Sen. John Cornyn

Capital Tonight: Sen. Cornyn reflects on Fort Hood shooting

Texans and military families across the country are still dealing with shock and sadness, after a shooting that left four people dead and 16 injured Wednesday.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we checked in on the latest from Fort Hood, and we heard how the Texas delegation in Washington is responding.


The rules for campaign finance are changing again, after the latest Supreme Court ruling. What effect will it have here in Texas? Election law attorney Ed Shack joined us to explain.



Before his trip to Fort Hood, Sen. John Cornyn was busy in Washington this week. He joined us for a one-on-one interview via satellite about the Supreme Court ruling, the Affordable Care Act and more.


Plus, we heard from Republican strategist Rob Johnson and Democratic strategist Harold Cook about a recent shift in Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s campaign.

Supreme Court decision may increase role of money in politics

The Supreme Court has issued a new landmark ruling on campaign finance laws that could have a major impact on the midterm elections. Wednesday, the Court ruled 5-4 to reject a current law that limits how much money overall individuals can donate to candidates, political parties and political action committees. Previously, the limit was set at $123,200. Now, wealthy donors can give to candidates across the board without worrying about hitting the cap.

Supporters of the law say it will create more transparency by diverting money away from political action committees. Sen. John Cornyn., who supported the change, said in an interview with Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown that the ruling is consistent with free speech. We asked Senator Cornyn if he would be in favor of lifting all limits, even for individual candidates, a suggestion by Justice Clarence Thomas.

“I think, honestly, it’s probably better regulated by the marketplace. We see that happening in Texas in the governor’s race, without any dollar limitation on contribution. And then that could be part of the campaign where people look who’s contributing money, they can ask why, what their motive is and that can be decided by the voters in the election.”

Detractors — including the president — say it makes money play an even bigger role in the election process. Again, the ruling only overturns the overall cap; it does not overturn the limit on donations to individual candidates. That cap is still set at $2,600 per election to candidates for president or Congress.

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.

Rep. Steve Stockman files as primary challenger to Cornyn

With just minutes to go before the filing deadline, Republican Congressman Steve Stockman filed the necessary papers to run against Sen. John Cornyn in the Republican primary. Stockman also withdrew his application for his current congressional seat.

It’s a possibility that political pundits have been speculating about for months, after the fight in Washington over defunding the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Cornyn drew fire from the right flank of his party for not following Sen. Ted Cruz’s lead in risking a government shutdown over funding. Even though at least five other Republicans have filed as candidates for the seat, the threat of a high-profile challenger appeared to blow over as the filing deadline approached.

Stockman has drawn publicity in recent years as an instigator, most notably for bringing Ted Nugent to the State of the Union address after the conservative rock guitarist had been investigated by the Secret Service for threatening the president.

Texas senators among ‘no’ votes on budget deal

Texas’ two U.S. Senators were among Republicans who voted “no” on a deal to end the government shutdown and avoid default. The Senate voted 81-18 Wednesday night on a bipartisan bill that reopens the government until Jan. 15 and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7.

As expected, Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were among lawmakers who opposed the agreement. Speaking on the Senate floor prior to the vote, Sen. Cruz said, “This is a terrible deal today, but it’s a terrible deal for the American people. But at the same time, if the American people continue to rise up, we’re going to turn this around.”

The House is expected to approve the legislation later this evening and President Obama has said he will sign it immediately. The deal will end the 16-day government shutdown.

Mixed reaction to Holder’s comments on Texas voting laws

Texas political leaders are commenting on remarks made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder regarding Texas voting laws.

Holder told members of the National Urban League on Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice will ask a federal court to require Texas to ask for permission before changing its election laws. The move follows a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that essentialy eliminated the use of a pre-clerance provision of the Voting Rights Act for states with a history of discrimination.

“Once again, the Obama Administration is demonstrating utter contempt for our country’s system of checks and balances, not to mention the U.S. Constitution,” Republican Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement released in response. “This end-run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process.”

Democratic State Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston had a different take on Holder’s announcement.

“I applaud Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to join the lawsuit that would require Texas to submit all voting law changes for preclearance for the next decade,” Ellis said in his own statement released to the media.  “Anyone who thinks Texas doesn’t need continued oversight simply hasn’t been paying attention.”

Ellis added that, in his view, Texas has clearly shown a repeated and documented history of discrimination against minority voters, pointing to last year when he said Texas was singled out as the only state to pass redistricting maps which were deliberately discriminatory.

“This is hopefully just the first step,” Ellis said.  “Congress needs to take action [to] revamp the Voting Rights Act to create a formula which takes into account current and historical discrimination and bias while meeting the requirements the Supreme Court has set out.  Otherwise, the voting rights of millions of Americans are in peril.”

Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was also quick to respond to Holder’s comments.

“By first going around the voters and now the Supreme Court, Attorney General Holder and President Obama’s intentions are readily transparent,” Cornyn said in a released statement. ” This decision has nothing to do with protecting voting rights and everything to do with advancing a partisan political agenda. Texans should not — and will not — stand for the continued bullying of our state by the Obama Administration.”

Other campaign finance reports:

US Senate:

  • Sen. John Cornyn: Raised $2.3 million since January, $5.9 million cash on hand

Land Commissioner:

  • George P. Bush: Raised $2 million since January, $2.6 million cash on hand

Attorney General:

  • Dan Branch: Raised $1.5 million since January, $4 million cash on hand
  • Barry Smitherman: Raised $698,770 since January, $1 million cash on hand
  • Ken Paxton: Raised $278,620 since January, $1.6 million cash on hand

Railroad Commissioner:

  • Stefani Carter: $3,301 cash on hand
  • Malachi Boyuls $329,572 cash on hand
  • Becky Berger: $ 339.81 cash on hand


  • Harvey Hilderbran: Raised $394,372 since January, $1 million cash on hand
  • Debora Medina: Raised $55,569 since January, $55,005 cash on hand
  • Glenn Hegar: Raised $221,461 since Januaryr, $1.8 million cash on hand
  • Raul Torres: Raised $2,350 since January, $2,531.17 cash on hand

Cornyn taps Tea Party organizer as new campaign manager

Sen. John Cornyn is turning to a Tea Party veteran to run his 2014 reelection campaign. Cornyn announced Thursday he hired Brendan Steinhauser to be his new campaign manager.

Steinhauser is a campaign strategist and grassroots organizer. Prior to this new gig, Steinhauser worked as the director of communications for the Right on Crime initiative for the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. He has been credited with helping get conservatives elected to Congress in the 2010 and 2012 elections and organized several events for Sen. Ted Cruz during the last election.

In a statement regarding his decision, Sen. Cornyn said:

“The midterm elections in 2014 will be vital to the future of our country and our state, especially given the interest that liberal Democrats have shown in trying to turn Texas blue. I look forward to working with my team to ensure that Texas remains red. Brendan has been working hard for conservative policies and candidates in more than 40 states, and I am excited that he is joining our team in Texas.”

Capital Tonight: Budgets, demographics and DC scandals

The state’s top budget writers have been meeting behind closed doors, hammering out the final details on a two-year plan. Tuesday, we got word that lawmakers are tentatively set on $2 billion dollar water plan, but money for transportation and education remain up in the air.

MALC Turns 40

The country’s oldest and largest Latino legislative caucus is turning 40. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus celebrated Wednesday with a free concert at the Capitol, but a birthday wasn’t the only thing members celebrated. A new poll hints that the Latino vote could easily overcome the Republican margin of victory, but not every MALC member sees it that clearly.

IRS Scandal

President Barack Obama has announced that the head of the Internal Revenue Service will be resigning, in the wake of a scandal involving the specific targeting of Tea Party groups’ applications for tax-exempt status.

Sen. John Cornyn appeared on the show to talk about that and more.

Online Exclusive: Cornyn talks immigration reform details

As immigration talks continue in Washington, Sen. John Cornyn is weighing in on his requirements for a comprehensive reform bill.

He spoke to Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown about a rejected amendment that would have required more spending on border patrol.

Click the image below to hear Sen. Cornyn’s response. You can watch the rest of the interview at 7 p.m. on Capital Tonight.