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October 21st, 2003:

How the other half votes

I’m not exactly sure how “The Kuffner Family” got on a mailing list for the Conservative Republicans of Harris County, but we got their voting guide for the upcoming election in the mail yesterday. As a public service, here’s who they recommend. I trust you will use it as a guide of whom to avoid, something that’s not always obvious on these nonpartisan ballots. Click on the More link for the list. I’ll publish my own endorsements later this week.

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TAB gives it up

The Texas Association of Business has finally surrendered documents to Travis County investigators who are looking to see if secret donations had been made last year that helped pay for campaign ads.

Since January, the association has fought — and lost — at every appellate level to stop the investigation into how it raised and spent $1.9 million in secret corporate donations in 24 state legislative campaigns.

Association President Bill Hammond refused to surrender correspondence, billing records and other details about the ads. Association employees Jack Campbell and Cathy DeWitt refused to testify about their roles in the ad campaign.

[…]

State law forbids corporations from spending corporate money for electioneering. [TAB attorney Andy] Taylor said his client’s ads were beyond regulation because they educated voters without advocating election or defeat of candidates.

The association’s argument that the ads were protected free speech would be undercut if [Travis County DA Ronnie] Earle proves coordination between the association and the candidates or their campaigns.

We’ll see what happens next. Individual donor names are currently blacked out per agreement with the judge and the DA’s office. The investigators are looking for evidence that the TAB was in bed with the candidates.

You can see all of the Statesman’s coverage of this story, which kicks the Chron’s butt from here to Galveston, here. The Austin Chronicle has also been all over it.

Interview with a war correspondent

Hope has a friend who’s a reporter for the Associated Press, and he was kind enough to respond to a few questions she emailed him. He spent time in Afghanistan and was embedded in Iraq, and he’s now in East Africa. Check it out.

Be careful what you wish for

It would appear that some of Rep. John Culberson’s constituents are not happy with his ideas about mobility solutions.

Residents of the 7th congressional district this week launched a petition to oust U.S. Representative John Culberson. Leading the effort is Paul Staton a Katy freeway daily commuter who accused Culberson of representing the Texas highway lobby and not the “little guy stuck on the freeway” when it comes to local transportation issues.

Staton is a longtime Houston oilman who identifies politically as independent. He said he is just one in a “groundswell” of voters who first bristled when Culberson referred to opponents of the I-10 expansion project as “environmental whackos” on a local talk radio call-in show lastyear.

Culberson denied making the remarks even after he repeated them at a town hall meeting weeks later.

“He’s not a bad man and we’re not trying to be malicious, but we’re his constituents and he needs to treat us better,” Staton said. He called Culberson a bully and accused him of using intimidation tactics to try to kill the Metro light rail plan.

Culberson drew fire last month when he sponsored legislation requiring Metro to list each section of rail on the November 4 ballot.

[…]

Staton said in three weeks he plans to collect 1,000 signatures, enough, he hopes, to get the Congressman’s attention. He says he’s using word of mouth and a free web site to advance the cause.

“This isn’t militancy, it’s not an attack. It’s just the only way we could get his attention,” he said. “In the strongest terms we’re shouting out please listen to us.”

Culberson said it won’t matter how many names Staton collects. The only way he’ll leave office, is if constituents vote him out in 2004.

Far be it from me to pee in someone’s punch bowl, but I checked Staton’s petition this morning, and as of then he had 24 names. Even if he succeeds at getting 1000 signatures, he’s unlikely to impress a man who had no Democratic opponent in 2002 (beating a Libertarian candidate by 90,000 votes) and who crushed a Democrat by 120,000 votes in 2000 after the seat had been vacated by Bill Archer. Maybe 10,000 names would get Culberson to take a look, but you’re still a long way off from threatening him.

On the other hand, if the new Congressional map does stand up in court, Culberson may have bought himself a bigger pro-rail constituency.

In the new map adopted by the Legislature, the Texas Medical Center and the University of Texas Medical Center move into the 7th District of U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston.

The rail line that’s now under construction, which any future Metro expansion will connect to, runs right through the Medical Center and is intended to relieve the godawful traffic and even worse parking in that part of town. Culberson may well find that the folks who live and work around there take a different view of rail than the people in Hunter’s Creek and Memorial. It’d be pretty funny if Culberson and his anti-rail fervor were some day jeopardized by the Medical Center getting redistricted into CD 7.

Van de Putte retracts remark, accepts apology

From the Things That Happened While I Was Out Department: Sen. Leticia Van de Putte has retracted her charge that a Republican Senator, whom she has not named, made an ethnic slur to her in the presence of others.

The San Antonio Democrat also said the unidentified senator has apologized and called it “a closed matter.”

“I have nothing but respect for the men and women of the Texas Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike,” Van de Putte told the San Antonio Express-News after the Legislature adjourned. “And I am withdrawing any statements about comments in the members lounge.”

“What does that mean?” asked Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, among the 19 Senate Republicans who signed a letter to Van de Putte demanding she reveal who made the comment or retract her story.

“At a minimum, she’s admitting she misspoke,” Wentworth said. “I guess it’s a step in the right direction.”

[…]

Van de Putte said she had intended to retract the account in remarks on the Senate floor Sunday during debate on a motion to remove 11 Democratic senators from probation — a penalty leveled by the GOP majority after the Democrats returned from holding out in New Mexico at the start of the session.

But the matter wasn’t taken up, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said, because there was not a majority in favor of lifting probation.

Van de Putte said she fielded an apology for the slur after it became public last week.

“Apology was made. Apology accepted,” she said. “It’s a closed matter.”

Wentworth said Van de Putte’s comment about the apology “continues to leave a cloud over all Republican senators. That is unfair.”

Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, informed of Van de Putte’s withdrawal, called the action “ambiguous” and said the 31 senators might need to sort out the issue in a closed-door caucus.

“The case would be closed if she were more forthcoming,” Janek said. “If it (the slur) was said, someone needs to come clean.

“If it wasn’t said, someone else needs to come clean.”

I suppose that’s the last we’ll hear of this, and I must say I have some sympathy for what Wentworth and Janek are saying. The most charitable explanation I can come up with is that she simply (and rather thoroughly) misheard something, and no one recognizes what it was that she actually heard. There must be some collegiality left in the Senate if Wentworth and Janek’s seeming willingness to let the matter drop is any measure, and for that she ought to be grateful.

There’s another possible interpretation of what happened, given more recent relevations that she’s experiencing health problems.

Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte revealed Thursday she is undergoing treatment for a serious medical condition, but is “absolutely not resigning” from the Texas Senate.

The San Antonio senator, who’ll be undergoing more tests today for several tumors found in her thyroid and other areas, responded to rumors raised by an online publication that she may step down from the Senate.

“This is a health problem but it’s not something worth resigning over,” said Van de Putte, 49, who has been under fire recently for alleging an unnamed Republican senator directed racist comments at her.

Van de Putte, up for re-election in 2004, said she went in for routine exams last week and a shadow appeared on one of the test results.

She declined to be more specific until doctors perform biopsies to determine a diagnosis.

“The weekend was kind of a scary time,” she said. “People need to be reminded to get stuff checked.”

Who knows, maybe that had an effect on what she thought she heard. In any event, whatever else may be the case, I’m sure we all wish her well with her diagnosis and treatment. Let’s hope she has some good news.

District H candidates overview

It’s District H’s turn to get a quick candidate overview in the Chron. No one says anything shocking or profound in the two paragraphs or so they’re allotted, but if you’re still unfamiliar with the names this ought to help.

I came home last night to find a message on our voice mail from Adrian Garcia. Apparently, Diane Mosier of the Heights Democratic Caucus emailed him about my earlier blog ruminations as well. I called him back and we had a nice chat. As it happens, I received a mailer from his campaign yesterday, the first one I’d gotten from him (I’d gotten several from the obviously well-financed Longoria campaign prior to this), and later in the evening a call from a campaign volunteer asking for support. Garcia didn’t get off to an early start, but he’s making up for it now. I also noticed while walking the dog yesterday that yard signs, mostly for him with a few for Gonzalo Camacho thrown in, have sprouted up all over. Early voting has started, Election Day is two weeks off – play ball!