Friday, October 29, 2010

This week's King Street Thugs update

-- Rep. Borris Miles had an altercation with the True the Vote criminals at the EV poll in Sunnyside.

... Miles said he was there in the first place because a constituent had called to complain about intimidation by poll watchers, including an incident in which a poll watcher bumped a voter. Miles said he spent two hours at the Sunnyside Multi-Purpose Center, 4605 Wilmington, but stayed near the reception desk perhaps 150 yards from the voting machines.

Miles said he witnessed poll watchers speaking to voters, looking over their shoulders as they voted, and walking among the voting machines. He summed up what he saw as: "The Republican/tea party poll watchers that are there intimidating, and the Republican precinct judge allowing it to happen."

-- Sunnyside and Moody Park also saw this flyer distributed.

Miya Shay again with the report:

And more from Isiah Carey:

jobsanger and Juanita Jean have more.

-- Both sides requested the USDOJ send election monitors to Houston next Tuesday.  From Cong. Sheila Jackson Lee's letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder:

"Although there are usually a few isolated occurrences of voter intimidation during the election season, the incidents that took place at polling stations earlier this week appeared to be both organized and systematic. Poll watchers have been reportedly over-stepping the boundaries between observing and interacting in the democratic process by hovering directly behind voters as they entered their votes. The group thought to be behind these acts is known as the King Street Patriots, reportedly tied to some Tea Party activists. The King Street Patriots have deployed poll watchers around the city as they implement their “True the Vote” campaign."

-- County attorney Vince Ryan issued Election Day directives for poll watchers and election judges. From Kronberg:

The first opinion (both links .pdf) says that election officials may "designate lines on the floor to protect voters from poll watcher intrusion."

The second opinion prohibits cell phones, cameras and wifi enabled computers within 100 feet of a polling station.

Electronic devices have ALWAYS been verboten inside the poll, but a King Street Thug poll watcher was observed wearing a 35mm camera around his neck at the Fiesta Mart EV location this week, in clear violation of the Texas Election Code but apparently ignored by the election judge there.

-- The King Street Thugs surrendered some of their paperwork, but it doesn't clear up the mystery of their funding: large, anonymous GOP donors.

Passing the $15,000 hat
The $15,000 hat

Though acknowledging the receipt of over $80,000, the King Street extremists refuse to disclose who contributed the money. Incredibly, the group contends that the funds were raised by “passing the hat” at their meetings.

To put this outrageous claim into perspective, it would take 1,600 people contributing $50 each to raise $80,000 while a group of 400 people would have to contribute an average of $200 each.  According to activist participants, the King Street extremists' meeting space could barely hold 200 people, yet they claim to have raised as much as $15,000 at a single meeting simply by “passing the hat.”

More at Off the Kuff.

-- Lastly, the KS Thugs, Karl Rove, and the US Chamber of Commerce are essentially acting as if Citizens United is settled law.

As a nonprofit 501(c)4 corporation, King Street Patriots (KSP) should be allowed to engage in electioneering without disclosing donors or registering as a political committee, and Texas laws to the contrary are unconstitutional, said the Indiana attorney who put together the pivotal U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United campaign finance case. He placed the burden of enforcing regulations squarely on the Internal Revenue Service.

“(KSP opponents) are trying use Texas law to shut up their opponents, to throw them in jail for talking about issues,” said James Bopp Jr., general counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech.

Houston tea party spinoff KSP and its 501(c)3 initiative KSP/True the Vote are the subjects of a state ethics complaint by nonprofit Texans for Public Justice and a lawsuit by the Texas Democratic Party, both alleging KSP has broken state prohibitions against corporate campaign contributions — and that it should be registered as a state political committee and have to reveal its donors’ identities.

“The Supreme Court has consistently held that you cannot require an organization to be a PAC unless its major purpose is to be involved in elections. A c4 lobby group’s primary purpose is to educate and lobby, rather than participate in elections,” Bopp said. “Otherwise the IRS wouldn’t let it be a c4. They would say it’s a 527.”


Bopp, who’s currently challenging campaign laws in at least a dozen other states, said it’s clear to him that Texas laws run afoul of the First Amendment when they require 501(c)4 nonprofit corporations to register separate political committees to report coordinated campaign expenditures.


Basically, the Citizens United decision enabled corporate entities to spend unlimited money advocating for or against political candidates, as long as they don’t coordinate those expenditures with the campaigns. While the ruling did not address in-kind donations, such as hosting one-sided candidate forums, the case may have cleared the way for further challenges to remaining restrictions on corporate political contributions.

“Particularly now that the last barrier on many independent expenditures has been lifted by Citizens United — it was the last one in a chain — there will be a lot more attention paid to exactly what constitutes a coordinated expenditure,” said Justin Levitt, associate professor of law at Loyola School of Law.

In Bopp’s reasoning, the underlying assumption is that KSP is abiding by federal regulations on 501(c)4 nonprofits — namely that the organization’s primary purpose is not electioneering, generally interpreted as meaning the organization spends less than 50 percent of its resources trying to influence election outcomes for or against particular candidates.

As with national Democratic allegations concerning the Karl Rove-linked American Crossroads GPS, also a 501(c)4, the responsibility for discovering whether KSP is devoting the majority of its funds to electioneering would belong to the IRS, whose investigations are generally not very swift or public. There are also questions about how to measure the percent of an organization’s political activity.

It's not settled law, of course, but as long as you have Republicans in Congress and on the Supreme Court, it will be difficult to impossible to change.

That's all the information you should need not to EVER cast a vote for ANY Republican running for ANY office.

Patrick uses Tea P to clean up his ICRoT

Dan Patrick has never observed an ultra-conservative movement he wouldn't try to get ahead of.

Sen. Dan Patrick -- the Houston Republican who earlier announced the founding of the Independent Conservative Republicans of Texas to reach out to Tea Party activists and independents -- now says he's joining with other lawmakers to create the Tea Party Caucus.

"The Tea Party has played an important role this year and I want to be sure their voices are heard in Austin long after next Tuesday," Patrick said in a press release. "The power of the Tea Party beyond election day is to hold those elected accountable for a conservative voting agenda."

Patrick's office in its release said the Tea Party caucus will meet with leaders of that movement and build support for "important conservative legislation" in the coming session.

It said continued membership in the caucus will be based on whether lawmakers support key Tea Party issues, sign the Texas Conservative Coalition Pledge and keep "a conservative voting record that is in line with the coalition's annual report card."

Patrick said several lawmakers already have agreed to serve on the caucus board and he'll invite others to join the caucus over the next two months.

Patrick's obsequiousness is so obvious that even Big Fat Dumbass Jolly can see through it. Via Neil, who is once again much more polite than me.

Too funny to wait for Sunday

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yes We Cannabis

Maybe? Possibly? Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Via Mark Kleiman, here's an interesting poll result for Proposition 19, the initiative to legalize marijuana cultivation and sale in California. It comes from the pro-19 forces, and I don't have any independent way of knowing how reliable it is, but it shows that standard polling has Prop 19 losing 46%-41%, while automated polling shows it winning 56%-41%.

Take this for what it's worth. I'm basically skeptical that Prop 19 will pass, and I have my doubts that there's really such a large number of people who are afraid to express support for Prop 19 to a live interviewer. Supporting pot legalization isn't really a huge stigma in California, after all. Still, it's interesting if it's legit. We'll find out a week from Tuesday.

People lie to pollsters? Really? And from the Kleiman post ...

One of the yes-on-19 groups did a split-sample poll, with some respondents answering a live interviewer and others punching keypad buttons. The results (assuming the poll is being reported accurately) suggests that live polling may be noticeably under-estimating support for the proposition: the fact that the demographics of the two subsamples match closely makes me a tentative believer. With virtually every politician and newspaper in the state denouncing Prop. 19, it wouldn’t be surprising if some people were reluctant to express their disagreement (and risk being thought of as potheads).

Moreover, support for Prop. 19 declines sharply with age; the under-30s are overwhelmingly for it. They’re also much more likely than their elders to have cell phones only and therefore be missed by most polling, which calls only land-lines.

So this could still go either way. The InTrade market, which showed the proposition favored as recently as a week ago, now gives it one chance in three of passing. At those odds, I’m not taking either end of the bet. It may come down to whether the “amotivational syndrome” some drug-prevention folks have tried to attribute to cannabis applies to voting.

I think this observation in the polling is quite hilarious. I have no idea whether the referendum passes or fails, but it's certainly drawing a certain bloc of voters to the polls in California who don't seem likely to vote Republican.

Todd Staples' slimy pyramid scheme

Even compared to the vast corruption of Rick Perry, the incumbent agriculture commissioner occasionally manages to one-up the Eagle Scout/Aggie yell leader.

A criminal case from the mid-1990s refers to an "endless chain scheme" called the Friends Gifting Network (or the "Friends Gift Network" or  "Friends Network" or "Friends Helping Friends", and a variety of similar names).

In 1994, Todd Staples participated in this pyramid scheme and had family (his brother-in-law) participating in it. A criminal complaint was filed in Anderson County -- the seat is Palestine, Staples' hometown -- and Staples' brother-in-law was arrested and charged. The Palestine city attorney followed up by requesting help from the Anderson County district attorney for assistance in investigating the illegal pyramid scheme. (Staples is between elected-official jobs at this time; he has previously served on the Palestine city council, and for the years 1990 and '91 as mayor pro tem.)

This document reveals that the case was put on "hold" in 1994 and then dismissed in '96.

The case was dismissed because Todd Staples -- who was elected state representative in a special election to fill a vacancy in 1995 -- voted in favor of legislation that legalized the crime for which his brother-in-law was charged. This had the added benefit, of course, of making it impossible for Staples himself to ever face any charges or even be questioned in detail about the matter by a prosecutor, or the media.

But Staples wasn't finished. From the press release:

Staples and others managed to escape prosecution for their participation in the illegal enterprise, and court records reveal that Staples and Jeff Herrington, the Anderson County DA at the time, worked in concert to get the officer that investigated the scheme and arrested Staples’ brother-in-law removed from his job. At the time, the same police officer who investigated Staples’ brother-in-law was raising serious questions concerning why Herrington and his office received an unauthorized share of federal drug forfeiture funds. Additionally, a member of Herrington's staff had been implicated along with Staples in the pyramid scheme.

You read it right. Staples exacted revenge on the officer who investigated the case, Commander Jerry Powell of the Texas DPS, by colluding with DA Herrington to remove Powell from his post.

According to additional court records, shortly thereafter, Staples became involved in a series of events leading to the removal of a narcotics officer who arrested his brother-in-law and was the lead officer investigating the Friend’s Gifting Network.

Court records show that Staples’ facilitated meetings with the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety at the behest of, among others, the same Anderson County District Attorney whose staff member was involved in the pyramid scheme, in order to discuss removal of the police officer.

Court filings also show that, were the word of Staples’ high-level participation in the Friend’s Gifting Network become publicly known prior to the 1995 special election to replace State Rep. Elton Bomer, it would have likely ended Staples’ political career. The same court filings show that Staples’ assistance to the District Attorney came at a time when he and his office were accused of receiving an unauthorized share of funds seized during a federal narcotics investigation. The same police officer who arrested Staples’ brother-in-law had initiated inquiries to determine why the DA’s office had received this share of funding.

This document contains a transcript of an undercover phone call regarding Friends Gifting Network; these documents show Staples' rise to "vice-president" in the Friends Network pyramid scheme and contain the police case file on Staples' brother-in-law. This document is the transcript of the arrest in which Staples' brother-in-law helps entice the undercover police officer to participate in the pyramid scheme.

Finally, these documents contain the response to Staples' Motion for Summary Judgment, and the Affidavit of Plaintiff talks about Staples' motivation, mentioning the case's potential for damaging his budding political career.

Let's review: Todd Staples participated in an illegal pyramid scheme which bilked hundreds of East Texans out of thousands of dollars. The crime was investigated and his accomplice brother-in-law charged. Staples went on to be elected to the Texas Legislature, where he voted in favor of a bill which made illegal pyramid schemes legal, exonerating his brother-in-law in the process. Staples then conducted a personal vendetta against the investigating officer of the case.

All so as not to damage his future political viability. Because as all Texans are aware, you never know when the agriculture commissioner might one day become the longest-serving governor in the history of Texas.

Do we want to really reward this slimeball with re-election? No, we don't.

We want a new Commissioner of Agriculture (whose greatest crime, it should be noted, happens to be not wearing his seatbelt, and working out a payment plan with the IRS).

Update: Read this Dallas Morning News story and don't miss reading the comments.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The House may be lost

Some additional insights here from worth knowing.

Long-time political observer Charlie Cook is predicting the Republicans are likely to win 198 seats in the House, with another 47 being tossups. If the Republicans win even half of these, that gives them the majority. But in wave elections most of the tossups go the same way, so the odds of the Republicans winning 30 or more of the tossups are reasonably good. Cook's best guess is that they will pick up something in the range of 48 to 60 seats. This would put this election on a par with 1994, when they picked up 52 seats in the House.

In the Senate, he is predicting a Republican gain of about 8 or 9 seats. If that happens, all eyes will be on Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to see if they jump ship. However, both of them are keenly aware of what happened to Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) when he did just that: he was defeated in a primary. Both of these could expect nasty primary fights if they became Republicans, especially if it were to save their own skins rather than out of some deep-seated convictions that have been rather absent until now. Nelson has to worry about the fact that Nebraska is full of Republican politicians who would primary him with the slogan "vote for a real Republican." If he decided to switch, his real battle would be the primary--where only Republicans can vote--rather than the general election, where Democrats can, too. Lieberman is so unpopular and unpredictable that anything is possible with him, but he has nothing in common with Jim DeMint and even less with Rand Paul and Sharron Angle, so he is likely to continue to caucus with the Democrats.

If the Republicans capture the House, as Cook, Nate Silver, and other close observers predict, the new Speaker of the House is virtually certain to be Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) (which he prefers to pronounce "Bayner" rather than "Boner" or "Booner"). Boehner has an everpresent deep tan and smokes two or three packs of cigarettes a day. The Washington Post has a long profile of him today.

Boehner has a strange history within the caucus. He was one of the authors of the Republicans' "Contract with America" that propelled them to victory in 1994. But in 1998, he was booted out of his leadership position, only to be elected majority leader in 2006. He is more of a back-room wheeler-dealer type person than an "ideas" man, as former Speaker Newt Gingrich fancied himself. Still, if the Republicans have a small majority starting in January, he is going to need all his people skills to rein in the fractious tea partiers intent on changing Washington the moment they arrive. It is likely that the tea partiers will form their own coalition. If they get more members than the Republicans' majority, they get a de facto veto on everything he does, much as the Blue Dogs have with the Democrats. However, since the brunt of the voters' wrath is going to fall on the Blue Dogs next Tuesday, the Democratic caucus is going to move to the left, and with the tea party members of his own caucus pulling him to the right ... he is not likely to accomplish much.

If Boehner moves up, the other Republican leaders will move up. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the only Jewish Republican in Congress, is likely to become majority leader and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) would then become whip. Boehner is not very close to either of these -- just as current Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn't especially care for her #2, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). Boehner tends to hang with some of the rank-and-file Republicans, especially Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA). Boehner lives in a basement apartment he rents from one of his many lobbyist friends. His wife, Deborah, lives in Ohio.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Weekly GOTV Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes you all have voted or will be voting soon as it brings you this week's blog roundup.

This week at McBlogger, we take a look at the increasingly desperate campaign being run by Todd Staples. Last Friday they attempted to eavesdrop on an internal Gilbert campaign conference call, if that tells you much. You simply won't believe the rest...

Letters From Texas spent most of the week pointing to Republican efforts to scapegoat and alienate minorities, first pointing out both Parties' failure to communicate effectively with Hispanic voters, then pointing out Republicans' blatant attempts to prevent them from voting, and showing that they'd planned to do it in Texas too. Most shocking, however, was the release of a photo of the most disturbing political sign in Texas.

Off the Kuff published his last interview of this cycle, with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White.

Bay Area Houston would vote for Proposition 1 in Houston if....

Ever wonder why republicans have gotten so batsh*t crazy? CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks they're locked inside their own tiny, tiny minds.

The news of the week in Harris County spread all across the country: well-fed Caucasian conservatives are going places they've never gone before -- minority early voting polling locations -- and doing their damndest to keep as few of 'those people' from casting a ballot as possible. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs kept the story up to date.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson shows the choice for governor comes down to this very simple issue: We must end Perry's unprecedented time as governor - he's been in office too long.

Martha Griffin at musings has questions about Prop 1 on the ballot in Houston. Why the lack of details about the plan and where is the political muscle to get this passed?

BossKitty at TruthHugger just decided to vent about the direction this election is trying to take the country ... with me in it: Federal Government in the crosshairs – OpEd.

Public Citizen is getting into the fray over early voting and intimidation activities across the state, with a press release and conference Monday afternoon in Houston with the League of Women Voters and a blog over at TexasVox. Keep watching for more coverage as this story continues to develop.

Len Hart at BlueBloggin looks at A Party of Panic and Depression, the Republican world of economics, death and destruction, K-Street and war. The administration of Ronald Reagan ushered in a depression of some two years, a contraction of the economy, and a transfer of wealth upward to the upper quintile, the nation’s richest 20 percent. A windfall of this nature is not stimulus to invest but rather to transfer the gains offshore.

Lightseeker at TexasKaos reports that according to a recent Gallup poll, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans... basically our non-white/non-black population... are going to vote for the Republicans in this election by a 52%-42% margin. Turns out that polling on this mid-term election has some serious problems. There is more at The Polls are Off and Nobody Knows by How Much!

Neil at Texas Liberal offered his election endorsements for Texas in 2010. And as a long-time former resident of the Buckeye State, he also made endorsements for Ohio.

The finish line in sight

When even poor ol' Karl-Thomas is down in the dumps over the polling, you know there's some gloomy Guses out there. But leave it to Kuffner to destroy that stubborn inevitability meme again. Only fools and Republicans -- there's a difference? -- believe it anyway. Look what the Texas Democratic statewides are doing:

-- Hank Gilbert is working West Texas hard in the closing days before the election.

Gilbert will meet and greet voters in Amarillo, Clyde, Panhandle, Pampa, Canadian, Perryton, Dalhart, Dumas, Stinnett, Fritch, Borger, Canyon, Tulia, Levelland, and Midland.

What, no Plainview?! These are not the kind of Texas towns in which a Democratic candidate usually spends the week before Election Day getting out the vote. But Gilbert has won over many Republicans and Tea Partiers in his campaign this year, and he's going fishin' where they're bitin'.

Update: jobsanger has photos from Amarillo yesterday.

-- Barbara Radnofsky kicks Greg Abbott in the pants again...

As she pointed out in her debate with the suddenly-proud-he's-wheelchair-bound attorney general, the amount of money the Wall Street banksters cost Texans comes pretty close to equaling the amount of money the state budget is lacking.

So even though the governor won't acknowledge the budget deficit, why aren't Perry and Abbott trying to recoup those billions? Because it would anger their fat cat donors, that's why. Perry's already been exposed for having pushed TRS trustees to invest in his cronies' companies, an investigation into which was essentially whitewashed. Harvey Kronberg had more on the curious case of Roel Campos last Friday:

Earlier this week, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White released a whistleblower memo reporting that the Perry appointed Teacher Retirement System board reversed staff investment recommendations which benefitted the Governor’s campaign contributors.

The Governor’s office responded to Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater: "This matter was brought up over two years ago. TRS had an outside lawyer review the facts and they said they had no merit or such, the matter was then turned over to the state auditor's office and they took no action."

Of course, the identity of “outside lawyer” proved to be a entirely separate issue of bad judgment on its own. Roel Campos of Cooley Godward Kronish LLP was the attorney that issued the report that ignored most of the substantive issues raised by the whistleblower and essentially reported that bosses get to over rule staff.

Our colleague Paul Burka called the report “pablum” and he may have been too gentle.

But the real question is how did someone with Campos’ resume’ ever get close to TRS and not once, but twice?

There is more to the story of Roel Campos and the Teacher Retirement System.

-- Speaking of the governor, he's lying again.

Border security is the signature hot button issue with the freak right. But Perry is demagogueing it by repeating the same "sanctuary city" BS his base keeps mumbling.

-- Bill Clinton is in Brownsville today rallying voters.

There's more, but you get the picture. This year's election results are still a cake in the oven.

MoDo is making me ill again

It's just too early in the morning to be this nauseous. Two excerpts I can manage to keep down:

It’s too late to relitigate the shameful Thomas-Hill hearings. We’re stuck with a justice-for-life who lied his way onto the bench with the help of bullying Republicans and cowed Democrats.

... and ...

The 5-to-4 Citizens United decision last January gave corporations, foreign contributors, unions, Big Energy, Big Oil and superrich conservatives a green light to surreptitiously funnel in as much money as they want, whenever they want to elect or unelect candidates. As if that weren’t enough to breed corruption, Thomas was the only justice — in a rare case of detaching his hip from Antonin Scalia’s — to write a separate opinion calling for an end to donor disclosures.

In Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court chose the Republican president. In Citizens United, the court may return Republicans to control of Congress. So much for conservatives’ professed disdain of judicial activism. And so much for the public’s long-held trust in the impartiality of the nation’s highest court.

Justice Stephen Breyer recently rejected the image of the high court as “nine junior varsity politicians.” But it’s even worse than that. The court has gone beyond mere politicization. Its liberals are moderate and reasonable, while the conservatives are dug in, guzzling Tea.

And if you want more of this, vote Republican.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Evening Funnies

Rangers and Giants in the World Series

Here's a good story about how the American League champions turned things around and got to the Fall Classic.

Wearily, Nolan Ryan plopped down in the Rangers Ballpark press box dining area, covered his face with both hands and rubbed. It didn't help.

On this Thursday, July 8 evening, he scarcely touched his tuna salad and cantaloupe. Glumly, he described his day in bankruptcy proceedings and the previous day's hospital visit to a fan who had tumbled from the stands.

The rock-like Rangers president and Hall of Fame pitcher who KO'd a record 5,714 batters and pummeled Robin Ventura's face seemed – gasp – defeated.

"This just isn't a whole lot of fun right now," Ryan said.

Thus began the most pivotal 24 hours in Rangers history. There was no hint that half-century-old dark clouds were about to disperse, that this luckless and literally broke franchise would unearth a diamond rabbit's foot:

Cliff Lee.

With Texas now in the World Series, its heist of star pitcher Lee from the New York Yankees' greedy clutches is the Cliff-hanger moment of a Hollywood-esque story.

Without Lee, there would be no feel-good plot about the manager who tested positive for cocaine use but, given a second chance, guided Texas to its first American League pennant – 78 days after the franchise was auctioned in federal bankruptcy court.

It was Lee who twice beat Tampa Bay in the American League Divisional Series, including in the decisive Game 5. It was Lee who earned Texas' first playoff victory in Yankee Stadium – fittingly, against the team that nearly acquired him from Seattle in July.

And it will be Lee who starts Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night.

There's also the renaissance of Josh Hamilton, who beat his addiction demons to come all the way back to MVP for the ALCS, and the team celebrated (again) by showering him with ginger ale and not champagne. However I still feel like a National League guy, despite the storyline and the bandwagon effect, and not just because Vlad Guerrero has to play in the field.

I feel kinda bad for Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, who once again will be watching it on teevee like the rest of us.

I'll say it will be a classic seven-game series with the Giants prevailing. But I won't be unhappy -- or jealous -- at all if the Rangers get it done.

Update: On the other hand, this could give Texas a significant advantage.

Sunday Funnies

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Koch Suckers

It's been making news elsewhere, I'm just playing catch-up here.

Via Palingates, the ThinkProgress reveal:

In 2006, Koch Industries owner Charles Koch revealed to the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore that he coordinates the funding of the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks, media outlets and other anti-government efforts through a twice annual meeting of wealthy right-wing donors. He also confided to Moore, who is funded through several of Koch’s ventures, that his true goal is to strengthen the “culture of prosperity” by eliminating “90%” of all laws and government regulations.

Ninety percent of all? Hmmm.

ThinkProgress has obtained a memo outlining the details of the last Koch gathering held in June of this year. The memo, along with an attendee list of about 210 people, shows the titans of industry — from health insurance companies, oil executives, Wall Street investors, and real estate tycoons — working together with conservative journalists and Republican operatives to plan the 2010 election, as well as ongoing conservative efforts through 2012. According to the memo, David Chavern, the number two at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fox News hate-talker Glenn Beck also met with these representatives of the corporate elite. In an election season with the most undisclosed secret corporate giving since the Watergate-era, the memo sheds light on the symbiotic relationship between extremely profitable, multi-billion dollar corporations and much of the conservative infrastructure. The memo describes the prospective corporate donors as “investors,” and it makes clear that many of the Republican operatives managing shadowy, undisclosed fronts running attack ads against Democrats were involved in the Koch’s election-planning event ...

More from Salon:

According to that document, the Palm Springs meeting attracted such corporate and financial titans as Stephen Schwartzman of the Blackstone Group, Philip Anschutz of Anschutz Industries, and Steve Bechtel of Bechtel Corp., as well as representatives of Bank of America, Allied Capital, Citadel Investment, among many others – all of whom gathered to learn how to “elect leaders who are more strongly committed to liberty and prosperity” with a “strategic plan to educate voters on the importance of economic freedom.”

More from HuffPo:

(T)he New York Times reported that an upcoming meeting in Palm Springs of "a secretive network of Republican donors" that was being organized by Koch Industries, "the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes." Buried in the third to last graph was a note that previous guests at such meetings included Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, two of the more conservative members of the bench.

And from that article in the NYT, more on the inclusion of Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia in the conspiracy:

To encourage new participants, Mr. Koch offers to waive the $1,500 registration fee. And he notes that previous guests have included Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, Gov. Haley Barbour and Gov. Bobby Jindal, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and Representatives Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul D. Ryan.

Of course "some say" there is nothing wrong with this sort of thing at all. Nothing illegal or unethical at all about people with similar interests gathering together to discuss ways to affect political change.

Why it's the same thing as when, say, the Harris County Democrats have a rally over a dinner, or a blockwalk followed by a fish fry. Except without the Supreme Court justices or the captains of industry. Or their money.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bob Guccione 1930-2010

Bob Guccione tried the seminary and spent years trying to make it as an artist before he found the niche that Hugh Hefner left for him in the late 1960s. Where Hefner's Playboy magazine strove to surround its pinups with an upscale image, Guccione aimed for something a little more direct with Penthouse.

More explicit nudes. Sensational stories. Even more sensational letters that began, "Dear Penthouse, I never thought I'd be writing you..."

It worked for decades for Guccione, who died Wednesday in Texas at the age of 79. He estimated that Penthouse earned $4 billion during his reign as publisher. He was listed in the Forbes 400 ranking of wealthiest people with a net worth of about $400 million in 1982.

Guccione's magazine broke ground by exposing female genitalia (previously the undiscovered territorial boundary in print was pubic hair, in Playboy). This was decades before the word "Brazilian" entered the language as a noun not in reference to a person from Brazil.

His other revolution was publishing the graphic tales of other people's encounters. That's the "Dear Penthouse Forum, I never thought I would be writing this to you, but..." part mentioned in the excerpt.

Yes, Playboy typically had more beautiful women -- some of them courtesy of the darkroom's airbrush -- but Penthouse had the ones who looked slightly more like the kind of girl you might actually meet at your local bar. This was before even discos were popular, you Twittering little Facebookers.

Not too sure about the articles *ahem* but allegedly they were subversive for the time.

In 1984 it was the magazine that took down Miss America, publishing nude pictures of Vanessa Williams, the first black woman to hold the title. Williams, who went on to fame as a singer and actress, was forced to relinquish her crown after the release of the issue, which sold nearly 6 million copies and reportedly made $14 million.

But Guccione's empire fell apart thanks to several bad investments and changes in the pornography industry, which became flooded with competition as it migrated from print to video and the Internet. His company, his world-class art collection, his huge Manhattan mansion — all of it, sold off.

Guccione's family said in a statement that he died at Plano Specialty Hospital in Plano. His wife, April Dawn Warren Guccione, had said he had battled lung cancer for several years.

Only the good die young, as they say.

(In 1986) U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese's Commission on Pornography issued a report attacking the adult entertainment industry. Guccione called the report "disgraceful" and doubted it would have any impact, but newsstands and convenience stores responded by pulling Penthouse from their magazine racks.

Sales dropped after the Meese commission report and years later took another hit with the proliferation of X-rated videos and Web sites. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Penthouse's circulation dipped below 1 million in the late 1990s and fell to about 463,000 in 2003, the year General Media Inc. filed for bankruptcy. Over the first six months of 2010, Penthouse reported circulation of barely 178,000.

"The future has definitely migrated to electronic media," Guccione acknowledged in a 2002 New York Times interview.

Larry Flynt took everything Bob G did a few steps further and raunchier with Hustler about the same time Guccione was declaring war on Hefner and Playboy. As noted above, by the time the '90's rolled around the only ground left to break after Hustler was moving pictures and an easy distribution system. In the present day, videos (video stores and mail order) have already given way to the Internet's porn-on-demand, as well as the proliferation of niche/fetish options. "You want Asian midget ladyboys dressed as cheerleaders and nurses? We got that ..." minus the interaction with the scruffy-looking dude at the counter, of course. More anonymity than a brown wrapper.

The passing of Bob Guccione is just another sad ending to one of my youthful era's iconic figures.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today's updates on the King Street Thugs

US DOJ is investigating:

(T)he Justice Department has interviewed witnesses about the alleged intimidation and is gathering information about the so-called anti-voter fraud effort.

"We are currently gathering information regarding this matter," Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement confirming the Civil Rights Division's involvement. ...

(First Assistant District Attorney Terry) O'Rourke said (former DOJ Voting Section Chief John) Tanner made a request on Tuesday to have federal election monitors sent to the county. County Attorney Vince Ryan met on Tuesday with the Democratic and Republican chairmen in the county after he received complaints of possible voter intimidation on the first day of early voting as well, the same day the Houston Chronicle printed a story detailing the allegations.

County Attorney Vince Ryan meets with party heads, instructs them to cool off the hotheads:

Responding to complaints that poll watchers were intimidating voters in predominantly minority polling locations, County Attorney Vince Ryan summoned the county chairmen of both major parties to his office Tuesday and reminded them of their responsibility to make sure the observers were obeying the law.

Ryan also announced in the meeting that he has requested a monitor from the Justice Department to observe the voting process in Harris County through Nov. 2.

In a follow-up letter to the county chairmen, Ryan pointed out that poll watchers are entitled to be at a polling location, but cannot be present at the actual polling station when the voter is preparing his ballot and cannot converse with an election officer about the election, except to call attention to an irregularity or violation of the law.

Houston Votes receives threatening e-mails with racist language:

A group trying to register voters in Houston received threats and emails containing racist slurs after being targeted by a local tea party group accusing it of "voter fraud."

In emails obtained by TPM, the group Houston Votes was accused of being "a bunch of white guilt ridden assholes, NIGGERS and greasy mexican spics," "fraudulent Marxist pigs," and "American hating A-holes."

"We received a couple of threats and several harassing e-mails," Maureen Haver of Houston Voters told TPMMuckraker. "There have been several efforts, I think, just trying to race-bait and stir racial tension and part of that I think is just based on what we've received in messaging from them."

"It's really had a chilling effect on our office," said Haver, adding that one of the e-mails was reported to the FBI.

More of the racist e-mails at this link.

Mediaite and this Kos diary have more on how this development -- the inflaming of racial hatred from the Right in this matter -- might shake out in the coming days.

Here's Miya Shay's report from the scene of one of the EV locations. She interviewed a voter who was turned away as well as a True the Vote poll watcher:

Off the Kuff, Dos Centavos, and Bay Area Houston have more.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Jerry Patterson Shot Me!"

No, that was ...

a) the dog whacking me on the leg with his tail as he went by

b) a mosquito bite

c) me cutting myself shaving

d) a can of peas falling off the top shelf of the pantry that hit me on the head

e) just Jerry Patterson shooting his mouth off again

Your teevee is still lying to you

The Democratic caucus in the 2011 Senate moves up to 54, with this news about Jack Conway surging to a lead over Rand Paul in Kentucky and this news about Joe Sestak easing ahead of Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. Chris Bowers, in his post this morning, still showed both trailing ..., which uses only the most recent poll, today has Sestak losing by ten points and Conway behind by 7. And to be both fair and accurate, Bowers uses a composite of several polls, so tomorrow's version of the chart above will still show Sestak and Conway behind. But the trend is unmistakable:

The odds of Democrats keeping 55 or more seats in the Senate are twice that of Republicans winning the chamber.

I'm guessing you might hear something about this on your teevee machine by next week, perhaps.

More evidence that Republicans can't win on their merits

Merits?! We don't need no steenkin' merits!

-- There's a billboard that went up yesterday here in Houston that says "GOP is the new black." Seriously.

Mary Benton speaks for me:

Someone please show me proof of an African-American stampede toward the Republican Party.

-- In Nevada, a group named Latinos for Reform bought teevee airtime to run an ad on Spanish language stations telling Latinos not to vote.

The ad opens with an attack on the Washington Democrat (sic) powerhouses and tells its viewers failed to deliver immigration reform.

Its (sic) the ending that has Hispanic community leaders outraged:

"Don't vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message, you can no longer take us for granted, don't vote."

Anybody of any race who isn't voting is just giving away their power. "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."

Update: you can view the ad here. From Sen. Harry Reid's campaign:

The group, led by a George Bush "Pioneer" fundraiser named Robert Desposada, has one goal - to suppress the Hispanic vote in Nevada.

-- And the King Street Thugs continue their intimidation tactics at EV locations around Harris County.

The complaints, he said, came from Kashmere Gardens, Moody Park, Sunnyside and other predominantly minority neighborhoods. The complaints included poll watchers "hovering over" voters, "getting into election workers' faces" and blocking or disrupting lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots. ...

(Spokesperson Hector) DeLeon said the county clerk's office received 14 complaints of alleged voter intimidation at 11 voting locations on Monday, the first day of early voting for the Nov. 2 general election. (Harris County Democratic Party chair Gerry) Birnberg said his office forwarded about two dozen complaints to the county attorney's office.

We already knew that the Party of NO isn't interested in offering solutions, because we know they made the mess we're in today. Why would any right-thinking individual reward failure with more authority?

Because they just aren't thinking right, that's why.

Gubernatorial debate tonight (again, without the goober)

Three candidates for governor will take part in a live debate at 7 p.m. tonight sponsored by the Houston Chronicle, the state's other large newspapers and Austin television station KLRU.

The debate will be webcast live on, and you'll be able to discuss the debate with other voters across the state.

Democrat Bill White, Libertarian Kathie Glass and Green Party nominee Deb Shafto will participate in the debate at the TV station's studios. Republican Rick Perry has declined to take part.

Christy Hoppe of the Dallas Morning News will moderate; panelists will be Dave Montgomery of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram, Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle; and Alberta Phillips of the Austin American-Statesman.

He's ignored every newspaper in the state. He's blown off the taxpayers by renting a $10,000-a-month mansion while our schools go without. He bemoaned Washington for bailouts at the same time he took stimulus money to patch the hole in last year's budget deficit, now estimated to be over $20 billion.

Rick Perry is as sorry as they come, but there are a lot of morons in Texas who just don't care about any of that. The only question left to answer is: can we find enough people willing to vote between now and November 2nd who do?

It's all about the hair

And today, we will see the Emerging Technology Fund announce a grant of $500 million to a company named CHI, for manufacturing solar panels to be available -- free of charge -- to every Texan who wants one.

After failing to secure the Democratic nomination for governor, hair care magnate Farouk Shami will be voting for the gubernatorial candidate with the best mane: Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

Shami lost to Bill White in the Democratic primary by a decisive 63-point margin. It appears Shami believes that he was not the only preferable alternative to White running for governor.

Lord knows everyone in Texas was paying attention to everything Shami said in the spring, so we all hang on every utterance now. Seriously, how does this help the governor? By reinforcing his "open-for-bidness" theme of adding more minimum-wage jobs to the Texas economy?

By locking down the all-important Tex-Lebanese voting bloc?

Farouk is on fire, all right, but it's his hair that's burning. Somebody please piss on him and put it out.

Update: Harold Cook harshes the snark.

Monday, October 18, 2010

King Street Patriots = vote-suppressing thugs

Update: See? it's already happening.

Harvey Kronberg:


Behavior includes shouting misinformation, standing behind voters as they cast ballots, says TDP's general counsel

In a conference call with members of the press, Texas Democratic Party general counsel Chad Dunn said the Party is receiving on the first day of early voting reports of King Street Patriots intimidating voters at the polls.

Dunn was talking to reporters to share more details on the TDP’s decision to expand a lawsuit against the Green Party to include allegations that the King Street Patriots are operating as an unregistered political committee to benefit GOP candidates.



In separate actions, Texas Democrats and campaign watchdogs Texans for Public Justice claim that the Tea Party affiliated group is operating as unregistered political committee

A campaign watchdog group and the Texas Democratic Party both took action today targeting the Houston-area Tea Party affiliated King Street Patriots. In their separate actions, both groups allege that the King Street Patriots are operating as an unregistered political action committee through its advocacy of conservative candidates and recruitment of poll watchers.

The watchdog group Texans for Public Justice filed a formal complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission while the TDP is amending a lawsuit originally aimed at the Green Party’s efforts to access the ballot this year to include the King Street Patriots’ activities.

From the press release:

The King Street Patriots and KSP/True the Vote are Houston-based non-profit corporations affiliated with the “tea party” movement. TPJ alleges the corporations have used their corporate resources to coordinate and recruit poll watchers on behalf of the Harris County Republican Party. The King Street Patriots sponsored a number of “get to know the candidates” events where just one Republican candidate was invited to attend and promote his or her election. Texas law requires that all candidates for an office be invited to participate in such corporate sponsored candidate events. The Patriots website has promoted block-walking activities to “spread the word on great conservative candidates.” Clarifying who these candidates are, the website listed a number of Houston-area candidates, all of them Republicans.

The KSP/True the Vote group is organizing to stop “widespread voter fraud” in Harris County. A controversial, hyperbolic, 8-minute video on its website features white speakers bemoaning alleged voter fraud. The speakers’ proclaim: “Our voting system is under attack! Voter fraud is helping the Democratic Party! Elections are being manipulated by the radical left! It’s all very, very scary. The fraud is very widespread. This is war!” As a narrator on the video says, “Its people who want to vote twice,” the video shows what appears to be an electoral queue of mostly minority voters. True the Vote leader, Catherine Englebrecht says in the video that the group wants to recruit five poll watchers for every precinct in the county. (The True the Vote video is here:

“The Patriots are breaking the law,” said Texans for Public Justice Director Craig McDonald. “A non-profit cannot legally spend its corporate resources to be an arm of the Republican Party. Sadly, you can use racial fear to recruit white voters to try to suppress minority voting. But a non-profit corporation cannot do so on behalf of a political party and its candidates.”

Savvy Brains readers will note that they read about this story here last week, citing liberally from Patrick Brendel's reporting at the American Independent.

I believe at this point that only a restraining order by a state judge commanding the KSP criminals from ceasing their illegal activity will prevent widespread conflict at polling places in Harris County. Since early voting began today, the potential for KSP criminal activity remains high, now through Election Day.

Again, if anyone tries to prevent you from voting by challenging your voter registration card or identification, ask to speak only to the election judge for clarification. Be reminded of the requirements for voting from Hector DeLeon at the Harris County Clerk's office, by way of Mary Benton's fine blog "On the Beat":

To vote, a person may present one of the following documents: a voter registration card, a driver’s license, a picture identification of any kind, a birth certificate, a U.S. Citizenship or Naturalization certificate, a U.S passport, a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter. First time voters who registered by mail and did not provide their driver’s license number or identification number will need to provide another form of identification other than their voter registration certificate. 

And if anyone challenges your voting credentials, or otherwise attempts to stop you, at any time before you reach the clerk's table at your polling place, call 911 and report their illegal, intimidating, harassing activity to the proper legal authority.

Update II: The Houston Politics blog at the Chron has their story posted.  And Matt Angle at the LSP:

"The King Street Patriots is not a legitimate nonpartisan or nonprofit organization. It is the most extreme and intolerant arm of the Harris County Republican Party. "

"King Street allies like Republican State Representative Dwayne Bohac are already under investigation by the Public Integrity Unit of the U.S. Justice Department for improper campaign activity. Bohac and King Street extremists work to harass, intimidate and suppress voters rather than reason with or win their votes."

Early Voting Wrangle

EV in person starting today and through the 29th at hundreds of locations around the state. Mary Benton has all the information you need for Harris County. And the Texas Progressive Alliance is fired up and ready to vote as it brings you this week's blog roundup.

Off the Kuff has interviews with Linda Chavez-Thompson and Barbara Radnofsky.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks breathing benzene, sulfur dioxide and other pollutants is bad. Why doesn't the TCEQ agree?

The Texas Cloverleaf posts on Blog Action Day about clean water in the Barnett shale.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson points our that there a still many unanswered questions regarding Gov. Perry and a special favor for a mega donor, The drip, drip, drip continues for Perry's mega-donor problem.

The King Street Patriot extremists are breaking the law again in Harris County. A lot more voter suppression and intimidation is in store from these thugs. Brains and Eggs has the details, including the link to the video of TeaBaggin' Jim Murphy (he's going to lose to Kristi Thibaut again) doing the honors.

Neil at Texas Liberal can't imagine that the people of Houston might wish to get rid of red light cameras. Our roads in Houston are already filled with drunks and crazies. Why would we want to make things even worse by making it easier to run red lights and get away with it? Neil urges folks in Houston to vote Yes on Prop. 3 and help keep our streets somewhat less bloody than they might otherwise become.

Intrepid Intern Ali Rawaf and Campaign Finance Curmudgeon Andy Wilson team up at TexasVox to remind you that early voting starts today, Monday, Oct 18, by giving you the sobering truth of who exactly is financing our Congressional midterm campaigns and what special favors they will want if you let their chosen candidates get into office. This is the first in a series -- keep an eye on TexasVox in the next two weeks for more in-depth looks at who's financing the Texas Governor's race, races for Ag Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner, and the Third Court of Appeals-- and maybe others.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Late Sunday Funnies

Medina arson grand jurors want to speak out

Four grand jurors are seeking the Harris County district attorney's protection so that they can go public with evidence they heard when they decided to indict a Texas Supreme Court Justice and his wife on arson charges.

The lawsuit, filed in criminal court after hours Friday, seeks Pat Lykos' protection from prosecution if four of the 12 jurors go public with evidence heard in the 2008 case against David and Francisca Medina. The arson charges were later dismissed.

It's a last-ditch legal effort by the grand jurors, who have previously filed lawsuits in civil and appellate court. The appellate court didn't have jurisdiction over criminal law requiring secrecy of grand jury testimony and evidence, said attorney Jeffrey Dorrell, one of the grand jurors who filed the lawsuit.

Background articles from the Chron:

Indictments tossed against Texas Supreme Court justice, wife (1/18/08)

Judge blisters Harris County DA over Medina case -- says Rosenthal's error nullified the grand jury's work (1/23/08)

DA (Lykos) drops fire charges against justice's wife (8/28/09)

Grand juror not happy Medina case dismissed -- says jury should have heard about the fire at home of justice and his wife, who could have been indicted (8/29/09)

Some of the grand jurors who heard the case have been fighting to speak openly about evidence since (former district attorney Chuck) Rosenthal dismissed the indictments in January 2008, creating a storm of controversy.

The four grand jurors who filed the suit in criminal court — Dan Hall, Steven Howell, Jeffrey Dorrell and foreman Robert Ryan — claim disclosing evidence in the case is their defense against defamatory attacks made by David Medina's attorney.

"Plaintiffs seek a declaration that they have both the right and the privilege to disclose evidence showing they were not a 'runaway grand jury' when they indicted Texas Supreme Court Justice David M. Medina for evidence tampering," the suit reads.

Grand juror Dorrell sees criminal court as the last hope to speak openly about evidence without fear of being prosecuted.

If they aren't granted that protection, Dorrell said, he hasn't ruled out facing consequences that could potentially include a 30-day jail sentence.

"I'd have to think about it, but I'd consider it," he said.

The comments on this article might be the best part. Two examples:

Geesh, let’s get the truth about these hypocrite repubs out. It’s not like they were executed for an arson they didn’t commit.

... and ...

I like Pat, but, she is sure looking like a one term DA. In fact she will most probably cause us to have a Democrat DA next election.

Barbara Billingsley 1915 - 2010

Barbara Billingsley, who gained supermom status for her gentle portrayal of June Cleaver, the warm, supportive mother of a pair of precocious boys in "Leave it to Beaver," died Saturday. She was 94.

Billingsley, who had suffered from a rheumatoid disease, died at her home in Santa Monica, said family spokeswoman Judy Twersky.

When the show debuted in 1957, Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver, was 9, and Tony Dow, who portrayed Wally, was 12. Billingsley's character, the perfect stay-at-home 1950s mom, was always there to gently but firmly nurture both through the ups and downs of childhood.

I grew up a "Beaver" watcher, but what I will always remember Billingsley for is this:

Sunday Funnies

"Somebody threw a book at President Obama. If you're trying to scare a president by throwing a book at him, you're one president too late."

"I feel bad for the Chilean miners. They were down there in the dark so long. I mean, my God, it's like the Tea Party." -- David Letterman

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Senate: 52-48 House: holds slightly for Dems

That's as of today, as of this data from the NYT. Senate here, House here. The Times thinks that Marco Rubio of FL, Rand Paul of KY, and Joe Miller of AK will be the three TeaBaggers added to the Senate. Two of those three states, you might be already aware, have GOP primary losers (Lisa Murkowski and Charlie Crist) running as third-party candidates which are siphoning off Democratic votes.

Of the Texas Congressional tilts, Chet Edwards is likely a goner, but Ciro Rodriguez hangs on.

Nate Silver of is slightly more pessimistic about the House; his calculations drive out a 227-208 Republican majority. similarly shows 51-48 and one tie -- Nevada -- in the Senate (without the Rassmublican effect); the House also in a knot at 202 D, 204 R, 29 too close to call. I've added the daily-updated link in the right hand column.

So if you're a political junkie and tire of the corporate media/teevee talking head bullshit, bookmark these and look at them daily as they track the races.

Loren Jackson, Ann Harris Bennett, and Diane Trautman

The Houston Chronic got most of the rest of their endorsements way, way wrong, but these they got right.

District Clerk: The duties of this office include summoning jurors for the district and county criminal courts, maintaining court records, preparing daily court dockets and receiving child support payments.

The choice for voters in this contest is easy. Democratic incumbent Loren Jackson has done an excellent job upgrading the electronic capabilities of the office and making it more efficient and user-friendly. On his first day in office, Jackson created an express window lawyers had long sought so they could quickly file papers and return to the courts. 

He has also expanded the online availability of court documents, and if the Texas Supreme Court approves, Jackson plans to open a free e-filing portal allowing lawsuits to be filed electronically. (He) says it will save litigants filing fees, cut down on printing, processing and storage costs, and reduce the number of trips lawyers must make to the courthouse. 

Jackson's efforts have won him overwhelming support in the legal community. On the Houston Bar Association Preference Poll, members chose Jackson over his opponent by 1,270 to 200. Voters should follow their lead.

County Clerk: In this contest to replace retiring incumbent Beverly Kaufman, the Chronicle endorses Ann Harris Bennett, a veteran of more than 14 years' service as a district court coordinator.

The duties of the county clerk include administering county, state and Houston municipal elections as well as maintaining records for county courts and Commissioners Court. The office also issues marriage certificates and records deeds, birth and death certificates and assumed names, wills and probate documents.

Bennett opposes turning over the election functions of the office to an appointed election administrator as advocated by some county officials. She supports eventually converting to voting machines that provide a paper record that can be used for recounts. Bennett also promises to work closely with District Clerk Loren Jackson to upgrade the technology and efficiency of the clerk's office.

County Tax Assessor-Collector: In this contest to fill the unexpired term of Republican Paul Bettencourt, who resigned shortly after his election in 2008, the Chronicle endorses the Democrat who narrowly lost to him, Diane Trautman. The incumbent appointed by Commissioners Court, Leo Vasquez, lost to a challenger in the GOP primary.

The duties of this office include collecting more than $5 billion in taxes annually for 66 taxing entities, selling license plates and vehicle titles, and maintaining county voter rolls.

A former bank lending and trust manager, Trautman now teaches ethics and management to graduate students at Stephen F. Austin University. She pledges to restore non-partisan leadership to a service position too often used in the past to promote the political views of the occupant.

There's really no comparison between these three and their GOP counterparts. They comprise the very worst of extremist, TeaBagging ideology and would only exacerbate lingering problems.