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March 5th, 2004:

Perry attacks rumors, bloggers

So now that the rumors of his infidelity and impending divorce have been discredited and mostly disappeared from the discourse, Governor Perry has gone to the effort of calling in the Statesman to work up a high dudgeon and deny everything, while simultaneously trashing the state Democrats and the Burnt Orange Report for speaking about those rumors. And you know, even though politics is a very dirty business, and even though Perry was a full participant in an extremely nasty campaign in 2002, a campaign that included an allegation by the Perry camp that Tony Sanchez was directly responsible for the death of a DEA agent in Mexico, I was almost on the verge of feeling a twinge of sympathy for him. But then I read this from the Quorum Report.

What a fascinating turn of events today.

After months of the Governor’s office trying to keep the lid on trashmouth rumors, they came out swinging. Governor Perry granted a full-tilt above the fold style interview in this morning’s Austin American Statesman.

Shortly afterwards, First Lady Anita Perry issued a statement (Word doc).

Then Press Secretary Kathy Walt issued a statement (Word doc) castigating Democrats for rumor-mongering. Within minutes, Republican Party Chair Tina Benkiser issued her own statement (Word doc) blistering her Democratic counterpart for spreading the rumors at political events.

But what is remarkably curious about the turn of events is the change of attitude in the Governor’s office just as the rumor seems to have disappeared.

For well over a month, the Governor’s office had acted to suppress the story, relying on journalist’s disdain for airing sordid and unverifiable rumors.

Last week, we posted, “Enough is Enough” which was widely read and distributed in the political community.

The Governor’s press office told us that the day after the Thursday posting was the first time in weeks that they did not have to field a single call on the rumor. And press interest has been all but non-existent since then.

So why revive it and come out guns blazing on Friday, just in time to feed the Sunday editions after the story had all but disappeared.

And ironically, why start their own rumors that it was a conspiracy driven by Democrats to defame the Governor. At one point, the people around the Governor were pointing fingers at other Republican officeholders as sources. Our experience here at QR was that Republicans were at least as guilty of driving the rumors as were Democrats.

So, without putting any evidence on the table, the Governor’s office has revived a near moribund rumor to drive a rumor in the form of an accusation.

Maybe it was to divert attention from the drop in his numbers as measured by the Texas Poll to be released tomorrow.

Just a guess on our part, but we would not be surprised to see the next iteration of this melodrama tying the unsubstantiated charge of a “partisan smear by Democrats” with what Republicans allege is the “partisan witchhunt” of the Democratic Travis County District Attorney.

Emphasis mine. There are many things that went through my head as I read that, but it all basically boils down to this: Screw you, Governor.

Here is Charles Soechting’s response to Perry’s attack on him. Here is more on Tina Benkiser’s petition to disembowel Ronnie Earle. And here, from the Quorum Report, is the news about Perry’s precipitous poll drop:

This weekend, the Texas Poll will report that Governor Rick Perry’s approval rating has dropped 29 points since 2001. He now has a 40% approval rating and a 50% disapproval rating.

We checked it out after recieving a statement from the Governor’s press office.

“Governor Perry governs by principle, not polls. Governor Perry has demonstrated leadership by tackling tough issues like solving budgetary problems without raising taxes, creating jobs and expanding the economy, and improving our children’s education. The governor will continue to make tough decisions that are in the best interest of all Texans, regardless of polls.”

Sweet. May you have to work for a living from 2006 on, Governor.

Baseball Day

This is an idea I can get behind: Make baseball’s Opening Day a national holiday. It’s especially appealing for those of us who get no holidays between New Year’s and Memorial Day – we could use something to break the long dry spell. Via Kos.

Am I my brother’s lobbyist?

Forwarded to me from the Congress Daily:

HE AIN’T HEAVY. How hard can it be to lobby the Hill when your name is DeLay? Just ask Randolph DeLay, brother of House Majority Leader DeLay. Last week, DeLay the lobbyist registered to work the halls of Congress for Reeves County, Texas, on appropriations and “negotiating [an] intergovernmental agreement with the Bureau of Prisons.” Lucky for him his brother left the Appropriations Committee when he became majority leader, or some people might get the wrong idea.

Yes, we wouldn’t want to get the wrong idea, now would we?

New nickels

The US Mint will be rolling out new nickels soon to commemorate the Louisiana Purchase, then even more new ones with a Lewis & Clark theme.

Millions of the new nickels have been shipped to the Federal Reserve, supplier of the nation’s cash. They should start showing up in change in several weeks, say officials of the U.S. Mint.

“This marks the first time in more than half a century that Americans will see a new design on their nickels,” said Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore, who showed off the new coins today.

On the back of the new nickels, Jefferson’s home, Monticello, is replaced with a scene that commemorates the Louisiana Purchase.

The back of the new nickels now headed into circulation bear the words “United States of America,” “Louisiana Purchase” and “1803.” There is an image of hands clasped in friendship — one with a military cuff to symbolize the U.S. government, and the other with an ornate bracelet to represent American Indians.

Above the clasped hands is a tomahawk crossed by a peace pipe. The images are similar to those on Jefferson Peace Medals, which were presented ceremonially to Indian chiefs and other important leaders. Below the clasped hands are the Latin words “E Pluribus Unum” (meaning “Out of many, one”), and hugging the bottom of the coin is the denomination: “Five Cents.”

Approximately 900 million of these new nickels have been made.

Another nickel honoring the 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark expedition will be released in the late summer or early fall, Mint officials say.

I collected coins as a kid, so I’m always interested in news like this. I’ve never had a pre-Jefferson nickel in my possession – “collecting” coins back then meant keeping all the pre-1959 wheat pennies and other older coins I’d get as change. Other than one Liberty dime and a couple of 1943 non-copper pennies, I never did find anything really unusual. I’d love to see some more variation in our coins, just because it’d be cool.

One last thing: Look at the picture of the new nickel. Is it just me, or does that peace pipe look like something you’d find in a bag of golf clubs?

Hitch in Enron building sale

Uh oh. The sale of the Enron building has hit a snag over promised tax abatements.

ChevronTexaco spokesman Mickey Driver said Thursday that the San Ramon, Calif.-based oil giant assumed it would get millions in tax breaks from the city and Harris County before finalizing the purchase of the property at 1500 Louisiana.

White has forwarded to City Council a proposed 10-year tax abatement on $64 million in improvements and furniture that would reduce the company’s tax payments to the city by $3.5 million. ChevronTexaco still would pay full taxes on the building’s current assessed value of $79.3 million, which would bring the city $520,000 a year.

The abatement would average 89 percent of the investment, significantly more than the city’s standard abatement of 56 percent. The city has offered similar deals on three of its more than 40 abatements. Council members are scheduled to vote on the proposal next week.

But county officials so far have balked at giving ChevronTexaco a similar offer, primarily because White’s announcement made it seem to them that ChevronTexaco had already decided to ink the deal. Abatements typically are used to lure companies into an area when they are considering other locations.

“The ChevronTexaco project was announced before the request for the abatement was made,” said Harris County Judge Robert Eckels. “That indicates the abatement is not necessary as part of the economic decision. We have in the past denied abatements to folks who have previously announced their plans.”

In a memo sent to county commissioners, David Turkel, Harris County’s director of community and economic development, said an unnamed ChevronTexaco representative “was very distressed to learn that they would not qualify for an exemption.”

“He opined that the mayor told them they would have no problem with the county,” Turkel wrote.

Turkel said the representative was Tim Relyea, vice chairman of New York-based Cushman & Wakefield, which is brokering the proposed purchase. Relyea could not be reached after he was identified.

Driver and White spokesman Frank Michel vehemently denied that White made any such promises.

The proposed abatement applies to $45 million in improvements and $19 million in new furniture, the latter of which Turkel said would violate county policy because the items depreciate quickly. It also is higher than typical county abatements, he said.

Commissioner Steve Radack said he agreed with Turkel’s analysis.

“If they’re willing to cut the citizens of Harris County a big break on the price they pay for gasoline, let’s talk,” Radack said.

Neither Driver nor Relyea would directly answer whether the deal could fall through if the county does not provide an abatement.

“Our answer to that question is we think we qualify both for the city and county abatements, and we assume we’re going to get them once we explain the situation to those folks,” Driver said.

He said ChevronTexaco had originally planned to close the purchase by mid-March but that will probably be delayed. The only remaining snag is the issue of the abatements, he said.

On the one hand, you won’t catch me shedding tears because a megacorporation failed to get a tax break. On the other hand, so much for all that county-city cooperation we heard about last month. I think in the end, Eckels and Radack are too inherently pro-big business to hold the line on this. They may demand some kind of tribute for not being properly notified, but I believe the deal will go through with ChevronTexaco getting most of what they thought they were getting.