Romney sets sights on Texas, picks up major endorsement

Republican Mitt Romney is setting his sights on Texas, this week. Romney will kick off a two-day three-city fundraising tour in Dallas. He’ll attend a dinner there, tonight. Tomorrow, Romney makes stops in San Antonio and Houston.

The San Antonio event is closed to the press. In Houston, Romney will be joined by former President and Texan, George H.W. Bush. Bush will formally endorse Romney at an event at the St. Regis hotel. Bush’s endorsement could be a sign that the Republican establishment is rallying around Romney.

Romeny’s visit comes one week after rival Rick Santorum made a swing through the Lone-Star state. With the nomination far from locked up, analysts say Texas’ May 29 primary could play a large role in the republican primary.

Abbott, Cornyn weigh in on SCOTUS health care developments

State Republicans opposed to the Obama administration’s health care law say they’re pleased with the way the proceedings are progressing. Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown spoke with Attorney General Greg Abbott from our Washington D.C. bureau, today.

That interview is here:

Senator John Cornyn and other Republican lawmakers weighed in from Capitol Hill, as well.

Here are Sen. Cornyn’s comments:

We did reach out to the Texas Democratic Party for their thoughts on the proceedings, thus far. We have not heard back.

Voter ID trial date set

A Washington DC court will begin hearing arguments in the Texas voter ID legislation trial on July 9. The federal district court will decide if the law should be allowed to take effect. The law, passed last legislative session, requires voters to present photo identification before casting a ballot.

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice denied the state preclearance, saying the law didn’t stand up to Section 5 of Voting Rights Act. In other words, the state couldn’t prove it doesn’t have a discriminatory purpose or effect.

Texas is one of several southern states required to get preclearance. Attorney General Greg Abbott is also challenging that part of the law. In an amended complaint to the original lawsuit, he claimed Section 5 was unconstitutional.

That issue won’t be discussed, however, unless the court denies preclearance. In its initial scheduling order, the district court said "Count II of the State of Texas’s Amended Complaint alleging that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional shall not be addressed unless the Court denies judicial preclearance of Senate Bill 41."

Elizabeth Ames Jones releases first TV ad

State Senate candidate Elizabeth Ames Jones released her first radio and television ads, today. Jones served as Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, and is running for Senate District 25. She will face incumbent Jeff Wentworth and Donna Campbell in the May primary.

Here’s the ad:

Paul supporters float plan B: third party run?

In light of the campaign’s low number of delegates and low position in the polls, Ron Paul supporters are coming up with a Plan B: a third party run. Volunteers with Grassroots for Liberty, a Ron Paul Super PAC, called supporters Friday asking for donations and floating the idea of a third party bid launched at the Republican National Convention in August.

“Plan B, a third party run, would be greatly [unclear] by having as much support at the national convention as possible. Showing that we can pull a ton of support from one of the major parties would be a gigantic publicity stunt and a great way to launch a third party run,” a supporter named Perry said in a voicemail Friday.

Perry went on to say that “things are so different” from when Paul ran in 2008, saying that
Rep. Paul could be successful this time around. Supporters who signed up with are asked to log on and donate money to help buy calls to potential caucus goers in upcoming states.

Paul, and many of his supporters, have said he would not seek a third party nomination if he loses the GOP race.

Hutchison voices support for Planned Parenthood

In a rare move, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is breaking with the Republican party, voicing support for Planned Parenthood. Her comments were in reaction to a state law that cuts funding to women’s health clinics that are affiliated with abortion providers. Planned Parenthood is among the providers that will be banned from participating in the Medicaid program. As a result, the federal government will no longer fund the state’s Women’s Health Program.

In an interview with MSNBC, Hutchison said we "cannot afford to lose the Medicaid funding for low income women to have health care services." She also criticized Gov. Perry’s plan to find money to fund the program using state money.

Here’s the full interview:

The Texas Democratic Party released this statement, supporting Sen. Hutchison’s stance:

“We applaud Senator Hutchison for breaking with her Republican Party’s attempt to endanger women’s health care. Sadly, every Republican running to replace Senator Hutchison supports the deplorable attacks on women’s health care. If Texans want to make sure these types of attacks on women do not continue, they need to vote Democratic.”

Paul calls Secret Service protection ‘welfare’

Given the choice between an appearance on the Tonight Show, and campaigning on the day of the Illinois primary, Ron Paul opted for a TV appearance. He was on Jay Leno, last night.

He talked about his opponents, his time on the campaign trail and his decision not to request Secret Service protection. Of the four remaining candidates, Paul is the only one who doesn’t have a Secret Service detail. Last night, he said he’s an ordinary citizen who should pay for his own protection. He called Secret Service protection a form of welfare.

Meanwhile, Paul came in a distant third in Illinois, with 9 percent of the vote. He has yet to win any primary or caucuses.

Here’s part of his interview from last night:

Cruz releases first TV ad

Senate Candidate Ted Cruz released his first television ad, today. On his website, Cruz says the "new spot, “Delivers,” comes on the day of the two-year anniversary of ObamaCare’s passage." In that vein, Cruz is launching a three day moneybomb, with a goal of raising $100,000.

The ad itself, meanwhile, has nothing to do with President Obama’s health care legislation. Instead, it focuses on illegal immigration and border security.

You can watch for yourself, here:

Arrest made in Wendy Davis’ office firebomb

A man has been arrested after numerous Molotov cocktails were thrown at the office door of state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. Two staffers were inside when the fire alarm went off around 4 p.m. Davis was not there at the time.

Davis spoke outside her office last night.

"Texas is facing some tremendous challenges right now," Davis said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It’s unfortunate when things like this happen in the public arena, and it reminds us of how important it is for us to remain very civil in our discourse."

Texas Democratic Party chairman Boyd Richie released a statement following news of the attack.

"Betty and I could not be more thankful to hear that no one was hurt in these deplorable attacks. Offering oneself up for public service, whether as an elected official or as a staffer, should never result in the threat of physical violence. While we all have deeply held beliefs, the very foundation of our nation’s ideology rest upon the ideal that we not turn to violence to express our disagreements, regardless of how vehemently we disagree. Betty and I are keeping Wendy, her family and her staff in our thoughts and prayers in the wake of this senseless attack."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Texas barely passes state integrity test

The Center for Public Integrity released its State Integrity Investigation Monday. Texas received a D+ grade when it comes to government corruptibility, ranking 27th among all 50 states.

The Lone Star State received an F in the categories of Public Access to Information, Executive Accountability and Redistricting. The state’s only A was in the Internal Auditing category.

The author of the Texas portion of the study, Kelley Shannon, writes that although state laws, such as the Texas Public Information Act, are strong, actions by state officials and lawmakers often inhibit how that law is implemented.

"[Texas] has a long way to go when it comes to holding state officials fully accountable, government watchdogs say. In keeping political agendas separate from official state business at the highest levels of government, they say Texas also falls short," Shannon writes.

No state received an A+ rating. The best score went to New Jersey, the worst to Georgia.
Keith Elkins is the executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. He says part of what led to Texas’ D+ grade for public integrity is problems with implementing the Texas Public Information Act.

"You wouldn’t find this acceptable if your child brought home a near failing grade on a report card,” Elkins said. “You shouldn’t find it acceptable for elected officials who write the laws and cut themselves out in loopholes, which resulted in this near failing grade as well."

Some public officials incorrectly say they have 10 days to respond to information requests. However, that is really just the cutoff for the agency to request an attorney general’s opinion if there’s a problem.

"Lawmakers can change this,” Elkins said. “Lawmakers can basically tell state agencies that if you get caught abusing this, you’re going to have to pay a fine or something else — but they’re going to have to do it in legislation."

Austin bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News, Christy Hoppe, has seen the issues with the Texas Public Information Act firsthand. She sent in a recent request to find out what state business Gov. Perry had accomplished since his failed presidential bid.

“How basic is it for somebody to hand over the governor’s schedule, when he’s already had that schedule? It’s sitting on somebody’s desk," she said. "It took them 15 days to get back to me with what he had been doing for two weeks."

No matter the circumstance, if there’s an effort to withhold information, court battles can be timely and costly.

"There is transparency but you have to wait for it, you have to sift through it and you have to claw and nail to get the basic of information that you need to make a judgment on how your government’s working," Hoppe said.

Kelley Shannon will be a guest on "Capital Tonight" this Thursday night to discuss the study. Shannon is married to YNN News Director Michael Pearson.