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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query cprit. Sort by date Show all posts

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Greg Abbott, CPRIT, and an indictment

Despite the deep freeze Texas finds itself in this morning, Greg Abbott is lying in bed sweating and hitting his call button, trying to wake up the maid to turn down his thermostat.

Texas Democrats, including their presumptive nominee for Governor Sen. Wendy Davis, sought on Friday to make Attorney General Greg Abbott feel political heat for an indictment related to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. As the (Austin) Statesman first reported, former executive Jerry Cobbs was indicted in relation to an $11 million grant that did not go through the agency's proper review process. An agency audit faulted Cobbs for “improperly” putting the application of the company in question on a committee agenda.

“The indictment of a former CPRIT official confirms that Greg Abbott has betrayed Texas taxpayers by failing to show up to even one CPRIT oversight board meeting,” Sen. Davis said. “Abbott has yet to fully explain why he failed in his basic oversight responsibilities to Texas taxpayers.”

As Harvey Kronberg has noted at the link above: "nearly silence from Abbott's folks".  Maybe they're all snowed in.

Just one year ago, Glenn Smith predicted the cancer/cronyism scandal would engulf the GOP.  The fire has been smoldering all this time, and -- despite Harvey's casual toss-off as just some political maneuver -- is about to erupt in flames.  Then...

In a series of explosive articles, the Dallas Morning News has revealed that many of the grants went to Perry and Dewhurst’s allies and donors. The agency’s scientists that review grant proposals have resigned in protest. Those actions have already made the scandal news in international science journals like the well-respected Nature.

[...]

The Dallas Morning News video above gives a thumbnail version of the growing scandal. I would also encourage you to read articles here, here and here.

... and now:

A former top executive of Texas' $3 billion cancer-fighting effort was indicted over an improperly awarded $11 million taxpayer-funded grant that plunged the state agency into turmoil, prosecutors said Friday.

Ending a yearlong criminal investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, prosecutors said a single felony count against former chief commercialization officer Jerald "Jerry" Cobbs will be the only criminal charge filed after an Austin grand jury declined to issue indictments related to other agency missteps.

Cobbs, 62, is charged with securing the execution of a document by deception. He is accused of allowing Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics in 2010 to secure one of the agency's most lucrative awards ever even though the merits of the company's proposal were never scrutinized.

There's been lots written here about it, and lots more by others.  In July, the HouChron...

In the more than four years he served on the state cancer agency's governing board, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott exercised no oversight as the agency made misstep after misstep in awarding tens of millions of dollars to commercial interests.

The state's top lawyer and watchdog instead appointed one of his deputies, who missed about a third of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Oversight Committee meetings, and, by all accounts, was not much of a presence in the agency's questionable decision-making.

"It turns out that Abbott sitting on the oversight board was a green light rather than a caution sign," wrote Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic political action committee. "Businesses backed by Abbott contributors - many of whom are partisan Republicans - have received large grants and contracts from CPRIT without fear of any oversight at all."

And yesterday, the Texas Tribune.

Cobbs served as the institute's chief commercialization officer for three years, before resigning (in November 2012). In that role, he was responsible for presenting the Peloton grant to the Oversight Board for approval. Given the amount of the grant, and the allegations that Cobbs failed to disclose that it had not gone through the required review process, he is being charged with a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. He turned himself in (Friday) morning and was released on an $85,000 bond, according to the Public Integrity Unit's Gregg Cox.

Frankly I think Tom Pauken pulled out too soon.  But that assessment is dependent upon Texas Republicans finally discovering some understanding of the moral corruption and ribald incompetence of their presumptive gubernatorial nominee.

Based on the enthusiasm expressed in this advance from Big Jolly of Abbott's appearance at the Houston Pachyderm Club just this past Thursday -- I'll link to his slideshow of the festivities as soon as he puts it up -- I'm not holding my breath on them getting it.

Update: Slideshow linked.  They ain't getting it.

More on how this topic is a ready-made cudgel with which to beat on Abbott from Socratic Gadfly.  And from John Coby: Abbott's campaign wheels wobble.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

We might research some cancer treatments while we get rich

The scandal that is CPRIT just gets worse every day.

In an interview this week, Perry said the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas must regain public trust so it can carry out its dual mission of cure discovery and commercialization.

“The way that the Legislature intended it was to get cures into the public's arena as soon as possible and at the same time create economic avenues (from) which wealth can be created,” Perry said. “Basic research takes a long time and may or may not ever create wealth.”

Perry made the remark in response to questions about the scrutiny CPRIT is facing as a result of two grants, totaling more than $30 million, that were awarded without proper review. The problems, both involving grants to commercialize discoveries, have prompted numerous investigations. 

I just grimaced and moved on when I read this at an early hour this morning, because I am so worn out on Rick Perry that it's just not funny any more. It's his unique blend of insensitivity, piety, and crony capitalism that makes me nauseous at this stage.

Some people understand how crass he is, though.

Legislators and activists contacted Wednesday disagreed with Perry's characterization.

“We're trying to get drugs to the marketplace to help people fight the disease,” said Rep. James Keffer, R-Eastland, who co-authored a 2009 bill establishing the agency after voters authorized it two years earlier. “Our goal is not to make pharmaceutical companies any more wealthy.”

Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, who questioned the need for commercialization grants at a hearing last month, said “the market should handle the rest” if CPRIT money attracts the best cancer minds to Texas and their research proves promising.

“I believe that the purpose of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas was to research and develop cures and treatments for cancer, not act as an investment bank or hedge fund to 'create wealth,'” Eiland said. “The state has the Emerging Technology Fund and the Enterprise Fund as business development tools.”  

I can't add anything to what Burka and EOW have already said. How much more of this embarrassment can a state as big as Texas take?

Friday, March 29, 2013

CPRIT demonstrates why American healthcare expenses are out of control

The latest board member to resign from the scandal-plagued Texas cancer research board uses a little Orwellian language on his way out the door. The article in today's Chron summarizes where we stand today.

Tom Luce, a Dallas lawyer and former U.S. assistant secretary of education, said Thursday that he stepped down from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas last week to accept the job of chief operating officer for the Dallas-based O'Donnell Foundation.

[...]

Luce's departure follows that of Nobel Laureate Al Gilman, who resigned after the agency ignored red flags he raised about a questionable $20 million grant to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; and executive director Bill Gimson and chief commercialization officer Jerry Gibbs, who abruptly resigned after it was revealed that the agency awarded Peloton Therapeutics, a Dallas biotech company, an $11 million grant without proper review.

In response, the state's political leadership imposed a moratorium on future agency grants and hasn't yet included any funding for the agency in its budget for the 2014-2015 biennium. The agency is under criminal and civil investigations and numerous bills in the Legislature spell out terms for reform.

That raises the number of vacancies on the board to four. The governor has two appointments pending for the Lege to approve; Speaker Straus still has one to make.

Luce wrote that "I am honored to have helped in a small way to help restore the credibility of CPRIT."

'Small' kinda understates things, Tom. The first comment on that story by a reader illustrates precisely what the problem is with CPRIT -- and also the problem with the American healthcare system generally. GPackwood writes...

There is an additional problem on the horizon for this group that will be especially difficult for the Governor's office to swallow.

The scientific community has agreed that competitive research efforts across the country is neither efficient or effective for cancer research results. The focus now will be collaborative research efforts where cancer researchers from different parts of the country plan, share data and work together.
This 'we' effort for America instead of the 'me' effort in Texas will be a hard pill for Governor Perry and his group to swallow. Organizationally they need to do something soon in Austin before the rest of the country decides they don't want to work with cancer researchers in Texas at all.

"Competitive" highlights the profit motive, the greed factor, and the ultimate crony capitalist corruption that results; in short, everything that Rick Perry loves about Texas bein' good for bidness. Just read his reaction in this article about the feds bypassing the state agency for women's healthcare and giving a few million bucks in grant money to a crowd-sourced coalition (and read Kuff for more about that topic).


Odd that a pro-business Republican would scream about the federal government giving funds to a private outfit instead of the state government, isn't it?

Profit, greed, the cronies and sycophants and lickspittles of the governor, other corrupt business leaders, the state agencies 'fostering' research, and all of the ancillary pigs at the trough are features of our healthcare system, not bugs. And these corporations have billions invested (in politicians besides Rick Perry) in the status quo. The Gardasil fiasco exposed the governor's angle in the healthcare business but that hasn't reined in him any. And we all know that what's happening in Texas is a microcosm for what's happening all over the country.

Our healthcare system isn't in the business of helping people get well. It's in business to make  money, and to maximize its profit on a per-capita basis. You're not a patient, you're a customer. Actually you're a mark.

This system leaves many sick people outside looking in until a cataclysmic health event occurs, and then their expenses are borne by all of us taxpayers. You'd think this would be enough to motivate conservatives to action (it involves cutting government spending, you see), but because they lack empathy, they don't see the value of preventative healthcare in the same way as they do preventative maintenance on their car.

Healthcare has, to continue the auto analogy, become a Lexus paid in cash out of the trust fund left by Mom and Dad -- or the money they pulled out of their own bootstraps -- for some. For others it's an eight-year-old Chevy with low mileage. For a few more it's a Chrysler PT Cruiser that suddenly erupts in flames as it rolls down the road.

Then there's all the people that can only afford to ride the bus, and in last, the ones who can't. Or can't even so much as walk to the bus station.

But there's a simple solution: in order to gain some control over healthcare costs, the United States must reduce and gradually eliminate the profit motive in the healthcare industry, as every other country in the world has done.

In the U.S. health care system, everything costs more. Being in a hospital cost more. Because our drugs cost more (prescription drug prices can be 10X the rate in the UK or Germany). And our doctors cost more (a US family physician makes 3X her German counterpart). Because their education costs more (the education for a German physician's education is nearly free). And on it goes.

Why is American health care so expensive? Books could be written about this topic. And books have been written about this topic. In The Healing of America, T. D. Reid explored why American medicine falls behind other countries in quality while it races far ahead in cost of care.

Near the end of the book, Reid expands on two big reasons why U.S. health care is so expensive: (1) Unlike other countries, the U.S. government doesn't manage prices; and (2) the complications created by our for-profit system adds tremendous costs.

First, it really starts with the prices. While some developed countries have one health care insurance plan for everybody -- where the government either sets prices or oversees price negotiations -- the U.S. is unique in our reliance on for-profit insurance companies to pay for both essential and elective care. Twenty cents from every $1 goes, not to health care, but to "marketing, underwriting, administration, and profit," he says. In a system where government doesn't negotiate prices down, prices will be higher. In a system where for-profit companies need profit margins and advertising, prices will be higher.

Second, the absurd complexity of U.S. health care creates its own costs. There is a separate health care system for seniors, veterans, military personnel, Native Americans, end-stage renal failure, under 16 in a poor family, over 16 in a poor family, and working for the federal government, Reid writes. That's on top of hundreds of private plans:

All these systems require another inefficiency -- the existence of compilers, middlemen who compile the bills doctors submit and shuttle them thru the payment system. The US Government Accountability Office concluded that if we could get administrative costs of our medical system down to the Canadian level, the money saved would be enough to pay for health care for all the Americans who are uninsured.

We cannot be the greatest nation on Earth if we are willing to let millions of Americans die, or go bankrupt and ultimately die because they can't afford to go to a doctor... or pay their doctor's bills. It's as simple as that.

Obamacare never came close to going far enough for my approval. Single payer was never on the table; the public option came off the table early on. So these Republicans in Congress who constantly talk about repealing Obamacare, who introduce bills calling for the repeal of Obamacare, or tack on amendments every week to unrelated legislation attempting the same thing are quite obviously part of the problem and not the solution.

Changing this system is going to require a lot of people who don't vote, many of them poor and already ailing, registering to vote... and then getting themselves to the polling place and casting a ballot.  And a lot of sick people -- not all of them poor to start with but who were impoverished by the current system -- are going to suffer and die prematurely before that happens.

We will find out over the next few years whether we can change this situation, or whether we can't. Battleground Texas gets it, and even the stupidest of elected Texas Republicans gets it. Here's hoping the people whose lives hang in the balance -- one of whom will never be David Dewhurst -- start getting it faster.

Update: The CPRIT scandal has finally drawn the attention of the Texas attorney general, who has instructed the agency to stop spending money while he probes them. What do you suppose the chances are that Greg Abbott will uncover something that reflects poorly on the governor? Answer: Perhaps good, if an investigative whitewash can be used to blackball Rick Perry out of running for re-election in 2014.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lege updates

Just a roundup of teasers here. Go to the links for more detail.

-- CPRIT has been the big issue of the session so far. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee yesterday approved a bill to reform the troubled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) authored by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound). “Our laws and rules have been twisted in ways that are disappointing and unacceptable,” Nelson said in a press release. [...] According to the Texas Tribune, SB 149 would completely restructure the leadership staff in the institute, create provisions that would prevent conflicts of interest and remove Greg Abbott and Susan Combs from their positions on the oversight committee. The bill will now go before the full Senate.

-- Yesterday morning Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, presented SB 4. Fraser seeks $2 billion to aid the state in recovering from its severe drought, the Houston Chronicle reports. He also called for the Texas Water Development Board to upgrade from part-time to full-time and scolded the group for failing to appropriately set and fulfill priorities. The committee heard invited testimony, with the expectation that public testimony will follow in the coming weeks.

Two excerpts on that water bill from the Chron. This one...

The part-time board that oversees Texas water projects has been ineffective and should be replaced by a full-time board with more funding and accountability, a state senator told colleagues Tuesday in asking for $2 billion to pay for future water needs.

Sen. Troy Fraser ... blasted the Texas Water Development Board for failing to set priorities. He said he asked the board more than two years ago to give him a list of the 50 most important water projects in the state and that he's still waiting for an answer.

Often, he said, it's difficult to get the six part-time board members on the phone to discussion the state's water issues.

"Every time you ask them a question, they give you a non-answer and that's part of the frustration I'm having," the Marble Falls Republican told his committee. "Every group believes their project is the most important and the competition between the 16 (water planning groups) at times has been problematic."

... and this one.

"It is my No. 1 point of irritation," Fraser said ... "If you ask the Water Development Board which of the 562 projects are the most important, they say they are all important."

Sen. Glenn Hegar, R- Katy, agreed: "There is a difference between a wish list and a list that actually works. What are our real priorities?"

The water issue is Speaker Straus' top priority this session, so expect to read much more about it.

-- Democratic legislators are also accelerating the removal of the codified marriage discrimination in the Texas Constitution.

-- Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) filed a measure on Monday to legalize civil unions in Texas by 2014 and partially repeal Texas’ Defense of Marriage Act. SB 480 would require first changing Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment prohibiting both same-sex marriage and civil unions, the Dallas Voice reports. Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) and Reps. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) and Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) have already filed resolutions to lift the ban. That seems unlikely. The measures would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers before being placed on statewide ballots.

Said Hinojosa:

“The creation of civil unions in Texas is critical for same-gender couples so they can be afforded the same benefits and protections that married couples enjoy. Providing legal protections, including property rights, homestead rights, child custody and support, adoption, group insurance for state employees, and worker compensation benefits, would treat same-gender couples with the dignity and respect they deserve as well as allow them the benefits to take care of their families.” 

-- Good news for brewmasters and brewpubs:

Texas lawmakers on Tuesday  introduced a package of bills that would help the state’s growing number of production breweries and the brewpub restaurants that would like to package and sell beer off-site.

  • On-site sales for breweries: Production breweries such as Houston’s Saint Arnold, which make no more than 225,000 barrels of beer annually, would be allowed to sell up to 5,000 barrels directly to customers for consumption on site each year. Take-away beer and growler fills to go still would be prohibited.
  • Off-site sales for brewpubs: Brewpubs could package beer for off-site retail sales, up to 1,000 barrels on its own and the remainder through licensed distributors. Once a brewpub reaches annual production of 12,500 barrels, it would have to stop growing or switch to a production-brewery license.
  • New limits on self-distribution: (Two bills) Breweries that produce up to 125,000 barrels annually would be allowed to self-distribute up to 40,000 barrels. Out-of-state breweries also would be allowed some self-distribution rights as well.

-- And lastly, what the Texas Observer's 'Floor Pass' blog is watching today.

1. The Senate Finance Committee, which meets this morning at 9 a.m., will hear from the Commission on Jail Standards about public safety and criminal justice, and the Department of Agriculture will present on natural resources.

2. The Senate Committee on Transportation will meet this morning at 8 a.m. and will hear testimony from the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

3. The House Public Health Committee meets today to discuss, among other issues, Obamacare and its effect on Texas.

Grits is always your go-to blog for criminal justice matters in Texas.

Update: EOW with more on other bills.

Update II, referencing #2 above... TxDOT director calls for stable highway funding system:

TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson said the agency needs at least $4 billion more each year to cover road expansion and upkeep. The proposed $20.8 billion budget would set aside just under $2.5 billion to repay debts, but caps the new construction budget at just over $1 billion.

“I think that really puts in perspective the situation that TxDOT finds itself in today, with an extremely large amount on the debt service side and a limited amount on the new construction side,” Davis told Wilson. “In my perspective we’ve really gotten upside-down in terms of providing the support for this agency that’s needed, and for you to conduct what we expect you to do.”

Gov. Rick Perry has proposed spending $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund on Texas transportation, but that would still come up short of Wilson’s request for TxDOT. Perry has suggested spending the money on building new highways and bringing old roads up to code for projects like Interstate 69.

What TxDOT needs, Wilson said today—and wrote in a letter to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst—is a new, sustainable transportation funding source.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

P Slate: Texas Constitutional Amendments

I perhaps made this post more difficult on myself than it needed to be.

First, the League of Women Voters has the comprehensive guide.

  1. Municipal Judges
  2. Assistance for Water Projects in Distressed Areas
  3. Tax Relief for Disaster Areas
  4. Personal Income Tax
  5. Sporting Goods Tax to Support State Parks
  6. Cancer Prevention & Research
  7. Funding Public Education 
  8. Flood Control
  9. Tax Exemption of Precious Metals
  10. Law Enforcement Animals

A couple of organizations have weighed in with their recommendations; among them:

 -- Progress Texas (Yes on 2, 3, 5, 8, and 10; No on 1, 4, 6, and 9, with a toss-up on 7).

-- Harris County Democrats:


I will vote Yes on 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 10.  I will vote No on 4, 6, and 9.

Prop 6 is a no for me not because I think cancer should go unfunded but because CPRIT has been wasted and abused by both Rick Perry and Greg Abbott, and there is little good that will come from giving the governor extra billions of dollars to play favorites with (on his best day).  Let's begin the process of allowing capitalism, especially healthcare capitalism, to pull itself up by its bootstraps rather than rely on handouts from the government.

(See how crappy that sounds?  Don't worry; corporations aren't people.)

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Labor Day Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance asks you to thank a union member for your long weekend -- and your paid vacation, and your health and retirement benefits -- as it brings you the best of the left of Texas from last week.


Like many people, Off the Kuff was cheered by the ruling in the school finance lawsuit.

The TXGOP had a really lousy week, and it only got worse for Greg Abbott as the Labor Day holiday weekend began. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs doesn't wonder why the attorney general is running away from debating Wendy Davis, because he can't say 'no comment' when asked about his many scandals in a debate.

Libby Shaw, now posting at Daily Kos, also observed that last week was not a particularly good one for Republican lawmakers and Greg Abbott.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson: the economy in Texas has never been miraculous. Bleeding the people dry while stockpiling cash is no miracle: Neglect and Greed.

Make no mistake, Republicans are waging a war against public education. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad that the Texas Constitution is standing in their way.

Texas Leftist applauds the Leticia Van de Putte campaign for catching Dan Patrick in a bald-faced lie. He cannot hide from the 2011 education cuts. Plus, we reveal the true reasoning behind Greg Abbott's 'Debate and Switch'.

Neil at Blog About Our Failing Money-Owned American Political System wondered why Leticia Van de Putte would look the other way at vocal supporters of her campaign who voted for the state-mandated rape of the forced sonogram law. BAOFMOAPS is one of several pages at NeilAquino.com.

McBlogger had a short take on Rick Perry's deleted Tweet.

Harold Cook answers his own question:  Does the Perry indictment bring CPRIT back into play in the governor's race?

Egberto Willies thanks President Obama for NOT having a strategy on ISIS/ISIL.

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And here's more from other blogs across the state.

Instead of having less campaign advertising on his teevee, jobsanger wishes he had more.

nonsequiteuse reminds everyone to vote if they can and to raise hell if you are blocked or otherwise prohibited from doing so.

Socratic Gadfly wryly notes that Greg Abbott just doesn't stand for very much at all.

The Texas Observer caught Rick Perry's latest "Oops": the 'lavatories of democracy', while cartoonist Ben Sargent solves the GOP’s Latino outreach problem.

Bluedaze has the news about the Earth Wind and Fire Energy Summit coming to Dallas, and Texas Vox reports on the historic clean energy plan adopted by the city of Austin.

Better Texas Blog breaks down the Texas public school finance ruling.

SciGuy reports on NASA's next step -- from design to construction -- in sending men to Mars, and State Impact Texas hopes that a budding private space industry in Texas will stabilize Midland/Odessa's boom-and-bust economy.

Beyond Bones has everything you need to know about sharks but were afraid to ask.

Nancy Sims examines the feminism of Beyonce'.

Newsdesk introduces us to the widely discredited “expert” who coached the state’s witnesses in the HB2 lawsuit.

The Lunch Tray asks if using junk food tactics to sell vegetables to kids is a good idea or not.

And finally, TransGriot has some Labor Day tidings, and the TPA congratulates The Great God Pan Is Dead for its fifth blog anniversary.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A four-year-old tale of corruption finally told: Greg Abbott and Houston Votes

The Texas attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weekend just got a whole lot worse.  From James Drew at the Dallas Morning News...

On an overcast Monday afternoon, officers in bulletproof vests swept into a house on Houston’s north side. The armed deputies and agents served a search warrant. They carted away computers, hard drives and documents.

The raid targeted a voter registration group called Houston Votes, which was accused of election fraud. It was initiated by investigators for Attorney General Greg Abbott. His aides say he is duty-bound to preserve the integrity of the ballot box.

His critics, however, say that what Abbott has really sought to preserve is the power of the Republican Party in Texas. They accuse him of political partisanship, targeting key Democratic voting blocs, especially minorities and the poor, in ways that make it harder for them to vote, or for their votes to count.

A close examination of the Houston Votes case reveals the consequences when an elected official pursues hotly contested allegations of election fraud.

The investigation was closed one year after the raid, with no charges filed. But for Houston Votes, the damage was done. Its funding dried up, and its efforts to register more low-income voters ended. Its records and office equipment never were returned. Instead, under a 2013 court order obtained by Abbott’s office, they were destroyed.

And the dramatic, heavily armed raid never was necessary, according to Fred Lewis, president of Texans Together, the nonprofit parent group of Houston Votes. “They could have used a subpoena,” he said. “They could have called us and asked for the records. They didn’t need guns.”

The previously unreported 2010 raid coincided with agitation by a local tea party group and Lewis’ testimony in the trial of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. Lewis had filed a complaint against DeLay that, in large part, led to his indictment on corruption charges.

Abbott, the Republican candidate for governor, declined interview requests. A spokesman, Jerry Strickland, said the attorney general does not recall being briefed by staff members on the Houston Votes investigation.

This is a lengthy piece, and you should set aside some time to read every word. I have a vested interest because Mo Haver (the former head of Houston Votes, mentioned prominently) is my friend, Fred Lewis is an acquaintance, and I was present at the kickoff for their mobilization four years ago.  The efforts of Houston Votes turned into a massive brouhaha -- as the article reveals -- involving three previous Harris County tax assessor-collectors: Paul Bettencourt (he's now poised to be elected state senator, replacing Dan Patrick), Leo Vasquez, and Don Sumners; the head of the now-notorious King Street Patriots/True the Vote, Catherine Engelbrecht; and a handful more of some of the most corrupt and venal Republicans in the state of Texas.

Here it might be useful to point out, via a very handy GIF, the entire substance of voter fraud in the United States.

You should read the entire DMN article, particularly for the backstory on this.

(OAG investigator Jennifer) Croswell said a Houston Votes employee had told her that scanned copies of voter registration applications were given to Lewis and several of them didn’t have personal information redacted.

That, Croswell said, was a felony violation of the Penal Code.

“You are not allowed to copy, scan, reproduce a voter registration application, period. Nobody is allowed to,” Croswell told Haver.

Haver responded that Houston Votes had received voter registration cards from the county in 2008. Printed on the cards was a note directing that copies should be kept for 18 months.

Haver’s attorney said Vasquez, the Harris County tax assessor-collector, had given copies of voter registration applications to King Street Patriots. Haver said Vasquez also displayed them during a news conference. Was that not illegal?

Croswell did not respond.

Croswell left the attorney general’s office a few months after her interview with Haver and is now an Austin police officer. She declined to comment.

And to the end.

Haver, who resigned for reasons of poor health from her job with Texans Together in January 2011, said she believes there was no prosecution because there was no “credible evidence of voter fraud or criminal behavior.”

“From the [voter] registrar to the attorney general to the district attorney, all the players were Republicans, so no one can point to partisan protection from indictment. Instead, one can point to a lack of evidence,” she said.

When Haver was interviewed by Abbott’s office in late 2010, her attorney asked if Haver could get some folders returned to her. They’d been taken in the Houston raid and contained research Haver had done on possible irregularities in how GOP officials in Harris County were handling voter registration.

Haver told the attorney general’s office that the research had no relationship to the Houston Votes investigation. “We kept following up, and they kept giving us the runaround about getting it returned,” she said recently.

In late 2013, Abbott’s office asked judges in Harris and Travis counties for permission to destroy the records seized in the two raids. The request said records contained the names of people who were not suspects, partial Social Security numbers and forged voter registration applications.

When the attorney general’s office received a green light from judges, Haver’s research, which did not contain personal identifying information, was among the materials destroyed.

As is historically the case, this development isn't likely to damage Abbott much with his true believers.  It will provide extra motivation to all those folks working with BGTX to mobilize Democratic turnout, registered and still-unregistered.

It helps everyone understand why Abbott doesn't want to do any debates.  He can't respond 'no comment' when the media asks him about things like voter "fraud" -- and Ted Nugent, and Dr. Murray, and CPRIT, and the Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman rape case, and "driving around" to ask if explosive chemicals are stored near your house, and all of the rest of his myriad of scandals -- in a debate.

And it also reveals once more the depth of the immoral, craven, opportunistic sociopath who sits in the OAG, and who hopes to sit in the Governor's Mansion next January.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Back to School Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance cautions you to drive carefully through school zones as it brings you this week's roundup of the best lefty blog posts from across the state.


Off the Kuff has had many things to say about the Rick Perry's indictments, while Harold Cook sounded some cautionary notes about them.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos notes that a little ol' indictment is not stopping Rick Perry from a POTUS run in 2016. Swaggering through New Hampshire to kiss the Koch ring, Rick Perry portrays W 2.0 in Cowboy Diplomacy Redux: Rick Perry Plays the Fear Card.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson sees the media and the Texas GOP trying to make Republicans look reasonable when it comes to expanding Medicaid. Don't fall for it: Texas Is A Wasteland For Public Support.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants everyone to remember that damn fence is just a monument to racism and fear. What else does it do except cause trouble?

Why can't Obama be more like LBJ and just get some things done, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wondered. But just in a facetious way; if we ever had another president half as badass as LBJ, we'd come to regret it.

Neil at All People Have Value went to the Texas City Buc-ee's. Neil wishes that trendy restaurants in Houston had a sign up like at the Buc-ee's saying that their staff earned a wage higher than the minimum. All People Have Value is one page of many at NeilAquino.com.

With students and teachers going back to school this week, Texas Leftist has an assignment for everyone. Is your school district one of 600 suing Greg Abbott and the Texas GOP-led legislature? Consult the list and map to see. Here's a hint... It's not just the schools in blue counties.

Egberto Willies again warns Democrats of Rand Paul's triangulation.

======================

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

Texas Vox points out the nuclear reactors that are costing Texans money without generating any electricity.

Socratic Gadfly's Greg-Abbott-movie-trailer text of the week is #CPRIT.

Beyond Bones has a problem with "Shark Week".

Lone Star Ma is still writing about National Breastfeeding Month.

The Rivard Report is not writing about gun control.

Grading Texas responds to TAB's Bill Hammond about school ratings.

Very Very Urban has a photo that's worth at least a thousand words.

Newsdesk looks at the effort to kick Eden Foods out of the Wheatsville Co-Op.

The Texas Election Law Blog has a historical analysis of the Voting Rights Act, pre-clearance, and redistricting.

Lone Star Q notes that some companies that have strong LGBT equality policies nonetheless have no problem contributing financially to candidates that oppose such equality.

'stina puts the Ice Bucket Challenge into some context.

And finally, kudos to Media Matters For America for recognizing the difference between how the Texas press covered the Rick Perry indictment and how the national press covered it. To help some of those national pundits understand what the indictments are about, Craig McDonald and Andrew Wheat of Texans for Public Justice wrote a piece for Politico explaining why they filed their complaint in the first place.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Abbott's bad news week got a little worse

It seems like the GOP was just wringing their hands and clucking their tongues last week about a low blow against Dan Patrick.  Was that just last week?!

I think they got a little upset about it, got more determined that it was going to propel Patrick to victory, too.  Didn't they say that?

A poster depicting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis as “Abortion Barbie” was unveiled in Los Angeles on Thursday in advance of her Hollywood fundraiser and bankrolled by a conservative Midland woman.

Kathryn Stuard told the San Antonio Express-News she donated an undisclosed amount to conservative street artist “Sabo” to create the posters, which portray Davis' face over a semi-naked Barbie doll with an exposed fetus in the womb.

The posters say: “Hollywood welcomes Abortion Barbie Wendy Davis” and have large pair of scissors next to the doll.

[...]

Davis is in Hollywood for a fundraiser hosted by celebrities such as director Steven Spielberg in Southern California.

How many votes do they think this tactic switched from Davis to Abbott?  And how many new Republican voters do they think they recruited?

By contrast, how many more Democrats -- in Texas, California, and elsewhere --  are going to write a check to Davis, or make some phone calls, maybe even pitch in on a voter registration drive or a block walk, and then get their sisters and daughters and granddaughters to the poll in November?  When otherwise they might not?

This might be a good thing.  And not for Greg Abbott.  So I kinda hope he ignores the calls to denounce this artist and this supporter and does his usual thing: clam up, hide from the media, wait for the storm to blow over -- like Ted Nugent and Charles Murray and CPRIT and all the rest, in other words.

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, and don't get too sunburned, singe your fingers on the barbecue grill, or get overheated talking about this development with your neighbors. You know, the ones who don't usually vote.

Update: The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon also has a few things you can do.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Greg Abbott's Scandal O' Week, shared with Rick Perry

It's an old scandal, but as new details emerge, the boil continues to fester and ooze.  Wayne Slater, tying all the latest strings together.  (My emphasis below.)

A political group allied with Wendy Davis opened an attack Monday using cancer survivors to highlight allegations Republicans Greg Abbott and Rick Perry benefited from money designed for cancer research.



The Progress Texas political committee began airing an online video accusing the state leaders of complicity in the scandal. One cancer agency official has been indicted, the agency board has been replaced and a grand jury is investigating. Perry, who is considering another race for president, was instrumental in creation of the state cancer research agency. Agency grants have gone to political donors. As attorney general, Abbott was on the oversight board that failed to take action to avoid questionable grants, including at least one to an Abbott campaign donor.

After The Dallas Morning News first broke stories raising questions about funding problems, Abbott’s office announced it would investigate what went wrong at the Cancer Prevention and Research Fund. That announcement put Abbott in the position of investigating an agency over which his office already had oversight. That means the attorney general potentially is looking into the behavior of board members who are his campaign donors. Abbott says he sees no problems with these arrangements.

A grand jury investigation of Rick Perry is now under way for his threatening to withhold state funding for the Travis County District Attorney – while she was investigating activities at the cancer research fund. Perry has denied any wrongdoing.

More from Jonathan Tilove at the Statesman.

“When I found out the money had been misspent, at first I was angry, extremely angry. I mean, these are people’s lives. You go through anger, disbelief, shock, then you want to get even,” Becky Arreaga, an Austin business owner, says in the ad, in which she is joined by Austinites Kerry Tate, a homebuilder, and Berry Crowley, an attorney, and Pat Pangburn, a Dallas homemaker.

[...]

The gist of the attack on Abbott is that campaign donors were also investors in companies that received grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas — known as CPRIT — that had not been properly vetted, and that Abbott, who was part of the oversight board for the agency, turned a blind eye, not even attending the board meetings.

This is the same old cancer cronyism we've known about for a couple of years now.

In another time, place, or state, this would be a bombshell.  The presumptive governor-in-waiting would be forced to publicly address the accusations of corruption, and would be then held to account for his unethical conduct by the voters.  Of all political persuasions.

But this is Texas, and this is Rick Perry and Greg Abbott.  And they are Republicans.  And that's how Texas Republicans roll.  Abbott will go into hiding from the media for a week or two, while Perry will adjust his glasses, fly to Iowa with his state-paid Texas Rangers security team in tow (the tab is almost $3 million now), says "aw-shucks" and "second chances", and Republican primary voters will snort and say it's all just another liberal media conspiracy.

Facts cannot frack any understanding into their skulls.

We'd all like to think that it will be different this time around, but I'm not confident it will.

Update: Like cockroaches, built to last.

In the case of Perry and Abbott, it's as if both are trying to out-cockroach each other. Rick Perry's entire time in office has been one of bribery, slush-funds, under-the-table-payments for appointments and a million other gubernatorial transgressions. Maybe that's why he chose to be re-baptized recently. Nothing less than the Pacific Ocean will wash his political sins away.

And what of Greg Abbott? He wants to sacrifice four-year-olds to Pearson, the omnipotent gods of testing, but only for informational purposes. He hangs out with pedophiles and misogynists and worst of all, while he served as watchdog, on the Oversight Board of Cancer Research Institute, his donors' companies received $42 million of Texas' taxpayer money.

[...]

In spite of all the proof, the publicity, the news stories, and all the examples of backroom deals, illegal grant writing, and garden variety political theft, voters will continue their present state of passivity and continue to vote for the political profiteers based solely upon the single letter beside the candidate's name.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wendy Davis' new communications director

Appears to be just what she needs.

Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis’ campaign for governor has hired U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s former communications director.

Zac Petkanas, Davis’ new communications director, most recently was senior communications adviser for the Nevada State Democratic Party.

Before that, Petkanas was Reid’s communications director, and he was deputy communications director for Reid’s re-election campaign.

Not the 'Harry Reid' part.  This 'smashmouth' part.

In just the last few days, some members of the Capitol Press Corps have noticed a shift in how the Davis campaign is interacting with us. It also seems, for the moment at least, that the Davis folks are more nimble than before in reacting to events and seizing on chances to drive their narrative in the press.

[...]

After joining the Davis team, one of Petkanas’ first online statements about GOP nominee for governor Greg Abbott was that after the AG “campaigned with sex predator & fought equal pay for women, no wonder new GOP PAC hitting panic button in Texas." That’s apparently a reference to a new political action committee called Red State Women. As the name suggests, it’s an effort aimed at women here. It is also, one could argue, an attempt to counter any chance Davis might have at convincing GOP women to cross over and vote for the Democrat in November.

Even better is seeing the press releases this week also.

-- "Davis: Abbott took huge pay increase but fights equal pay for equal work" (on March 12, the same as his Tweet linked above)

-- DAVIS CAMPAIGN SLAMS ABBOTT’S SILENCE ON POTENTIALLY UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR ON CPRIT BOARD (yesterday)

The campaign Tweeted this to emphasize the first one, and Wayne Slater at the Dallas News wrote this in response to the second one.  So I would say Zac is off to a fast start.

Davis is in Beaumont today pumping up her volunteers, and my mother wants to go, so maybe I'll get a word or a photo with the candidate.  If I do, you'll hear about it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

TPA's Texans of the Year are the Tar Sands Blockaders

The Texas Progressive Alliance, a consortium of Lone Star-based liberal weblogs, has selected the protesters of the Tar Sands Blockade as Texans of the Year for 2012.

The award has been given annually to the person, or persons or organization, who had the most significance influence -- for good or ill -- on the advancement of progressive interests and causes over the past twelve months.

"As with previous winners (like Fort Worth city council member Joel Burns in 2010, the Harris County Democratic Party's coordinated campaign in 2008, and Carolyn Boyle of Texas Parent PAC in 2006), the Tar Sands Blockaders represent what progressive Texans strive for: correcting injustices through direct action. Sometimes that takes place at the ballot box, sometimes in the courtroom, and once in a while it happens in the streets. In 2012, it happened in a handful of pine trees in East Texas," said Vince Leibowitz, president of the TPA.

The Tar Sands Blockade began when TransCanada, the company constructing the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, began seizing property from East Texans via eminent domain to connect the pipeline, which will transport tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur. Despite the fact that the pipeline hasn't yet been approved by the US Department of State,TransCanada and other operators have been busily cutting down swaths of forest, appropriating the land along the route as necessary, and when challenged by the small group of people protesting, responded with threatening measures and occasionally brute force.

When petitioning, lobbying, and public hearings failed to slow the construction of the pipeline, concerned citizens took to non-violent protests, risking arrest in order to demonstrate the will and demands of Texans concerned about the environment, about the nation's continuing dependence on dirty fuels, and the collaboration of government officials with the corporate interests. A group of protestors climbed into a stand constructed in a grove of pine trees and halted construction for weeks.

The movement began in June of 2012 with the formation of the Tar Sands Blockade, and the first lawsuit was filed in July.

As construction began in August, protestors began putting themselves on the line. Seven protestors were arrested in Livingston, Texas just before the Labor Day holiday. Even as a judge allowed TransCanada to seize a swath of farmland in Paris, Texas, more protestors chained themselves to construction equipment in rural Hopkins County.

The New York Times and the Washington Post picked up the story in October.

Along with the property owner, actress and activist Daryl Hannah was arrested as the two women physically blocked a piece of heavy equipment and its operator from clearing land for the pipeline. Even as the number of arrests climbed past thirty, the protests grew. A few days before the November election, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was arrested at the construction site in Winnsboro. In Cherokee County, sheriff's deputies pepper-sprayed protesters. All of this occurred while the legal battle went back and forth -- in December, a judge granted, then vacated, his temporary restraining order on pipeline construction.

And the efforts to stop the pipeline continue today, even as its construction proceeds apace. On November 29, Bob Lindsey and prominent environmental activist Diane Wilson were arrested by Harris County sheriff's deputies outside Valero's refinery in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, where the pipeline will terminate. They chained themselves to tanker trucks outside the gates, were promptly taken into custody, and continue a hunger strike to this day that adds the humiliating and disgusting conditions of Harris County's jail to the list of outrages.

With training and mobilization of additional protests and protestors scheduled for early January, 2013, there will be more to report on this action.

The Texas Progressive Alliance salutes those who have sacrificed so much of themselves to underscore the seriousness of America's fossil fuel addiction, and how the system of corporate and political corruption has come to manifest itself in the controversy surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline.

Runners-up for this year's Texan of the Year included the following...

-- The emerging scandal of the Texas cancer research organization, CPRIT;

-- The spectacular failure of Governor Rick Perry's presidential campaign;

-- Attorney General Greg Abbott's woeful losing record in court in his many lawsuits related to the federal government, including redistricting, voter ID, Obamacare, etc.;

-- Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who defied conventional wisdom and was re-elected to the Texas Senate despite the best efforts of Republicans to deny her;

-- The expansion of the Texas Congressional delegation to 36 as a result of the 2010 census and apportionment of extra seats based on population growth in the Lone Star State. New Texans in Washington DC include former Democratic state representatives Pete Gallego and Marc Veazey, but also -- and unfortunately -- ultraconservatives Randy Weber and Steve Stockman.