Archive for September, 2014
Sep 29th - 6:33 pm
The candidates for Texas comptroller will sit down for their first televised debate on Time Warner Cable News. Republican Sen. Glenn Hegar and Democrat Mike Collier have agreed to a half-hour round-table discussion in our Capital Tonight studio on Oct. 29.
The candidates will face off as fresh questions are raised about the state’s spending practices. Notably, the new comptroller will have to answer difficult questions about the state’s Major Events Trust Fund. A San Antonio Express-News investigation revealed that the state started doling out $250 million in incentives to the Circuit of the Americas, without a formal written application in place.
Collier has argued the Trust Fund should be moved to another agency, while Hegar has said there needs to be more transparency and reforms need to be made.
The debate airs live at 7 p.m. and will be seen in the Austin, San Antonio and Waco television markets. It will be moderated by Paul Brown.
Sep 29th - 12:46 pm
Sen. Wendy Davis is calling for an independent investigation into Attorney General Greg Abbott’s role in the Texas Enterprise Fund. The call comes on the heels of a scathing audit that revealed more more than $170 million was awarded to businesses that never submitted an application.
The Davis campaign is accusing Abbott of using his office to cover up the transition of the funds by hiding documents and denying open records requests that would have proven Abbott knew the applications never existed.
“Greg Abbott has been Attorney General throughout the entire existence of the Enterprise Fund, and he was responsible for acting as its watchdog, monitoring its accounts and recovering misspent money,” Davis said. “For that entire time, Mr. Abbott did not recover one dime of taxpayer dollars for the Enterprise Fund.”
Davis is also demanding that Abbott return the $1.4 million in campaign contributions he received from grant recipients.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the Attorney General’s office maintains Abbott was following state law because releasing confidential applications could put companies at a competitive disadvantage.
Sep 26th - 12:33 pm
Governor Rick Perry will not be required to attend an October 13 pretrial hearing. However, a judge today denied Perry’s request to be excused from all non-evidentiary pretrial hearings. Instead, Judge Bert Richardson said Gov. Perry would have to file separate motions raising the issue on a hearing-by-hearing basis.
Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum had argued that Gov. Perry’s presence should be required at all hearings, and offered to reschedule the October 13 hearing to accommodate the governor’s previously planned trip to Europe. The judge declined to reschedule that status conference hearing.
Gov. Perry is charged with two felonies stemming from a 2013 line-item budget veto. A grand jury found reason to indict Perry for abusing his power when he threatened to cut funding to the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. Perry justified the threat – and the veto – saying the public lost confidence in District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s ability to lead the unit, following her drunk driving conviction.
Sep 25th - 4:21 pm
Texas Republicans are applauding Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to step down.
Sen. John Cornyn has been calling for Holder’s resignation since the 2012 “Fast and Furious” scandal, which allowed guns into Mexico with the intention of tracking them to drug cartels. Cornyn took Holder to task for what he said was failing to appoint a special prosecutor, leaking confidential information and withholding documents from Congress.
In a statement, Cornyn said:
“Unfortunately the American people, myself included, lost confidence in the Attorney General’s ability to lead a long time ago because of his continued willingness to put politics before the law.”
Senator Ted Cruz shared similar sentiments. Cruz has accused Holder of covering up important information concerning the investigation into accusations the IRS unfairly targeted Tea Party groups.
In a statement, he said:
“It is good news that Eric Holder has announced his resignation. Sadly, he has proven to be the most partisan attorney general in our history, repeatedly defying and refusing to enforce the law. It did not have to be this way, but Holder’s leadership has grievously undermined the Department of Justice’s long bipartisan tradition of independence and fidelity to law.
Holder had an opportunity to fairly investigate the IRS’s illegal targeting of citizen groups; rather than do so, he entrusted the investigation to a major Democratic donor, and brazenly refused to appoint a special prosecutor. For two years now, the Department has obstructed justice and impeded any fair investigation of the IRS’s abuse of power; in response to Holder’s partisan dereliction of duty, I publicly called for his impeachment.”
Holder will remain in his position until a new attorney general is confirmed. Sen. Cruz is requesting that confirmation hearings for his replacement be delayed until a new Congress is in place in January.
Sep 24th - 6:07 pm
Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum filed a motion in Travis County Court Wednesday, arguing Gov. Rick Perry should be required to attend pretrial hearings.
The motion is in response to a request from Perry’s legal team that the governor be permitted to skip any hearing where evidence isn’t presented, beginning with a hearing scheduled for October 13. Perry’s lawyers assert Perry has “long standing plans” to be in Europe on that date. They further argue that it is common practice for the court to waive a defendant’s presence at all non-evidentiary pretrial hearings.
McCrum’s motion disputes that assertion, arguing that there are plenty of legitimate reasons the defendant would need to be present. “The defendant improperly suggests that there is a presumption that important issues will not be addressed,” the brief says. “The absence of an evidentiary hearing does not necessarily indicate that important substantive issues could arise at any court setting.”
McCrum also argued Perry should be denied special treatment. “Mr. Perry should not be treated any differently than any other citizen of the State of Texas who is charged with committing felony crimes and who is obligated to be at all court settings,” the brief says. “From carpenters to lawyers to judges accused of anything from tickets to federal felonies, all are expected to appear in court.”
McCrum did offer to reschedule the October 13 pretrial hearing for a date when the governor will be in town.
Perry is charged with two felonies stemming from a 2013 veto. A grand jury found that Perry abused his power when he threatened to cut funding to the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. Perry justified the threat — and the veto — saying the public lost confidence in DA Rosemary Lehmberg’s ability to lead the unit, following her drunk driving conviction.
Sep 18th - 12:12 pm
Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is attacking Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis’ ethics in the Senate in a new television ad. The ad renews accusations from the Abbott campaign that Davis abused her position in the Senate to profit in the private sector. Abbott also alleges that Davis’ legal work is subject to an open investigation by the FBI.
The Davis campaign was quick to respond, calling the ad a ‘desperate attack.’
“It is the clearest sign yet that Greg Abbott’s lead is steadily eroding and that they are forced to distract from his unethical record, such as using his office to side against patients maimed and killed by a sadistic surgeon after accepting $250,000 from the hospital’s chairman,” said spokesman Zac Petkanas. That claim was the subject of Davis’ most recent TV ad.
The campaign also points to a PolitiFact Texas finding that rated Abbott’s claim that Davis is currently under investigation by the FBI ‘False.’
Sep 18th - 11:55 am
Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples is resigning his post to become president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association. He is expected to leave office sometime in the next two months.
Staples term was already set to expire in January. He didn’t seek reelection, deciding instead to run for lieutenant governor. He finished third in the four-way Republican primary.
Staples had previously served in the Texas House and Senate, before becoming agriculture commissioner. Republican Sid Miller and Democrat Jim Hogan are running to replace him in November.
Sep 17th - 11:55 am
If this week is any indication, the airwaves will be flooded with ads for the governor’s race leading up to election day. Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican Greg Abbott again released new TV ads, Wednesday.
Attorney General Greg Abbott’s new ad features actor Eduardo Verástegui, who touts Abbott’s faith and values. As with his previous TV spots, the ad makes no mention of Wendy Davis.
Davis’ latest spot, meanwhile, is another attack on Abbott’s actions as Attorney General. This time, she is criticizing Abbott for the role he played in a hospital lawsuit filed by victims of a Plano surgeon accused of operating under the influence of drugs. On Monday, Davis released a similar ad accusing Abbott of refusing to intervene in a sex abuse investigation in West Texas.
Sep 15th - 12:09 pm
Democrat Wendy Davis hit Republican Greg Abbott with another attack ad, Monday. This time, Davis is accusing Abbott of failing to investigate reports of sexual abuse at a state run school overseen by the Texas Youth Commission.
According to the ad, the Texas Rangers requested that the Attorney General’s office intervene in the investigation into reports that administrators at the school were sexually abusing young boys. The ad insinuates that Abbott refused to get involved because he was covering up for the TYC.
According to the Abbott campaign, the Attorney General’s office could not legally intervene in the case unless the local district attorney made the request, which did not happen until a year later.
“Sen. Davis can distort the facts in her ads, but no amount of distortion can cover her despicable practice of repeatedly using public office to personally profit,” said Communications Director Matt Hirsh. “We now know that before she was lining her pockets at the taxpayers’ expense as a state senator, Sen. Davis was voting to steer millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to clients of her title company as a Fort Worth City Council member.”
This is Davis’ second attack of this nature. Davis’ first TV ad attacked Abbott over his ruling in a 1998 case involving a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman who raped a woman in her home.
Abbott, meanwhile, released his own TV ad, Monday. The straightforward, 30-second spot touts Texas’ economy and business-friendly environment.
Sep 12th - 7:04 pm
Workers at the Capital are busy giving the Senate a new look, and with it comes a new crop of lawmakers and possibly a new way of doing business. In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at the changes being made to the chamber, just as Texans wait to see how the leadership will soon change over on that side of the pink dome.
COMEDY AND THE CONSTITUTION
Could a proposed amendment really land Saturday Night Live leadership in jail? Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas took a closer look at Sen. Ted Cruz’s latest claim.