Couple of news items of interest regarding everyone's favorite political chameleon, Carole Keeton Strayhorn. First, a little backscratching on taxes.
In early June, a lawyer and an accountant who represent businesses challenging taxes collected by state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's office met with a legal adviser to Strayhorn. By month's end, the visitors and their colleagues had given more than $400,000 to Strayhorn's gubernatorial campaign - 13 percent of the $3 million she raised from January through June.
Strayhorn's office said Monday that there was nothing inappropriate about the confab initiated by an Austin lawyer and a Dallas tax consultant. Aides said talk focused on drafting plans for rules implementing the business tax created by lawmakers in a spring special session.
"It was kind of an innocuous meeting," said Tim Mashburn, the agency's general counsel, who hosted the visitors. "I have an open-door policy. Anyone who calls and comes by is going to get to talk to me."
Mashburn said there was no mention of campaign donations. "Absolutely not."
He was echoed by Jesse Ancira, associate deputy comptroller, who said he reminds agency directors at weekly meetings about the wall between politics and government. "I would hope that (mention) would never occur," Ancira said.
Democrat Chris Bell's campaign, which learned of the meeting through documents it received after an open records request, disagreed, saying the meeting and donations raise questions about possible political abuses of the office responsible for collecting state taxes and determining refunds.
Last September, the State Auditor's Office reported that more than 750 taxpayers received $461 million in tax credits and refunds from the comptroller's office less than a year after they or their representatives donated to Strayhorn's campaign.
Auditors said they were not implying wrongdoing by anyone, though they recommended that lawmakers prohibit contributions to the comptroller or comptroller candidates from a person or group, such as a law practice or an accounting firm, that represents taxpayers before the office.
Bell spokesman Jason Stanford said Monday: "Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's right. You shouldn't take money from people you regulate. It's unethical."
Strayhorn had been named as a defendant by Edd Hendee, executive director of Citizens Lowering Our Unfair Texas, which filed the lawsuit in June. But in a court filing last week, Strayhorn said she wanted to be aligned with CLOUT.
She said she "welcomes and urges" a review of the issues presented in the lawsuit, which is pending in state district court in Travis County.
Hendee is asking the court to enforce a provision in the Texas Constitution that limits the state budget from growing more than the state's economy.
Hendee said he is "heartened" by Strayhorn's response and said he wished the other officials would join her lead.
"I question why a private citizen should have to go to court to see that the constitution is followed," he said.
Anyway. LST has all the lawsuit info - the original filing, the state's response, and Strayhorn's response (all PDFs). I tried to find the state's brief, but no one at the Attorney General's office had a clue where I could find it - the closest I got to an answer was a suggestion to check the court's website. Of course, they couldn't tell me what court to look for. Way to keep the public informed, Greg Abbott!Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 25, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack