A University of Texas regent who has come under fire from the Texas legislature is responding, via his legal counsel, with accusations of “secret favoritism” and “systemic inflation” of donations at UT.

The accusations came out in a letter sent from UT Regent Wallace Hall’s lawyers to the co-chairs of the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations. The committee was formed after Hall requested thousands of pages of documents from the University of Texas. Rep. Jim Pitts has called the request a “witch hunt” and an attempt to bring down UT president Bill Powers. Pitts has also filed a resolution to impeach Regent Hall over what he calls “misrepresentation of material facts” in Hall’s application.

In the letter, Hall’s lawyers dispute Pitts’ claims and defend the information requests, saying they hope to tell the whole story during impeachment proceedings. The letter also accuses UT leadership of the following:

  • Secret favoritism in compensation for male faculty through the UT Law School Foundation
  • Favoritism in admissions on behalf of Texas legislators
  • Systemic inflation and misreporting of donations to the university
  • An overall lack of transparency

Hall is asking to be able to treat any impeachment proceedings like a court trial. He’s asking to be represented by legal counsel, for the ability to call and question witnesses and to subpoena witnesses and request documents.

Capital Tonight: Immigration debate spreads beyond Capitol Hill

Immigration reform may be stuck in Washington, but some Texans are working to get things moving again.

A group formed by the Bipartisan Policy Center released an opinion piece Thursday calling for any compromise to include a pathway to citizenship. The so-called Immigration Task Force includes former housing secretary and San Antonio native Henry Cisneros, as well as former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

In Thursday’s show, we looked at where the group hopes to lead the discussion, and what community organizers in Central Texas want to see.


The Obama administration is awarding money to Texas-based nonprofits to help inform the public about coverage options under the Affordable Care Act. The move has drawn criticism from Attorney General Greg Abbot, who joined 13 other attorneys general in a letter to the department of Health and Human Services citing privacy concerns.


And Senator Ted Cruz is returning to the Lone Star State, as part of an anti-Obamacare tour.
Our Capital Commentators joined us to weigh in on that story and more.

Texas nonprofits secure grants to promote health care overhaul

Texas-based nonprofits will receive nearly $11 million to help inform the public about changes coming as part of the Affordable Care Act. Many parts of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul take effect October 1. Starting then, everyone will be required to sign up for health care coverage, either through a private insurance company or a government plan. Texans will be able to enroll for coverage in the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, as Texas declined to set up its own insurance exchange.

The federal grants announced today were awarded to so-called Health Overhaul Navigators. Those groups volunteered to advertise coming changes and sign people up for health insurance. The money is part of a larger $67 million grant, which was distributed to organizations across the country.

“Navigators will be among the many resources available to help consumers understand their coverage options in the Marketplace,” said Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “A network of volunteers on the ground in every state – health care providers, business leaders, faith leaders, community groups, advocates, and local elected officials – can help spread the word and encourage their neighbors to get enrolled.”

Today’s announcement comes a week after Sebelius visited Texas to tout the president’s plan. She met with state and local leaders in Austin and San Antonio to help communities understand how the changes will affect them.

Yesterday, Attorney General Greg Abbott and 13 other Attorneys General signed sent a letter to HHS, raising privacy concerns. In a statement, Abbott said:

 “Over the next few weeks, the Obama administration plans to dole out millions of taxpayer dollars to so-called ‘navigators’ who will be paid to help Americans navigate the Obamacare behemoth. Because these navigators will be granted substantial access to Americans’ personal information – including their Social Security numbers and tax information – I am deeply concerned about privacy and the security of this very sensitive information.”

Capital Tonight: Behind the ‘We Want Wendy’ campaign

While speculation continues over whether Sen. Wendy Davis will run for governor, some Democratic groups in the state are doing what they can to tilt the table. We sat down with Tanene Allison of the Texas Democratic Party to talk about the “We Want Wendy” campaign.

District 10

Not everyone is rallying around Sen. Davis. A new political ad from Republican Konni Burton features Burton’s adoptive daughter talking about Davis’ stance on abortion. Burton is running in the Republican primary for Senate District 10, which Davis currently holds. The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to talk about what the ad could signal about Republican opposition efforts, no matter which office Davis decides to run for.

Hasan Trial Update

Testimony continued Wednesday in the Nidal Hasan trial, with the Army officer saying once again that he shot Fort Hood soldiers. On the same day, U.S. Rep. John Carter talked about the renewed push for legislation to re-classify the attacks. Click the image below to see Wednesday’s full episode.

Texas Democrats: ‘We want Wendy!’

As if there was ever any question, Democratic groups from across the state are making it clear. They want Wendy Davis to run for governor. Annie’s List, a group dedicated to getting Democratic women elected in Texas, launched a campaign today to encourage Davis to join the race. The campaign is accompanied by a new website to garner support and raise money.

Annie’s List’s announcement was quickly followed by letters of support by other major Democratic groups including the Texas Democratic PartyBattleground Texas and the Lone Star Project.  All four groups are calling on people to sign an online petition, asking for volunteers and encouraging campaign contributions.

Senator Wendy Davis is one of the bright stars of the Texas Democratic Party, and I hope you’ll join me and urge Senator Davis to run for Governor of Texas,” TDP Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said.

Davis was thrust into the national spotlight following a 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor that ultimately delayed a controversial abortion vote. She has said she would either run for governor or for reelection to the Texas Senate. That decision is expected to come sometime around Labor Day. If Davis does decide to run, she would likely face a very well-funded Attorney General Greg Abbott in the general election.

Dewhurst touts grassroots in new ad

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is promoting his grassroots efforts in a new campaign ad released today. “Spending time with the grassroots only makes me love Texas more,” Dewhurst says in the new 60-second web spot. “Over the years life has taught me, the most important thing I can do, is listen.”

Dewhurst faces a crowded field of Republicans in the GOP primary race. Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples are also vying for the state’s number two spot.

You can watch Dewhurst’s full ad below:


Capital Tonight: Dewhurst enters fight over controversial teaching tool

Months after lawmakers passed legislation doing away with CSCOPE, controversy remains over how teachers should move forward.

Monday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst joined a group of Llano residents to praise a judge’s decision regarding CSCOPE lesson plans. The judge granted a temporary restraining order that bans the use of the lesson plans in the Llano Independent School District until they’re approved by the State Board of Education.

In Monday’s show, we look at why the legal move may be the first of many, and the Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg discusses why the lieutenant governor is getting involved in the fight now.


As we first reported back in June, Gov. Rick Perry is the subject of a criminal complaint over a high-profile veto threat this legislative session. A political watch-dog group claims Perry committed several crimes when he threatened to defund the Public Integrity Unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg didn’t resign.

Perry eventually followed through, cutting more than $7 million from the unit. Now, the criminal complaint is making its way through the legal system. We spoke to the man responsible for the court action, Texans for Public Justice director Craig McDonald.


In a shift that could dramatically reduce the size of the U.S. prison population, Attorney General Eric Holder is proposing broad changes to the way drug crimes are prosecuted.

Holder has directed prosecutors not to include drug quantities in their indictments for low-level, non-violent offenders, in order to allow judges to sidestep mandatory minimum sentences.

The announcement drew praise from one conservative group, which has been working toward cost-cutting measures in Texas since 2007. We sat down with Vikrant Reddy of Right on Crime and the Texas Public Policy Foundation to find out more about their efforts.