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February 6th, 2006:

Why she runs

Mary Beth Harrell is back with another Kos diary, this one about why she decided to run for Congress. Check it out.

I see that David Harris and John Courage are on their way to Washington, DC for tomorrow’s Band of Brothers event. I don’t see anything on this in Google News as yet, but I’m hopeful it’ll get some coverage. We’ll see.

Finally, if you’re in the Sugar Land area this afternoon, Nick Lampson is holding an education roundtable at 4 PM. Click the More link for details.

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Early voting starts in HD48 runoff

Early voting has begun in the HD48 runoff between Donna Howard and Ben Bentzin. Howard’s been piling up the endorsements, from the Texas Parent PAC, the Texas Academy of Family Physicians PAC, and the Statesman. Meanwhile, Team Bentzin gets off a silly attack ad (which you can see here) that links Howard to a new high school in Eanes that was also supported by Margaret Spellings (nee LaMontagne), Jerry (Mr. Karen) Hughes, and Turd Blossom his own self, Karl Rove. Don’t take my word for it – see the letter they signed in support of it. Oops.

On a different comic note, Bentzin has been sued by his children’s former nanny, who alleges, among other things, that he made her do a lot of unpaid overtime. In the Pink has the details.

Finally, the Strange Bedfellows blog notes that the DeLay fundraisers scheduled for this evening have apparently been postponed. The Jeffersonian has more.

The Rodriguez-Cuellar debate

Today’s debate between Ciro Rodriguez and Henry Cuellar was liveblogged here. (Victor Morales was not invited.) I’m guessing this will be more thorough than any news coverage, but I’ll wait until I see some coverage before I say for sure.

By my count, over $55K has been raised on the three ActBlue pages for Ciro Rodriguez. Not too bad for a “one-day story”.

Abram has a BOR diary that gives an overview of CD28. While it is true that Bush won 52.5% of the vote there in 2004, that’s not the whole story. None of the other three statewide Republicans did nearly as well – Victor Carillo got 45.8%, Mike Keasler 44.4%, and Scott Brister 47.1%. Basically, the Democrats easily carried the Bexar and Webb County portions, while the Republicans took the rest by comparable margins.

Finally, DavidNYC explores the question of whether or not Henry Cuellar could switch parties and run as a Republican nominee for CD28 in the event Ciro ousts him in March. Far as he can tell, the answer is no.

Thin Reed

The Texas Observer advances the ball again in the Tigua Casino scandal, with evidence suggesting that Christian Coalition activist/bagman Ralph Reed broke the law by acting as an unregistered lobbyist. Here’s a taste:

In 2001, legally questionable Texas casinos operated by the Tigua tribe in El Paso and the Alabama-Coushatta tribe in Livingston competed with tribal gambling operations in Louisiana. East Texas’ Alabama Coushatta lacked the autonomy that comes with formal federal recognition, making them subject to a state law prohibiting casino gambling. The Tiguas did obtain federal recognition in 1987, but only after they mollified critics by pledging to obey Texas gaming laws. The Tiguas later argued that Texas cleared the way for a tribal casino in 1991, when voters approved racetracks and a state lottery. The courts ultimately shot down the tribe’s legal theory. Facing legal threats from then-Attorney General John Cornyn, who soon would persuade the courts to shut down these casinos (see “No Picnic at Speaking Rock,” December 17, 2004), the Texas-based tribes backed state legislation to legalize their casinos. Killing this bill (House Bill 514) was a top objective of the rival Louisiana Coushatta tribe, which paid Abramoff’s lobby firm $1.8 million in 2001. Abramoff-Reed correspondence reveals that Abramoff paid Reed to work on this effort. As he previously did for Channel One in Alabama, Reed created a front group to run attack ads against this gambling legislation. Last year the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Reed secretly hired Houston lobbyist Andrew Biar to create this so-called Committee Against Gambling Expansion.

Abramoff-Reed e-mails also suggest that Reed and his shop may have engaged in the kind of paid contact with Texas officials that can trigger a legal obligation to register as a lobbyist. In a January 2002 e-mail exchange discussing then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn’s litigation to shut down the Tiguas’ casino, Reed assured Abramoff that, “we are discussing this with the head of the [attorney general’s] criminal division today.”

Perhaps illustrating how toxic Abramoff’s name has become, the Observer could not find anyone who would admit to being deputy attorney general of criminal justice in January 2002. The preponderance of evidence points to Michael McCaul, who was elected in 2004 to represent one of Tom DeLay’s newly minted congressional districts. Yet Rep. McCaul’s spokesperson said that his boss had been replaced by that time by Shane Phelps, a one-time opponent of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. Now a Brazos County prosecutor, Phelps told the Observer that McCaul succeeded Phelps in that post, not vice versa. The Observer then found a December 2002 attorney general release announcing the replacement of “acting Deputy for Criminal Justice” Don Clemmer, who had served in that post “since Michael McCaul joined the U.S. Attorney’s for the Western District of Texas.” A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney said that McCaul joined that federal office in October 2002 – nine months after Reed’s team reportedly met with Cornyn’s deputy attorney general. At press time, a spokesman for Rep. McCaul called and admitted that the congressman in fact had been the deputy attorney general at the time but had “never had any contact with” Ralph Reed, Century Strategies, or the Texas or national Christian Coalition.

In another January 2002 message Abramoff directed Reed to recruit cooperative Texas and Alabama lawmakers, dubbed “tigers,” to introduce legislation that would exclude companies that do business with Indian casinos from state contracting. “Easy to get our tigers to introduce them [bills] in both places,” Reed responds. What such correspondence fails to establish, however, is if Reed and Century Strategies directly lobbied Texas officials, as the e-mails suggest, or if Reed was bearing false witness to rationalize millions of dollars in gambling fees.

Read the whole thing. It’s no wonder that Ralph’s fellow Republicans in Georgia are urging him to drop out of the race for Lieutenant Governor there.

Meanwhile, in a largely-unnoticed section of the Abramoff Scandal-Go-Round, Mary Beth has been collecting and tying together a lot of threads between Abramoff, various Congressional Republicans such as Richard Pombo, and Interior Secretary Gale Norton, all of which has to do with the Cobell v. Norton lawsuit. Start here, read The Story So Far in this Kos diary, and refer back to this category page for the rest of the research.

I Can’t Get No [bleep]

Pardon my French, but WTF?

They may not have flashed any body parts — except for Mick Jagger’s well-toned stomach — but the Rolling Stones made ABC glad editors were on duty for the Super Bowl halftime show.

Two sexually explicit lyrics were excised from the rock legends’ performance Sunday. The only song to avoid the editor was “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” a 41-year-old song about sexual frustration.

In “Start Me Up,” the show’s editors silenced one word, a reference to a woman’s sexual sway over a dead man. The lyrics for “Rough Justice” included a synonym for rooster that the network also deemed worth cutting out.

So “Start Me Up”, the erstwhile theme song for Windows 95 and such a vital component of the Classic Rock radio format that I’d bet it’s playing right now on a Clear Channel station somewhere in the US, is suddenly too risque for halftime? It took me a few minutes to even realize what lyric the story refers to. I didn’t get to see halftime due to my travels, but this is silly. If the Stones are acceptable to the live audience, they’re acceptable to the people at home. Either let them do their thing without interference, or have the guts to refuse to show them at all and suffer the blowback from that. ABC should be ashamed of itself.

More on the Intermodal Transit Center and on TxDOT

Just a couple of links of interest: Christof continues his study of the Intermodal Transit Center proposal by looking at comparable sites, and Robin gives us a report from TxDOT’s January meeting, which was in Conroe. Check ’em out.

Mixed use development near Reliant

This is going to be happening right near where I work.

A property near Reliant Center that for years housed big-box retailers like Target and Garden Ridge has changed hands and will be redeveloped into an urban apartment project.

Fidelis Realty Partners bought the land on Old Spanish Trail just east of Kirby at the end of last year and has since demolished a building there.

The Houston real estate firm and developer Simmons Vedder & Co. are planning a five-story structure with four levels of apartments above shops.

The project is similar to the much-admired Post Midtown Square, one of the few projects in Houston that truly mixes uses with hundreds of loft-style apartments over retail space.

Designed by the Steinberg Design Collaborative architecture firm, the new project will face Old Spanish Trail and have an East Coast brownstone look.

It will have about 300 apartments and 40,000 square feet of shopping space.

I hope to heck this includes some restaurants. I’ve said many times before that there’s damn few places to eat around there – it’s the main reason why I’m so skeptical about the proposed Astrodome Convention Center project. The area just desperately needs something that isn’t fast food or in the Olive Garden/Red Lobster part of the spectrum.

There’s been a minor boom in housing around this area. A new apartment complex is opening at OST and Greenbriar, next to a bigger one that faces the Smithlands light rail stop. This one here will be a short walk away. I’d love to know how many people who live in these places, including the new one when it’s done, actually use the light rail to get to work. That’s part of the allure of this kind of development, right? It’d be nice to have that confirmed.

One last thing:

Alan Hassenflu, a Fidelis principal, said this area near the Houston Texans’ stadium has “transitioned up.”

Indeed, the football stadium, Metro’s light rail line, and growth in the Texas Medical Center have helped change this area, with some landowners improving their properties and developers building new apartments and condos.

“There’s very little land left,” said Hassenflu, noting a strong demand for housing by medical workers.

There’s still a vast empty space at OST and Almeda, where a couple of sleazy hot-sheet hotels were torn down a few years ago. I measured it at a litte more than a mile from there to Greenbriar, so it’s at least theoretically within walking distance of the Smithlands station. Until I see a sign that those lots are about to be built up, I say there’s still land left.