Friday, December 19, 2014


... while we wait for the Republicans to figure out how to blame the plummeting price of oil on Obama.  That Rick Perry has the dumbest luck, don't he?

-- Farewell to "Stephen Colbert".  He was the very best.  Thank Jeebus he's immortal.

-- Run, Carly, run!  I think she might be to the left of Michelle Bachman, which means she'll be out right after the Iowa caucuses.

-- The super-lobbyists prepare to square off in Austin over Tesla's bid to sell cars here.

Locked in a brawl with auto dealers, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is unleashing some of the most powerful lobbyists and consultants in the state to persuade lawmakers to make it easier for his company to sell electric cars in Texas.

Ahead of the legislative session, Musk has assembled an all-star team of politically well connected forces at the Capitol - almost all entrenched with top Republican leaders - to lay the groundwork for a full Tesla blitz come January.


"Tesla is going to move in force to bring significant resources to this debate this session," said state Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican who last session supported the electric-auto maker's push. "You're going to see a lot of pressure on these young new members in the Legislature, a lot of movement on the floor and the backrooms to get people convinced this a good deal for Texas."

This is Clash of the Titans stuff, y'all.

"They tried to use the giga­factory as leverage to get their foot in the door, but the gigafactory was never coming to Texas," said Bill Wolters, president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association. "I can't imagine what kind of tale they can spin."

Tesla's main opposition stems from Wolters' auto dealer trade group, which over decades has gained political clout, and deep-pocketed franchise owners who are also big campaign contributors.

Take B.J. "Red" McCombs, for example. He owns San Antonio dealerships and has described the state's franchise dealer law "as sacred as Paul's letter to the Corinthians." He donated $35,000 to Gov.-elect Greg Abbott last cycle.

Houston's Dan Friedkin, who chairs Gulf States Toyota, alone gave $350,000 to Abbott and another $150,000 to Lt. Gov-elect Dan Patrick this past cycle, state records show. Separately, political action committees for the dealer trade group and Gulf States Toyota have combined to give more than $360,000 to dozens of elected officials since 2013.

And collectively, the state's auto dealers employ an even larger army of lobbyists at the Capitol, and they've pegged Tesla's cause as enemy No. 1 for the upcoming session.

Musk has hired all Republicans, even Rick Perry cronies, to form an irresistible disruptor force against the immovable car dealer objects.  This battle against the most entrenched status quo in the state ain't got nothin' on the craft brewery-beer distributor skirmish or the Uber-taxicab dustup.  It's going to make Middle Earth look like a grade school playground.  Here's your game program, stars highlighted, maybe they'll get numbers on their backs later.

This year alone, Tesla's added several marquee names to its lobby roster: Mike Toomey, one of Gov. Rick Perry's most trusted confidants; Neal "Buddy" Jones, a former lawmaker and the co-founder of a prominent Austin lobby shop; Craig Chick, a former senior policy adviser for House Speaker Joe Straus; and Adam Goldman, whose brother is a state lawmaker.

Karen Steakley, an ex-deputy legislative director for Perry, also recently signed on as the company's first in-house lobbyist in Texas, according to state records.

During the Legislature's off season, team Tesla started putting together a coalition of lawmakers, business groups and conservative organizations supportive of the electric-auto maker's cause, said Ted Delisi, an Austin consultant with ties to Perry who is providing "strategy" for Tesla.

Delisi added that the company is also in discussions with Allen Blakemore, a chief strategist for Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick's campaign. Blakemore did not return a request for comment.

"We want folks that have a far reach," Delisi said of the team Tesla is assembling.  (Emphasis is mine.)

State data shows the company is seeking inroads in other areas, too. Back in March, a Tesla lobbyist paid $4,000 to host four legislative staffers at a conservative organization's forum on economic freedom. And last month, lawmakers were invited to a Tesla VIP reception when Formula One held races in Austin.

The best goddamned m'f'n government money can buy, no matter how much it costs.

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