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June 3rd, 2006:

GOP Hispanic outreach is so 2004

From the Dallas Morning News:

By midday Friday, the booth operated by the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Texas had few visitors, despite the bustling activity all around it.

Perhaps a man carrying a sign that called for building a wall along the border to keep out Mexican immigrants captured the mood.

The sign read: “Keep America Beautiful. Build a Wall and Stop Illegal Immigration Now.”

[…]

Just two years ago, Hispanic outreach was a major theme at the GOP’s national convention in New York. But for this Texas gathering, some say, trying to bring Hispanics into the party has been an afterthought.

There were no major Hispanic events or socials listed in the official convention program; a hospitality room for the Hispanic Assembly was set up at an off-site hotel.

And unlike two years ago, Republican Hispanics are spending much of their time trying to stem grassroots efforts to put strict anti-immigration language in the party’s platform.

Yeah, well, good luck with that. The state GOP platform has always been a haven for crackpottery of various forms. It’s hard to imagine that any restraint would be allowed this year. And unlike Aaron Pena, I have a hard time feeling any compassion for these Hispanic Republicans. If they didn’t see this coming, they should have. Perhaps they can commiserate with the Log Cabin folks, assuming any of them bothered to show up at the convention, on how it feels to be the Big Scary Menace of the year.

Also via The Rep and along similar lines comes Royal Masset’s lament.

“My fear is that we have forgotten some of the very lessons we learned when we were still trying to break though,” said Royal Masset, a veteran Republican strategist who was the state party’s political director during much of the 1990s. “It used to be that our candidates for office ran to serve the people of Texas. Now it seems that they run to serve the Republican Party.”

[…]

“The Republican-primary voters have made it very clear that they expect action on this issue, and they expect it now,” [Will Lutz, editor of the conservative newsletter Lone Star Report] said. “You’re going to hear a lot of that at the convention.”

Masset, who is married to a Mexican citizen who is a legal resident of the United States, said he has heard a lot from Republicans on that issue. And he doesn’t like much of it.

“I am for very strong controls along the border, and I am not for amnesty,” Masset said. “But I am definitely not for all of this hateful rhetoric we are hearing on this issue — that we are going to felonize them, that we should deport them. It’s talk like this that is going to lose us the Hispanic vote just like we lost the black vote in the last generation.

“We are the majority party now. We should be working now to increase that majority.”

May I just say Thanks to all the Republicans now in San Antonio who are working to decrease that majority? I do appreciate it.

I don’t really have the energy to read through more stories on this. South Texas Chisme does (more here), and so does Rio Grande Valley Politics, so go read them. I have some other convention thoughts at Kuff’s World.

Radack-Sanchez smackdown

I do so love the sound of infighting among Republicans, especially over relatively unimportant matters like the office of Harris County Treasurer, which is currently open due to the untimely death of incumbent Jack Cato.

In a letter to Republican precinct chairs, who will select a nominee to replace Cato on the fall ballot, prospect Orlando Sanchez says he developed a warm and respectful relationship with Cato while running unsuccessfully against him in the March GOP primary.

That’s a lie, GOP County Commissioner Steve Radack says in a letter to the same group.

“Don’t believe for a second that Sanchez respected Jack Cato,” writes Radack, who delivered a eulogy at Cato’s memorial service. “Further, he certainly did not have a warm relationship with Jack or his family. As a matter of fact, what Sanchez did was conduct a negative campaign against Jack that was outrageously cruel and unnecessary.”

Sanchez began shoring up support shortly after Cato died. His letter is dated May 28, the day after a public service commemorating Cato and two days after his burial.

“I am not going to sit back and allow someone to trample on the memory of Jack Cato,” Radack said in an interview. “Orlando Sanchez has stooped to a new low. He is lying. I’m not going to let some multi-time loser try and come in there and belittle a good man.”

Sanchez served three terms on the Houston City Council, but has lost three bids for office since then.

In a postscript to his letter, Radack provided a phone number and encouraged recipients to call Cato’s son, John, to discuss the family’s relationship with Sanchez.

John Cato said he was put off by the substance and timing of Sanchez’s letter. He said he disagreed with Sanchez’s characterization of his relationship with his father as warm and respectful.

“I don’t think it’s respectful for a fellow Republican to wage a campaign against an incumbent Republican who had the support of every Republican county official,” he said.

Sanchez denied attacking Cato during the primary campaign.

“I ran a positive race,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “I never addressed my opponent in any of my mail pieces. I ran on the issues. I believe in the Ronald Reagan 11th Commandment, that you never speak evil of your fellow Republicans.”

As for Radack’s letter, “The commissioner has a long history of being involved in other offices at the county,” Sanchez said. “I am shocked, though, by that tirade. He must have gotten close to one of those rabid bats in north Harris County.”

Boys, please. Can’t you play nicely? This is all so unseemly. And it’s all so ultimately pointless, too.

The GOP nominee will be opposed in November by Democrat Richard Garcia, who advocates abolishing the treasurer’s office.

Commissioners Sylvia Garcia and El Franco Lee, both Democrats, have said that with Cato’s death, the county should consider abolishing the obscure office, which has no real power. To accomplish that, the county would have to ask the state Legislature to put a constitutional amendment to a statewide vote.

Several other counties, and the state of Texas, have abolished the treasurer’s post.

“I think it will be seriously considered by a majority of the members of Commissioners Court,” said Radack, who added that he finds it interesting that the Democratic candidate is advocating the position be abolished.

“That sounds like a conservative thing to do.”

Actually, it’s the common sense thing to do, and common sense is all you need to vote for Richard Garcia. Though it wasn’t what he intended, Orlando Sanchez had a point during the primary when he said that there wasn’t even a web site for the Treasurer’s office until he made an issue of it. Well, here’s that website. Take 30 seconds or so and look it over – it won’t require more time than that. Then tell me again why we need this elected office.

The choice is clear. It doesn’t matter who the Republicans ultimately nominate for this job. The Treasurer’s office has fulfilled its purpose. It’s time to elect the one candidate who will do the right thing and push for its abolishment.

Still pursuing a hotel tax lawsuit

I mentioned before that the city of San Antonio is suing discount online hotel brokers over lost tax revenues. The city of Houston has looked into filing a similar suit, and has now taken further action on this front.

After a setback in late April – the firm chosen by the city to move ahead with the lawsuit backed out – City Attorney Arturo Michel said he hopes to ask the City Council to approve a contract with a different law firm sometime this month.

“We still plan on proceeding with it,” Michel said. “We’ll keep an open mind, but we’ve had a lot of good lawyers looking at it, and I’d be surprised if something happened that would change our minds.”

[…]

Houston has been considering legal action for months, but plans to sue fell through in late April when a Houston law firm the city had chosen bowed out of the project.

The firm did not return calls for comment, but Michel said the move was sparked by a memo that City Controller Annise Parker issued to City Council members, expressing doubt that a lawsuit would be worth the city’s time and money.

“It is my belief that there is no clear, irrefutable basis for pursuing this issue further at this time,” Parker wrote on April 11.

Indeed, several cities across the country that considered legal action have decided against it.

But Mayor Bill White said Houston will continue to push for a lawsuit. The city plans to negotiate a contingency fee, so it will be financially responsible to a law firm only if unpaid taxes are recovered.

I’m not sure what the merits are of such a suit (me not being a lawyer and all), but I don’t suppose I have a problem with one being undertaken on a contingency basis. At least that mitigates the risk.

As for the merits, here’s the point/counterpoint for you in a nutshell:

“Part of the problem here is that like a lot of our tax laws, the hotel tax law was created before there was an Internet,” said Texas Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton. “So the law simply didn’t contemplate it.”

Not so, said former state Rep. Steve Wolens, a lawyer who is representing several cities in lawsuits against online travel companies.

He said both Texas and Houston law are very clear: Any person controlling a hotel room is required to collect and remit the tax.

He said that whether the Web site operators actually own the hotel rooms is irrelevant. “They control the rooms and therefore they have to collect the tax,” he said.

[…]

Art Sackler, director of the Interactive Travel Services Association, which represents travel Web sites, argues they do not have to pay the tax because the price markup represents a service fee. Companies charge customers for the convenience of finding them an affordable, available hotel room, he said.

“Those service fees are not – on the law or on the facts – subject to the tax,” Sackler said.

His industry is frustrated with the lawsuits, he said, because some were filed without any attempt to talk out the issue with travel companies.

“We’re extremely confident that once we would have a chance to chat with anyone who is in a position to be looking at this, we’ll be able to easily demonstrate that there are no taxes due on our service fees, no taxes being collected and withheld,” Sackler said. “The city of Houston so far has been very responsible in this manner, approaching it in just the right way: having discussions with us.”

Like I said, I’m not sure how solid the cities’ cases are. I suspect that a legislative solution is going to be needed here, though I’m not sure how likely one is to pass. It would be a shorter path for the cities to get what they want if they can get a bill through the Lege, that’s for sure. We’ll see what happens.

Dan Patrick buys Dallas radio station

Look out, Dallas, here he comes.

Dan Patrick, whose years as a conservative radio pundit helped him win a Republican state Senate nomination, is expanding the reach of his voice with the purchase of a Dallas-area radio station.

By Labor Day, Dallas-area residents will be able to hear Patrick on station KMGS-AM (1160), based in the enclave city of Highland Park.

I just have one question: When one of the Dallas County Republican Senators retires, will he run for that seat, too?