Archive for January, 2014

Capital Tonight: As lawmakers consider changes, a former NSA director weighs in

Questions about government surveillance are coming to a head in Washington this week. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from a White House-appointed panel on recommendations to reform how the National Security Agency conducts surveillance.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at how lawmakers are interpreting the panel’s report, plus we heard from G.W. Schulz of the Center for Investigative Reporting about how domestic surveillance affects you.


While the the debate about domestic data collection continues in Washington, a former NSA Director here in Austin is making his opinion clear. Admiral Bobby Ray Inman teaches at the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs. He spoke to our Karina Kling about why he believes the surveillance is needed.


Plus, the front-runner candidates for governor have released new fundraising numbers, and the totals are impressive. Democratic political strategist Harold Cook joined us to talk about how they could shape the race.

Davis raises $12 million, still faces steep uphill battle

UPDATED: Gubernatorial candidates Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott released their campaign finance figures Tuesday.

Davis reported $12.2 million in contributions over the last six months. According to the campaign, Davis herself raised more than $8 million. Another $3.5 million was donated through the Texas Victory Committee. Battleground Texas, which is working to turn Texas blue, is also expected to report an additional $1.8 million in contributions. It is not clear how much cash she has on hand.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, meanwhile, raised $11.5 million between July 1 and December 1. His campaign is touting strong support from in-state donors, with 97 percent of the contributions coming from Texas. In total, he raked in $16.3 million in 2013.

While the numbers are encouraging for the Davis campaign, she still faces an uphill financial battle. Abbott currently has the largest war chest in state politics with more than $27 million in cash on hand.




Dewhurst: ‘Texas carries the weight’

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s new campaign ad hit the internet, Tuesday. The artsy-ad touts the state economy, throws a jab at California and includes a humorous twist at the end.

You can watch the full ad, below.

Comptroller recommends $50 million in additional water funding

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs released a new report on the economic impact of the drought, Tuesday. The 24-page Texas Water Report: Going Deeper For The Solution explains the state’s struggle to keep up with water demands as the population grows. The report projects a massive shift from agricultural water usage to municipal water usage over the next 50 years and emphasizes the need for conservation and new ways to create reliable sources of drinking water.

Combs praised the passage of Proposition 6, which will draw $2 million from the state’s rainy day fund for water projects, but says it is just a step toward assuring the state’s future water supply. The report recommends $50 million in additional water funding, which would have to be approved by the state legislature. Half of that money would go toward a grant program to help water authorities and other major users improve efficiency and reduce waste. The other $25 million would establish a prize framework to award research dollars for successful innovative water technology.

“Like the new approaches in Texas energy production, we need a revolution in water technology,” Combs said. “We need a breakthrough in this field, and some of our state funding should be used for innovative technologies which increase conservation.”

On Wednesday, Comptroller Combs will be a guest on Capital Tonight to talk more about the drought’s economic impact on the state.


Capital Tonight: Campaign finance reports starting to trickle in

The fundraising numbers are starting to trickle in ahead of the Jan. 15 deadline to make campaign finance reports public. Those numbers will give voters a good idea of just how much support is behind their candidate, but they also influence how other candidates will wind up shaping their campaign strategies.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at how fundraising totals will affect the governor’s race.


It’s a crowded field for Republicans running for agriculture commissioner. Former state Rep. Tommy Merritt joined us to explain what separates him from the herd.


The Obama administration is touting new enrollment numbers as proof that the federal online exchange has moved beyond its rocky start. But what about those who still aren’t signing up? We spoke to one local musician who says the law doesn’t add up for him.

Lieutenant governor candidates release early fundraising numbers

Two candidates for lieutenant governor are neck-and-neck when it comes to fundraising, according to early numbers released by their campaigns.

Sen. Dan Patrick and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples both report $3.1 million in cash on hand, ahead of a Jan. 15 deadline to make finance reports public. The Staples campaign raised a total of $2 million before the Jan. 1 cutoff date, slightly more than Sen. Patrick’s $1.7 million.

Both candidates are hoping to unseat Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who has a significant lead in the polls, but whose fundraising totals were diminished at the outset by an extended special session and an alleged embezzelment scandal. Former campaign manager Kenneth “Buddy” Barfield is accused of stealing more than $2 million from Dewhurst’s campaign accounts. In a recent settlement, Barfield agreed to turn over a home valued at more than $2 million to repay the accounts. It’s unclear whether that money will be added to Dewhurst’s re-election totals.

Dewhurst and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson have not released their fundraising totals yet.

Cornyn launches statewide “Astonishing” ad

Sen. John Cornyn launched his first official television ad in his bid for reelection, Friday. The ad, entitled “Astonishing,” started airing statewide today. The :30 spot focuses on Cornyn’s opposition to the Obama administration’s policies.

“Astonishingly liberal. An Administration that has squandered our trust. Using backhanded methods to change the very fabric of American life. Who stands up to him? John Cornyn. Conservative. Pro-life. Lives the Second Amendment. Fights for truth from a dishonest Administration. He stands up to Obama every day. Pushes back. John Cornyn’s for us – for Texas.”

You can watch the full ad, below. 

Wednesday, an attack ad aimed at challenger Rep. Steve Stockman started airing in the Houston area. That spot was paid for by Texans for a Conservative Majority, which supports Sen. Cornyn.

TEXPAC endorses Dewhurst for lieutenant governor

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is touting the support of the Texas Medical Association Political Action Committee. TEXPAC announced Thursday it would endorse Dewhurst in his reelection bid.

“Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst values and welcomes the input of Texas physicians in developing health care policy for the state,” said TEXPAC Board Chair Jerry Hunsaker. “We know we can trust Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst to do the right thing for Texas’ patients and their physicians.”

Dewhurst is facing Sen. Dan Patrick, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson in the GOP primary.


Wendy Davis proposal would guarantee teaching jobs

Sen. Wendy Davis is announcing a proposal that would guarantee teaching jobs to certain college graduates and expand the number of students who would be automatically admitted to state colleges.

The Democratic front-runner for governor unveiled the proposals in North Texas Thursday, as part of a larger education reform package. Davis said students ranking in the top 20 percent in their junior year would be guaranteed early acceptance to college. Those same students would also be guaranteed a job teaching in a public school after graduating and getting certified.

Davis also promised to increase teacher pay statewide and provide more funding for a loan assistance program currently in effect for qualified teachers.

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s campaign released a statement in response to the proposal.

“Sen. Wendy Davis’ proposals are more fuzzy math – a plan that will increase spending and impose more mandates on Texas universities without explaining how to pay for it. Greg Abbott believes in genuine local control of education: empowering parents, teachers, and principals to serve our students well.”

Abbott and Davis are both making education a central theme in their bid for the governorship. Abbott unveiled his own set of education proposals at a series of events in December. They include an increase in digital learning and more flexibility for teachers.

Capital Tonight: The state of poverty in Texas, 50 years later

It’s been exactly 50 years since President Lyndon Baines Johnson called on Congress to fight poverty in the nation. Since his “War on Poverty” speech, programs have been put in place to increase jobs, benefit programs were created to help millions of Americans and investments in education have been made.

One direct result of Johnson’s vision was Head Start, a federal program that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition and parent involvement to low-income children and their families.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at where the Head Start program stands today, plus we sat down with the Executive Director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Ann Beeson, for a breakdown of what poverty in Texas looks like in 2014.


Some of the state’s top Republicans are in Austin this week to discuss policy issues, as part of an annual orientation conference put on by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. With a big political season ahead and the primaries inching closer, we looked at how Texas conservatives are debating the GOP’s future.


This week saw a fresh round of political endorsements, including some from unexpected places. The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to weigh in on those endorsements and more.