Aug 21st - 1:30 pm
The group overseeing the University of Texas System has officially approved Admiral William McRaven as the next chancellor.
The UT Board of Regents approved his appointment at a scheduled meeting today. McRaven will be paid $1.2 million per year to oversee nine universities and six health institutions spread across the state. In a prepared statement, McRaven thanked the regents for their support and praised the current chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa, for his leadership. He added:
“Great universities not only teach—they educate, they build leaders, they create thinkers, and doers—across every aspect of life. This university system should be known for producing tomorrow’s leaders in every field of endeavor.”
Admiral McRaven is a Navy SEAL who has headed the U.S. Special Operations Command since 2011. He led the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden and is a UT graduate who delivered the 2014 UT commencement address. McRaven beat out finalist Richard Fisher, the CEO of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. The board voted to make him a non-salaried UT system employee starting in December, when he’ll begin his term as Chancellor-Designate. He’s then set to replace Cigarroa, who announced in February he would step down from the position, at the start of 2015.
McRaven’s appointment is the first of several major changes coming to the University. After pressure — and threats of firing — from Cigarroa, UT Austin President Bill Powers announced he would resign in 2015. The board is in the early stages of searching for Powers’ replacement.
Aug 21st - 10:06 am
Gov. Rick Perry’s defense team is refuting claims the governor targeted the Travis County Public Integrity unit because its CPRIT investigation.
In a conference call Thursday, attorney Tony Buzbee read from an affidavit signed by a former PIU investigator in charge of the CPRIT investigation. He states that “at no time in the CPRIT investigation was Governor Rick Perry or anyone from the Governor’s office a target.” The investigator, identified as Chris Walling, said he was interviewed by special prosecutor Michael McCrum. Walling said, “I made it clear to him that there was absolutely no evidence even suggesting wrongdoing on the part of Governor Perry.”
Perry was indicted last week on felony charges that he coerced a public official and abused his office. The charges stem from Perry’s 2013 threat to veto $7.5 million for the PIU if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following a drunk driving conviction.
Democrats have pointed to the CPRIT investigation as a possible motive for Gov. Perry to force Lehmberg, who is a Democrat, out of office. However the Travis County Democratic Party has not said the unit was investigating Perry, specifically.
“Probably the worst political issue about this whole thing is that he actually vetoed those funds while the Public Integrity Unit was investigating the cancer research funds that mysteriously went to some of their donors without the proper vetting process,” said chairman Joe Deshotel.
Perry defense attorney Ben Ginsburg called the accusations “a red herring Democrats are trying to make float upstream.”
Aug 20th - 7:51 pm
The significance of the indictment is still being debated, even among the reporters who know the story well. We sat down with two journalists who’ve come to different conclusions about it: Erica Grieder of Texas Monthly and Texas Observer writer Christopher Hooks.
FOOTING THE BILL
When it comes to legal representation, there’s no question that the governor has hired some of the best. But who’s going to pay for it and for how long? The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg gave us an update on the efforts to find out.
Aug 19th - 8:41 pm
In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard more about the governor’s day at the courthouse, plus we learned more about the special prosecutor who led the investigation into Perry, and we spoke to two lawyers about the strength of the state’s case against the governor.
After the speeches, came the release of the mugshot. Will it haunt his 2016 ambitions? Political strategists Harold Cook and Brendan Steinhauser weighed in.
Plus, we heard from a man with no fear of sharing his opinion. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson joined us to talk about the Perry indictment and a proposed change intended to allow the sale of alcohol at certain gun shows.
Aug 19th - 3:16 pm
Gov. Rick Perry will appear at the Travis County Justice Complex at 5:00 this evening to be booked on felony charges. A grand jury indicted Perry on Friday on abuse of official capacity and coercion charges.
The charges stem from 2013 when Perry threatened to veto funding for the state’s public integrity unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did not resign. He followed through and cut $7.5 million when she refused.
Perry and his team of high profile attorneys have maintained that Perry was well within his rights as governor to veto any legislation he saw fit. In regard to the veto threat, Perry attorney David Botsford said, “if he had in, fact said to Rosemary Lehmberg: ‘I do not approve of your conduct. I am not going to fund the Public Integrity Unit unless and until you have resigned.’ There is absolutely no question as a matter of law that that conduct is protected and it is not illegal.”
Aug 18th - 8:17 pm
In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we heard how the team of high-powered defense lawyers is making their case. Plus, we heard from attorney Dick DeGuerin, who defended Kay Bailey Hutchison after her indictment, about how he believes the governor’s case will play out.
ON THE AGENDA
The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg weighed in on the possible political implications of the Perry indictment, including what it means for Perry’s 2016 hopes and Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s national reputation.
UT Austin President Bill Powers has also seen his share of time in the spotlight. Now, he says he’s glad to be able to focus on what’s important. He joined us for a one-on-one discussion on his last year in office, his accomplishments and tension with UT System leadership.
Aug 16th - 2:55 pm
The governor gave a brief, strongly worded statement Saturday afternoon, defending his veto of funding for the state’s Public Integrity Unit, headed by District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. In a prepared statement that lasted less than three minutes, Perry said his actions were within his executive authority and that the case against him is purely political.
You can read the governor’s full statement below and watch the full press conference here.
“As governor, I took an oath to faithfully uphold the constitution of Texas, a pledge that I have kept every day as I’ve worked on behalf of Texans for the last 14 years. This same constitution clearly outlines the authority of any governor to veto items at his or her discretion. Just as I have following every legislative session during my service as governor, I exercised this authority to veto funding for an office whose leadership had lost the public’s confidence by acting inappropriately and unethically.
“I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand behind my veto, and will continue to defend this lawful action of my executive authority as governor. We don’t settle political differences with indictments in this country. It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state’s constitution.
“This indictment amounts to nothing more than an abuse of power and I cannot, and will not, allow that to happen. I intend to fight against those who would erode our state’s constitution and laws purely for political purposes, and I intend to win. I will explore every legal avenue to expedite this matter and bring it to a swift conclusion. I am confident we will ultimately prevail, that this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is, and that those responsible will be held to account.”
Aug 15th - 8:15 pm
In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we spoke to Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri and Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer to get their reactions.
BEHIND THE INDICTMENT
We also spoke to the man who filed the criminal complaint against the governor, Texans for Public Justice Director Craig McDonald.
Pluls, reporters Bob Garrett of The Dallas Morning News and Reeve Hamilton of the Texas Tribune joined us for a special reporter roundtable.
Aug 15th - 8:15 pm
The governor or Texas has been indicted. Friday evening, a grand jury found that Gov. Rick Perry can be prosecuted on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.
The charges stem from last legislative session, when the governor threatened to slash state funding from the Public Integrity Unit unless Democratic Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned after her drunk driving arrest. Lehmberg refused to resign and the governor carried through on that threat. The unit, which investigates allegations against elected officials across the state, operates out of the Travis County DA’s Office. Lehmberg is a Democrat, and if she had resigned, Perry, a Republican, would have been able to appoint her replacement.
You can see the full indictment below:
Aug 14th - 7:45 pm
Plus, we explained how a key piece of information could cause some to lose the coverage they signed up for under the Affordable Care Act.
The next two-year budget process is underway, with Sen. Jane Nelson at the helm. Our capital commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi weigh in on some of the minefields finance chair Jane Nelson will have to navigate in what Delisi predicts will be a “highly political environment.”
Does gender matter when it comes to political leadership? Ann Beeson of the Center for Public Policy Priorities joined us to give her take on why putting women in charge is about more than demographics.