Archive for May, 2014

Perry aides testify before grand jury

The grand jury investigating Gov. Rick Perry returned to work Friday. Four of Perry’s top aides headed into the grand jury room through the public entrance, despite a request to enter through a private door. The aides included spokesman Rich Parsons, general counsel Mary Anne Wiley, and deputy chief of staff Mike Morrissey.

The grand jury is investigating whether Perry illegally withheld money from the Travis County District Attorney’s office. Perry vetoed funding last year for the public integrity unit, which is overseen by the District Attorney’s office. Perry had threatened to slash the funding if DA Rosemary Lehmberg refused to step down after a drunk driving arrest. He followed through with that threat when she refused.

It is not clear when Perry will testify and his aides did not comment Friday.

Capital Tonight: Rep. Coleman explains progress of integrated health projects

Two groups interested in criminal justice reform are calling for a closer look at the state’s prison system in light of Gov. Rick Perry’s refusal to abide by a law known as the Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we heard why the Prison Justice League and the Texas Civil Rights Project say Perry’s decision is putting juvenile inmates at risk. Plus, we checked in on new developments involving UT Regent Wallace Hall, the U.S. secretary of veterans affairs and more.


At the State Capitol, lawmakers on the County Affairs Committee dug into the details of health care costs and how more cooperation among regional stakeholders is helping to keep them down while drawing in federal funding. We spoke to the chairman of that committee, Rep. Garnet Coleman, about how those efforts are going.


Political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi joined us to react to the day’s political news, including an awkward request involving the governor’s attorney, a judge and the Travis County district attorney.

Capital Tonight: Education, veterans’ issues and a conservative push for immigration reform

The fight over public education is back at the Capitol, this time over whether teacher evaluations should be tied to state standardized testing.

In Monday’s Capitol Tonight, we heard from one teacher who says the plan would suck the life out education. Plus, we checked in on a special committee hearing in San Antonio, where lawmakers discussed best practices for veterans’ courts.


The push for immigration reform is coming back to life — this time from a growing coalition on the right. We spoke Brad Bailey, co-founder of the new nonprofit group Texas Immigration Solution, about what he calls a market-based approach.


New ads are hitting the airwaves in the Republican runoff race for attorney general. The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to give his take on whether the accusations could tip the scales with just days away from early voting.

Capital Tonight: Death penalty opponents respond to last-minute stay of execution

A Texas execution planned for Tuesday was called off just hours before it was set to happen. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay based on new claims that inmate Robert Campbell was intellectually disabled, which would make him ineligible for the death penalty.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we spoke to the head of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Kristin Houlé, about the botched Oklahoma execution, the secrecy surrounding execution drugs, and whether attitudes about the death penalty are changing.


The fight for lieutenant governor continues, but what happens if the Senate decides to strip the eventual winner of some of his authority? We spoke to Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report about the ways that scenario has played out before and how it could happen again.


Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is doubling down on his endorsement of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst by appearing in a new campaign ad. Political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi weighed in on that development and more.

Court stays execution of Robert Campbell

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted a stay of execution for Texas death row inmate Robert Campbell, who was scheduled to die Tuesday evening. The ruling is based on Campbell’s attorneys’ argument that new evidence shows Campbell is intellectually disabled, and therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

“The Fifth Circuit’s decision today creates an opportunity for Texas to rise above its past mistakes and seek a resolution of this matter that will better serve the interests of all parties and the public,” Robert Owen, one of Campbell’s attorneys, said in a statement. “Mr. Campbell has been fully evaluated by a highly qualified psychologist – a member of the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists, appointed to that post by Governor Rick Perry – who confirms he is a person with mental retardation. Therefore, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Atkins v. Virginia, he is ineligible for the death penalty.”

Campbell’s attorneys want their client’s sentence to be reduced to life imprisonment.

Part of the three-judge panel’s written decision reads, “Because of the unique circumstances of this case, Campbell and his attorneys have not had a fair opportunity to develop Campbell’s claim of ineligibility for the death penalty. In light of the evidence we have been shown, we believe that Campbell must be given such an opportunity.”

Today’s decision comes two weeks after a botched execution in Oklahoma, where the inmate sat up, spoke and eventually died of a heart attack. Campbell’s attorneys had initially requested a stay based on that execution, arguing that Texas’ secrecy about its drug manufacturers could lead to the same outcome. That request was denied by the Fifth Circuit of Appeals.

Patterson appears in new ad supporting Dewhurst

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is taking his recent endorsement of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst a step further, by appearing in a new campaign ad.

Entitled “Dan is Not the Man,” the ad features Patterson sitting at a table, cleaning his guns and telling the stories behind them. It’s not until halfway through the ad that Patterson introduces himself and talks about his former opponent in the Republican primary race for lieutenant governor, Sen. Dan Patrick.

“It’s pretty clear to me that Dan Patrick is not the right choice for Texas, and that David Dewhurst is,” Patterson says.

Patterson initially declined to endorse anyone after coming in fourth in the primary race, but got behind Dewhurst last week. Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who was also a candidate for lieutenant governor, has so far decided not to back either candidate.



Sen. Paxton’s hometown police association withdraws endorsement

A second police association has withdrawn its endorsement of Sen. Ken Paxton in his run for state attorney general, this time in his hometown of McKinney.

In a letter posted online Sunday, McKinney Police Association President Jose Quiles cited the recent reprimand from the Texas State Securities Board over Sen. Paxton’s work as an unregistered financial adviser. The letter is also attributed to the head of the association’s political action committee, Farrel Ritchie.

“Given that the Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer in the State of Texas, the McKinney Police Association feels it is necessary to protect the integrity of the office and can no longer support Ken Paxton for Attorney General,” Quiles and Ritchie said.

The Republican attorney general candidate has been surrounded by ethical questions, following reports that he had done work soliciting clients for a financial firm without registering with the Securities Board. Sen. Paxton had also failed to disclose his work on various nonprofit boards to the Ethics Commission. He’s since amended those filings.

His opponent in the runoff race for attorney general, Rep. Dan Branch, has called on him to drop out of the race. Branch came in second in a three-way primary race that included Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman. Branch’s campaign says their internal polling shows them shrinking the nearly 11-point gap seen in the primary.

Earlier this month, the Allen Police Association also withdrew its support, citing the same problems with regulatory authorities.


Read the full letter from the McKinney Police Association below:


McKinney Police Press Release 5/11/14 by Patrick Perry

Capital Tonight: Reporters break down a bizarre week in Texas politics

A House committee could soon decide whether to recommend the impeachment of a UT regent. But what exactly does that process look like?

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we spoke with Rep. Senfronia Thompson, who was there the last time a state official was impeached — nearly four decades ago.


From a contentious debate in Dallas over trusworthiness to an an online video put out by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called the “Ballad of Dannie Goeb,” it’s fair to say this was an odd week in Texas politics. We sat down with Wayne Slater of The Dallas Morning News and Jay Root of the Texas Tribune to put it all in context.


The governor’s race has seen its share of serious accusations as well. Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas and the Austin American-Statesman joined us to sort out whether they’re true.

Patrick demands apology for draft-dodging accusations

Republican lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Dan Patrick says claims that he dodged the draft during the Vietnam War are false and he is demanding an apology from runoff opponent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Questions over Patrick’s war service were raised during a press conference with Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson earlier Thursday. Patterson, who is endorsing Dewhurst, made the case that based on the draft lottery system and Patrick’s date of birth, he would have been called into service.

Patrick said Thursday that he was drafted in 1972. However, he was deemed medically ineligible due to childhood injuries. Patrick reportedly suffered from bone cysts and had broken his right leg twice. He says he also suffered a serious knee injury while playing high school sports.

“While I greatly appreciate the military service of both David Dewhurst and Jerry Patterson, the fact that they would attempt to smear me, and question my patriotism, is reprehensible.” Patrick said. “These men have no honor; they know no shame.”


Branch picks up Smitherman endorsement in AG race

There are new signs of trouble for Sen. Ken Paxton’s campaign for attorney general. Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman announced Thursday that he is endorsing Paxton’s Republican opponent, Rep. Dan Branch. Smitherman placed third behind Branch and Paxton in the Republican primary.

Paxton, who came in first in the primary, has been under fire in recent weeks after questions were raised about possible ethics and disclosure violations. Last week, Paxton was fined $1,000 for work he did with a financial services firm without registering with the State Securities Board.

While praising Branch, Smitherman said Paxton’s legal troubles played a key role in his decision. In a statement Smitherman said:

While experience, leadership, and legal skills are important, perhaps the most important of all qualities needed to be Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer in the State of Texas, is an unwavering commitment to compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the law.  The Attorney General must have integrity, honesty, and high moral character.

Sen. Paxton’s recent admission that he broke the law when he failed to register with the State Securities Board, during a period of time when he was actively soliciting investments on behalf of “Fritz” Mowery, is very troubling.  He also failed to disclose his employment as an investment advisor to his legal clients, a possible violation of the State Bar’s rules for professional responsibility.   As a result of his admission of guilt, Sen. Paxton was recently fined and reprimanded by the Securities Board for multiple violations of the Texas Securities Act.

Remaining open is the question of whether he committed any violations of United States’ securities laws, which would be prosecuted by Eric Holder’s Dept. of Justice, during the years (2008 to 2012) when Mowery Capital Management was under federal rather than state jurisdiction.

For these and other reasons, I am supporting Dan Branch for Attorney General.