Saturday, April 25, 2015

Texas justice strikes again

If it was a teevee show script, it would be laughed out of development.  Not even House of Cards would consider it because it's so ridiculous.  But it is government business as usual in Texas.

... Justice Bob Pemberton has worked for the former governor, representing him in court as his deputy general counsel. After that job, Perry appointed him to the Third Court of Appeals, which is now considering a request from Perry's lawyers to dismiss the abuse-of-power charges against him.

Pemberton also clerked for Tom Phillips, the retired chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court who is now on Perry's defense team. Pemberton's website features a photo of him being sworn in by Phillips — "his friend, supporter, and former boss." 

In addition to once working for Perry, being appointed by Perry and having clerked for one of Perry's current lawyers, Pemberton has been a political supporter of the former governor. Pemberton chipped in $1,000 for Perry's 2002 re-election campaign, according to state records.

No rational mind could come up with a scenario so absurd and call it 'justice'.

Judges are bound to have some connection to Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, but Pemberton's relation is beyond the pale, according to some good-government experts.

"That court has always acted in a partisan manner, but in this case, Justice Pemberton should definitely recuse himself," said Craig McDonald, head of Texans for Public Justice, a liberal-leaning watchdog group responsible for the complaint that led to Perry's indictment. "There should definitely be a recusal." 

According to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, a judge must recuse himself or herself in any proceed in which "the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Pemberton did not respond to return a call and email Friday afternoon, and a court representative said he could not comment on the situation. In an email, Perry attorney Tony Buzbee rejected the need for Pemberton recuse himself. 

"Is it a conflict that our trial judge used to be supervised by the special prosecutor and that the trial judge then appointed the special prosecutor? I do not think it is a conflict or a story," Buzbee said.

Buzbee has, as he continues to reveal, gone way past his ethical expiration date also.

Judge Bert Richardson, who is now on the Court of Criminal Appeals, continues to oversee the Perry case. He was appointed after Travis County judges recused themselves from hearing the case. He appointed Mike McCrum as special prosecutor. McCrum used to supervise Richardson when the two worked at the U.S. attorney's office in San Antonio.

On Wednesday, the parties in the case were notified that three judges had been tapped to hear the appeal: Justices Scott Field, Scott David Puryear and Pemberton.

Where have we heard Puryear's name mentioned previously? Oh yeah, he and Pemberton sat on the three-judge panel that dismissed Tom Delay's money-laundering conviction, telling us that the definition of "campaign funds" does not include checks.

Perry's lawyers are working to persuade the appeals court to dismiss the indictment against the former governor, who was indicted last year on charges he abused his office and coerced a public servant. Perry's attorneys are seeking to reverse a decision in January by Richardson to let the case proceed.

Perry's lawyers have also filed a separate request to Richardson to quash the indictment, which was amended by prosecutors.

The fix is in again, folks.  This is what you get when you vote for people because they have an R behind their name.  And also what you get when you don't bother to vote at all.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A really bad week for Sheriff Garcia

Your basic hope-nobody's-looking Friday afternoon dump (pun unintended).

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia on Friday fired six jailers and suspended 29 other employees after an investigation into deplorable conditions in one cell where a mentally ill inmate was left unattended for weeks.

The action on Friday comes three weeks after two detention officer sergeants were indicted in the case involving the care of Terry Goodwin, who was surrounded by bug-infested food containers and a feces-clogged toilet.

The suspensions range from one day to 10. One chief deputy is also expected to resign and another top staffer will be demoted.


Civilian employees Ricky D. Pickens-Wilson and John Figaroa are alleged to have signed off on a cell check form, lying about the decrepit condition of Goodwin's cell. They could face two to 10 years in jail and fines up to $10,000.

Yet this charge focuses on the cover-up, not the crime itself. Where's the indictment for neglect or lawsuit for cruel and unusual punishment? No one said that jail should be the Four Seasons, but the pictures and descriptions of Goodwin's cell paint a portrait of a Sheriff's Department lacking in oversight.

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has said that he hopes this incident doesn't tarnish the good work of honest detention employees. But this isn't merely an issue of bad actors or rogue agents. Our jail system suffers from regular problems of poor inmate treatment.

One Harris County inmate died in 2014 after being forcibly removed from his cell, warning that he was going to pass out. Eight sheriff employees avoided any indictment for criminal wrongdoing.

In 2012, a 72-year-old mentally ill inmate died after a detention officer punched him in the face and left him bleeding in his cell. A deputy and two detention officers were fired as a result. Garcia even fired two deputies in 2010 who were receiving sexual favors from female inmates in exchange for cigarettes and soft drinks.

Hmm. Were those smokes and Cokes purchased in the jail's commissary for inmates, thereby paying for the consultant who's saving so many of our tax dollars?   Some might call that a 'win-win'.  (Not me, but somebody.)

Members of the Sheriff's Office command staff have done a fine job avoiding responsibility for Goodwin's treatment. Even when the facts came to public knowledge more than a year after the incident, Garcia could only seem to respond with a press conference, sputtering about how "damn mad" he was. Yet the sheriff still has failed to explain how we have a system where someone is locked in a rotting cell for months and nobody in charge notices.

Two men working in the Harris County Jail will face charges, as they should.

But law enforcement leaders need to get out of their default mode that says this is only a few rogue employees. There is a stench in the air and we might as well be covering it up with orange rinds and toilet paper.

I don't see how Garcia can run for mayor at this point and reasonably expect to be elected.

Update: More from the Houston Press.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Adrian Garcia's no-bid consultant, and Costello and Turner's Koch fight *Updated*

The Houston city political beat has gone fallow for the most part with the departure of the Chron's Teddy Schleifer.  Sources say there's a new reporter on the way, so we'll keep a look out.  In the meantime...

-- There's been a bit of scandal in Austin about no-bid contracts; now it looks as if something fishy (or maybe ramen noodly) has also been going on down at the Harris County sheriff's office.  More on this story from Ted Oberg at KTRK this evening, and I'll update tomorrow morning if anything actually breaks news.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia gave a consulting firm a no-bid contract worth more than a $1,000 per day.

To date, the firm's been paid $1.7 million from profits on the inmate commissary at the Harris County Jail. The consultant and the sheriff say the deal has saved taxpayers millions and that the consultant is worth every penny.

Ted Oberg investigates the deal and asks why if so much money has been saved why the sheriff's budget continues to expand.

Stace rolled out first, made the pasta connection, and has the sheriff's presser proclaiming the arrangement to be a grand bargain for Harris county taxpayers.

One thing I noticed from ABC13’s teaser is that the money paid to the consultant comes from profits from the jail commissary. So, that means that the overpriced ramen noodles, cupcakes, sodas, and other items bought by the inmates is paying for it. That’s a lot of ramen noodles eaten and no tax dollars wasted, at least at first glance.

I have to wonder if there’s a story to this. I would think the bigger story is that the price of ramen noodles is too damn high. Either that, or it’s sweeps week for the local news.

Smoke?  Fire?  We'll have to watch tonight and see.

Update: A little of both.  The consultant is question is former Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith, who was defeated in the Democratic primary in March of 2006 -- a bit of retribution exacted by the voters in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita -- but also under a swirl of controversy surrounding the construction of Ford Park, Beaumont's convention and fair facility, and (you guessed it) questionable contracts awarded.

Griffith probably gained the most notoriety in late 2005 when, frustrated by the all-too-typical sluggish federal response to Gulf Coast hurricanes, he told an assembly to seize supplies at gunpoint if they thought they needed to.

With homes smashed, trees and power lines downed and a looming shortage of food and water, one official even threatened to take federal relief supplies by force, if necessary.

"If you have enough policemen to take it from them, take it," Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith said Monday during a meeting of city and county officials.

The best source of ten-year-old reports online for the black clouds that followed Judge Griffith at the time is Operation Kleinwatch, which regularly reports on the screwy antics of one Philip Klein, an over-the-top conservative blogger, gun nut, private investigator, and legal gadfly.  Klein has been a foe to Griffith over the years.

So while Sheriff Garcia sings the praises of Griffith and his saving the taxpayers a fat wad...

Garcia said that the consultant, Griffith Moseley Johnson & Associates, headed by former Jefferson County Sheriff and County Judge Carl Griffith, has paid for itself and then some.

"He's a benefit to the taxpayer," Garcia said of Griffith. "I think they've done a phenomenal job. With the expertise, the breadth of experience. I think it's worth the investment."

... it's also true that he hired a consultant who carries a lot of baggage (that has almost fallen down the memory hole).

Update II: More here from Oberg and KTRK.

(Oberg) examined the contract and found that it's unclear exactly how much the taxpayers have been saved because of Griffith's work. The savings numbers the sheriff's office provided to ABC-13 in interviews and via email have wide variations.

Indeed, in a recent interview, estimates of the cost savings escalated continuously, with Garcia at one point claiming a savings of $60 million because of Griffith's work. Minutes later, Griffith said he saved the county $100 million. And then, after a few more minutes, the saving claim hit $112 million.

In an email to ABC-13 after the interview, the sheriff's communications staff calculated the savings at $123 million.

When asked to clarify the wildly fluctuating savings estimates, sheriff's officials provided an analysis of jail cost reductions with no dollar figure attached to it.

-- Stone Cold Steve Costello fired back at Sylvester Turner's calling him a Koch whore.  This is from the council member's e-mail this morning, under the subject line "Here come the attacks!"

As you can see from the email excerpt below, my opponent for Houston Mayor, State Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), is already on the attack. As a career politician, it’s not surprising that he is using the same stale argument that his peers in Austin and Washington, D.C. have unsuccessfully used over the last two years. All it's gotten them is gridlock, and I'm not interested in playing those kinds of games.

Here's what Turner's page says (it includes the first sentence in the last paragraph below, from Turner in an e-mail to his supporters, that Costello references above):

Welcome the Koch brothers to Houston. Koch-funded groups are running ads on the radio this week attacking Mayor Annise Parker and me.

Our supposed transgression? We worked together to provide $70 million dollars of budget relief to the City of Houston. We took the first step toward pension reform by breaking a years-long stalemate between the city government and our firefighters.


I need your support today because one of my opponents, Stephen Costello, has hired the senior strategist for Scott Walker, a.k.a. the “King of Koch-World,” to run his campaign for mayor. So it’s no surprise that he too has attacked Mayor Parker and me...

Way back in January, Schleifer's bio of Costello consultant David Polyansky included this:

Polyansky consults for Republican candidates across the country, most recently advising new Iowa U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst and now working with possible 2016 presidential candidate Scott Walker.

Honestly, the weird part isn't that Costello has a hired gun with a winning track record who rolls with the Kochs.  It's the two former Annise Parker people -- Ward Curtin and James Cardona -- working for Costello that baffles the hell out of me.

This is what gives Costello carte blanche to say he's running a bipartisan campaign in a non-partisan race.  Either that, or these political consultants are the real prostitutes.

Which do you think it could be?

Why is everybody always picking on Dan Patrick, and get your guns up

-- I'd like to say "because he is retarded," but that's no longer socially acceptable.

Once in the breakfast, Patrick and Straus began arguing over the House not moving on Patrick’s agenda bills, while Straus was critical of the Senate action on the border security bill. At that point, Abbott interjected his displeasure with the letter attacking the pre-k bill that he supported.

With Abbott and Straus coming at him, Patrick declared that he was tired of them “picking on me.” 

Take out the papers and the trash, dipshit.

-- Did Jonathan Stickland hoodwink everyone and get a no-gun-license-needed open carry bill passed through the Texas House?

Instead of open carry, Texas just went wide open.

Anybody openly packing a handgun is no longer a police concern, at least not under an amendment passed 133-10 Monday by the Texas House.

See somebody with a gun? Don’t bother dialing 911.

That’s right. Under House Bill 910, police are barred from asking anyone “whether a person possesses a handgun license.” Maybe even regardless of age.

Look, passing open carry wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. The idea was just to let nearly 1 million Texans with concealed-handgun licenses choose where they holster a gun.

But this amendment is a very big deal. If nobody ever has to worry about being stopped to show a license, that’s closer to the unlicensed-carry freedom promoted by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.

“Where do you think they got the idea?” Stickland asked slyly Tuesday. That was after a leader of the Dallas-based Come and Take It Texas open-carry group wrote on social media: “We unintentionally just got unlicensed open carry.”

"Former fetus" Stickland, uncharacteristically, gave all the glory to others.

Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, and Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, jointly offered the amendment, saying they meant to deter police harassment.

(On Wednesday, Stickland wrote on Twitter: “To be clear @MattRinaldiTX and Rep. Dutton should receive all the credit.” On Facebook, he wrote that he did not mean the amendment was his.)

Does Greg Abbott actually sign a bill like this?  (No odds yet.)  Does it pass the Texas Senate?  (Easily, I would venture.)  Does it get marked up -- or down -- in bicameral conference?  (That's a possibility.  How strong, I wouldn't guess at this point.)  Nice going again for Harold Dutton.

It's getting really stupid in Austin, and the worst is yet to come.

Update:  From Chris Hooks at the Observer, more on the simmering feud between the Texas triumvirate, and via the governor's own Tweet stream, what Abbott has been up to this month.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day Toons

Barely a tree to hug in view.

Ted at jobsanger also has some good polling news, and links to some of the myths surrounding climate change.  Here's just one.

Myth #6: I'm just one person — I can't make much of a difference.

FACT: Our lifestyle decisions control a shocking 75% of emissions in the U.S. If we all improved the energy efficiency of our homes by just 10%, it would be the equivalent of taking some 25 million cars off the road! And as voters, we control a portion of the other 25%. Check out the nonprofit Citizens' Climate Lobby, which can help you write letters to Congress in support of Earth-friendly legislation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

84th Texas Lege: just as bad as we thought it would be

-- The Senate passed school vouchers.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has championed school voucher legislation since he entered the Senate in 2007, comparing the effort to the civil rights struggle. After numerous defeats during past sessions, Patrick’s voucher crusade came a step closer to reality today as the Senate passed Senate Bill 4, by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood).

The bill passed 18-12 on mostly partisan lines. Only one Democrat voted for the bill, Sen. Eddie Lucio (R-Brownsville), while two Republicans voted against it, Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) and Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville).

Taylor’s bill would create scholarships for mostly low-income students to attend private and religious schools. Under the measure, private businesses would receive a tax credit for funding the scholarships. The bill is similar to one proposed by Patrick in 2013, which died in committee.

“This is not a voucher bill,” Taylor said during the debate.

And I'm a NASA astronaut.

-- The House strips the Public Integrity Unit away from the Travis DA's office.

The Texas House voted 94-51 Monday to give initial approval to a stripped-down bill that would remove public corruption cases from Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit.  Final House approval is expected Tuesday.

House Bill 1690 was amended on the House floor to apply solely to corruption allegations against elected or appointed state officials, who would be investigated by the Texas Rangers and prosecuted, if the allegations are confirmed, in the official’s home county.

House members adopted an amendment dropping state employees from home-county prosecution, keeping the status quo that would keep those cases in the county where a crime occurred — typically Travis County, where most state employees work.

State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, joined Democrats in arguing that home-county prosecution would create a special privilege, and a “home-court advantage” for state officials that is not available to other Texans.

“I just want to plead with you that you not create, with this bill, a specially protected class,” Simpson said. “I urge you not to treat yourself better than the constituents who you serve.”

Another lonely Republican voice of reason silenced under the crimson wave.  But at least they didn't let Lazy Eye escape unscathed.

Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, won approval of a provision potentially affecting Paxton. It would require a local prosecutor who currently or in the past has had “a financial or other business relationship” with the target of a probe to ask the judge to let him be recused “for good cause.” If the judge approved, the hometown prosecutor would be considered disqualified, Turner’s amendment says.

As he explained the amendment, Turner did not mention Paxton or Willis or their offices. Bill author Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, accepted the amendment, which passed on a voice vote.

Last year, Paxton, then a state senator from McKinney, admitted breaking a securities law. He submitted himself to the wisdom of the Texas State Securities Board, which made him pay a $1,000 fine. The case wouldn’t go away, though.

It will be awhile before we know if that grand jury is a runaway or a whitewash.

Update (from a couple of days ago):

(On April 20) Public Integrity Unit director Gregg Cox rejected DPS director Steve McCraw’s request for the investigation of the agency’s alleged “no bid contract” to be resumed.

(Cox said): “It is very timely that you should choose now to write me a letter pointing out that there is no other agency in state government that is equipped to investigate allegations concerning your department."

As Cox noted at the time, Governor Rick Perry’s veto of the funding for the Public Integrity Unit effectively killed the investigation into an agency run by a Perry appointee and long time ally.

-- Open carry is almost a done deal.

After turning back last-minute attempts to let city voters opt out, the Texas House gave final approval Monday to legislation allowing gun owners with concealed weapons licenses to carry their side arms openly.

House Bill 910, by Rep. Larry Phillips, R- Sherman, passed on third reading 101-42. Similar legislation has already passed the Senate, and Gov. Greg Abbott has promised to sign open carry legislation. Minor differences in the bills will most likely be ironed out in conference committee before the measure is forwarded to Abbott's desk.

Nothing could possibly go wrong, with either the bill itself or Texans' reaction to it once it is in force.  nonsequiteuse with the best response.

We don’t have reliable statistics, of course, about gun violence, because the National Rifle Association has spent buckets of money lobbying against any attempt to do so, but I appeal to your common sense and lived experience.

When was the last time you were in the grocery store, delicately testing avocados to find the one that would be ripe in time for dinner, when you had to drop everything and squeeze off a couple of rounds because someone was threatening the lady at the cantaloupe display?

When was the last time you were sitting at home with friends, watching a movie, when you had to shoot someone who kicked in the door to your kitchen?

When was the last time you were at a museum and had to hide behind a full-scale model of a dinosaur while bringing down a nefarious character with a single shot to the heart from your snub-nosed whatever who had just grabbed a rare opal and a screaming 6-month-old from the Hall of Gems?

Are you always tense thinking about the gun battles that ensue every time you go to the bank to cash a check?

No,  you are not.

The best way to fight back on this one is with your wallet and not your Glock.  If you are in the grocery store, or a restaurant, or any other place of business and see someone openly carrying a firearm, leave immediately.  Leave your basket in the aisle, walk the check (call them back and tell them you'll return and pay as soon as the guys/gals with guns leave).

Let's allow the invisible hand of the free market -- our free hand, the one not holding a weapon -- decide whether we should transact business in a "politely armed" society... or not.

-- Finally, Texas draws the same warning from Uncle Sam that he gave Florida on Medicaid: take the free money we're giving you to expand access to healthcare for the poor, or lose it... and more.  Via Burka -- with the scolding -- National Journal.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicated to Texas officials Thursday that whether the state expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would factor into the renewal of a multibillion-dollar Medicaid funding stream next year, according to state officials.

Federal officials requested a call with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, during which they outlined their position, Linda Edwards Gockel, a spokeswoman for the Texas health agency, said in an email to National Journal.

The call came the same day that Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he would sue the Obama administration, accusing CMS of pushing the state to expand Medicaid by leveraging $1 billion in federal Medicaid funding, which is up for renewal this summer and helps cover some uncompensated care.

The TexTrib gets a little deeper in the weeds, but the choice is clear: forfeit almost $4 billion for being obstinate, or receive $9 billion to swallow your bitter partisan pride.  With hundreds of thousands of Texans' lives hanging in the balance, to say nothing of the ancillary economic benefits, maybe we should send Greg Abbott a bottle of water to wash it down.

Hard times in the land of plenty

-- Baker Hughes increases their oilpatch layoffs to 10,500.  Halliburton cuts 9,000.  Schlumberger slices another 11,000.  The freshly-unemployed will be blaming Obama at some point.

-- Blue Bell is recalling ALL of its ice cream products in the United States, because it cannot pinpoint the origin of the listeria outbreak in its supply chain.

Brenham-based Blue Bell Creameries is pulling all of its products from the shelves after more ice cream samples tested positive for a life-threatening bacterial infection.

The voluntary decision, announced Monday, is the latest and most sweeping development to plague the Texas business icon since a recall last month, the first in the company's 108-year history.

It came after an "enhanced sampling program" that found half-gallon containers of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream produced on March 17 and March 27 contained the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, company officials said.


The latest tests mean the company had several positive tests for listeria in different plants.  On Monday, company officials said they "cannot say with certainty" how listeria was introduced into their plants.

This is the sort of disaster that usually devastates a company.  Blue Bell has indeed been a Lone Star staple almost all of my life, but what happens to them from here is likely either bankruptcy or acquisition by another food conglomerate for pennies on the dollar.

Houston and Houstonians are in for a world of hurt in the months ahead.

Scattershooting some worthwhile Houston events

Over the past few days, some of my blog brethren have worked a couple of things that tend toward making a difference.  Their efforts deserve additional mention.

-- I couldn't attend yesterday's luncheon, but Brother Neil was present for California attorney general (and likely successor to Barbara Boxer's seat in the US Senate) Kamala Harris' speech to Annie's List at the Westin Galleria.  He has a few reports about it on his FB page.

Neil is often more hopeful about things than I find myself these days.  A real port in the storm.

-- Last Saturday morning, Stace MC'd the Kingwood Democrats event with several local politicos appearing and raising funds for the club.  Houston mayoral candidates Sylvester Turner and Marty McVey, along with city council challengers Lane Lewis, Durrel Douglas, Laurie Robinson and dozens more all said a few words.  You've got have a lot of faith to be a Democrat in Kingwood, let me tell ya, and those folks have been going strong now for a decade or more.  A few pictures.

-- Over at the Meyerland Democratic Club last night, my friends Art Pronin, CJ Yeoman, Jill Moffitt, and Silvia Gederberg were all re-elected as officers, and their program featured environmental attorney Terry O'Rourke, who -- among many noteworthy accomplishments on his CV -- served the Carter administration, ran for Texas Railroad Commission in 1976, and currently is special counsel to county attorney Vince Ryan on environmental law issues.  (We've had a few, you know.)

Fighting the good fight and keeping the faith is an important function in these challenging times.  My hat's off to all these folks for doing the heavy lifting during the political offseason, and preparing for the campaigns to come.

Even the attorney who won Citizens United at the SCOTUS thinks the system is broken

James Bopp.  The problem is that his ideas for fixing it don't sound much like improvement.

Bopp: You have to have as few rules as possible, and those rules need to be vigorously enforced. If they are not enforced, they are pointless.

Center for Public Integrity: Do you think the number of people trying to game the system has increased in recent years?

Bopp: No, there are always corrupt people, and they will always try to game the system. The more rules there are, the more opportunities they have to do that … This is the reason the Soviet Union collapsed — because of all the rules on the economy that people were flaunting with black markets and bribes and everything [else] to get around all these rules. And, of course, the response by the Communists — just as the response by campaign finance reformers — always is more rules.

Ah, we're Communists now.

Center for Public Integrity: How would the 2016 presidential race be different if candidates could accept unlimited amounts of money or higher amounts of money?

Bopp: They wouldn’t need to set up six or eight different organizations to raise money. They would have one … [Now] your last option is a candidate committee because it is the one that has the most severe contribution limits of all the potential options.


Center for Public Integrity: What sort of boundaries or lines do those groups have to worry about?

Bopp: Each has their own unique set of rules, and you just have to make sure that you follow those. It’s a very complex dance now ... And it requires very sophisticated legal advice. It advantages the rich and the sophisticated, but all these rules always do. The more rules, the more money it takes, the more sophistication it takes to navigate them.

Center for Public Integrity: Is there a level of anonymous money in the process that would be concerning to you?

Bopp: It’s really pretty hard to get anonymous money effectively into a campaign … I am concerned about the system generally right now because it has been distorted, and it has been rendered so non-transparent and non-accountable.

Center for Public Integrity: What about political spending by so-called “social welfare” nonprofits that are organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code — where it’s unclear where the money is coming from?

Bopp: If it’s a (c)(4), you’ve got to spend half your money on activity that has nothing to do with the election. If your intent is to affect the election, half of the money is wasted. And not very many people are willing to waste half of their money.

Center for Public Integrity: Looking at the current landscape, some regulators have proposed restricting the political activities of certain nonprofits.

Bopp: If the current [vehicles] are attacked so that [their effectiveness and utility] goes down, then other ones will be used … There are organizations that I have already thought of that haven’t yet been utilized very much.

Center for Public Integrity: Like what?

Bopp: You’ve got to pay me for that. But there are several that I’ve already figured out how to utilize if that becomes necessary.

"You've got to pay me for that".

Center for Public Integrity: In your mind, how long until the entire system reaches a tipping point?

Bopp: We have reached the tipping point! It’s utterly unaccountable and non-transparent. And it’s all because the rules have made them so … This is a downward spiral until the whole system collapses, which it is very close to. The effects of contribution limits have so distorted the system that we have almost zero accountability and transparency.

Yeah, we're through the looking glass all right.  Bopp appears to believe that there are still too many laws governing campaign finance reform.

If that's true, then yes, I'm a Communist, and the revolution is coming a lot slower than I would like.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance solemnly honors three anniversaries: the fifth year after BP's offshore well Macondo exploded, which resulted in the nation's worst oil spill disaster; the Oklahoma City federal building bombing -- and its victims -- on its 20th; and the 70th annual acknowledgement of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald

Here is this week's roundup of the best Texas lefty blog posts from last week.

Off the Kuff celebrated the city of Houston's victory in court against the petition effort to force a referendum on repealing the city's equal rights ordinance.

Libby Shaw, blogging at both at Texas Kaos and Daily Kos, wonders what a progressive Democratic grassroots activist is to do when her party's leaders turn tail and side against their constituents: Les Miserables: Texas Political Donors and Voters Bought Lemons.

Nonsequiteuse suspects it would be safer to go to the grocery store and more crowded on election day if Democrats would put down their guns and move slowly to the left.

Socratic Gadfly combines his being a history buff with being an aficionado of classical music and poetry to note how Lincoln's death has been commemorated in the arts, on the sesquicentennial of his assassination.

There's a new "Dirty Thirty" in Austin, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs pulls back the curtain on the so-called Texas House Democrats who voted with the Republicans to overturn municipal fracking bans. Surprise: it's all about the money, specifically campaign contributions from oil and gas companies.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson: It's always funny when the media tries to figure out why the GOP can't come up with a "fantastic scheme for all that cash", when cutting is all you know.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about the $2000 ticket a San Antonio chef was given for feeding the homeless in violation of a law prohibiting the feeding of the homeless. These laws are evil. Houston has such a law. APHV is part of

Texas Leftist noted (a few weeks back, but who's counting) on the recent designation of Interstate 69, renumbering the former US 59 through Houston and Harris County, and the economic impact expected.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme was extremely disappointed to hear Leticia Van de Putte used a fundamental Republican talking point to blow off non-discrimination ordinances. I want my money back from her lieutenant governor's race.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

HOUEquality has more on the judge's verdict that the anti-HERO contingent failed to collect enough signature to force a ballot referendum, and Bluedaze has more on the oil money greasing the palms of the members of the Texas Lege, reflected in the HB 40 vote which overturned fracking bans in Texas cities.

Paradise in Hell marvels at the hatefulness of Steven Hotze.

Scott Braddock chides the Legislature for its inaction on the problem of misclassifying employees.

Texas Watch issues a call to action against a bill that would weaken insurance policyholder protections.

Texas Clean Air Matters is on the lookout for the legislators who are seeking to gut local control.

Better Texas Blog explains how the Aycock school finance bill would increase inequity among the highest and lowest wealth districts.

The Rag Blog has an account of a visit to an immigrant family detention center in Karnes City.

Liprap's Lament declares that her Texmudgeonly attitude is melting a little after a tour inside the Astrodome with her son.

Fascist Dyke Motors, blogging from a downtown train, almost had to use Kim's watermelon gun on a man who accosted her.

Isiah Carey reports on the customer appreciation party a Houston bail bondsman threw for his customers and supporters.  Something about that is just hilarious.