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October 26th, 2010:

“Houston Have Your Say: Energy, Economy & Environment”

Time again for another edition of Houston Have Your Say on KUHT:

Worried about air quality? Concerned about environmental regulation costing jobs in the Houston region? Join Patricia Gras for Houston Have Your Say: Energy, Economy & Environment: Making It Work on Tuesday, October 26 at 7pm. This live town hall forum will discuss finding the balance between Houston’s energy needs, environment concerns and sustaining a strong economy. Join us as we search for solutions together.

Do you have a question or comment you would like addressed during the town hall forum? You can send an e-mail to [email protected]

Be sure to visit our previous town hall meeting sites for more information:

Houston Have Your Say: Education
Houston Have Your Say: Immigration
Houston Have Your Say: Houston’s Future Growth
Houston Have Your Say: Economy
Houston Have Your Say: Health Care Reform

Ree-C Murphey, Michael Reed, and I will be there as usual to provide color commentary on their live chat. As was the case with the education episode, the conversation will continue online for about a half hour after the live TV broadcast ends. Come join in on the discussion tonight at 7.

UPDATE: Come join the conversation here.

For those who are just tuning in to the whole Tom DeLay saga

The Statesman has a useful overview of How We Got Here in the DeLay money laundering case, which goes to trial today. I love the fact that it all began with a little hubris.

It was November 2002, just days after Texas Republicans had won a historic election that gave them control of state government for the first time in more than a century.

Publicist Chuck McDonald called to pitch a story to this reporter about how his client, the Texas Association of Business, and its president, Bill Hammond, played a critical role in electing the Republican majority.

“Bill Hammond wanted credit,” McDonald recalled last week, “and wanted people to know how they did it.”

In that phone conversation, McDonald explained that the state’s largest business organization had spent almost $2 million on advertising, mostly in mail pieces to voters. Unlike other political groups, McDonald insisted that the association didn’t have to disclose the corporations that put up the money as long as it followed its lawyers’ advice to avoid direct campaign activities. The group avoided using buzzwords such as “elect,” “support,” “oppose” and “defeat.” It didn’t coordinate its efforts with candidates. It hadn’t worked with other political groups.

Association officials argued that their mail pieces were issue ads and not subject to campaign finance laws barring corporate money in Texas campaigns.

McDonald gave the American-Statesman a stack of the mail pieces to show how the group did it.

The story was published the next day and included comments from Austin lawyer Buck Wood questioning whether it was legal for corporate donors to underwrite such an effort. He cited a century-old state law that prohibits corporations and unions from spending money “in connection with a campaign.”

Ronnie Earle, the Travis County district attorney at the time, read the story and began investigating.

DeLay and his brainchild, a campaign committee named Texans for a Republican Majority, were not on anyone’s radar. It might have stayed that way except that McDonald inadvertently included one attack ad by Texans for a Republican Majority, which wasn’t his client, in that stack of business association mailers.

If the association was working alone, as it claimed, how to explain that maverick ad without the TAB brand?

The American-Statesman began investigating and publishing stories about Texans for a Republican Majority and how it worked with the business association.

Let this be a lesson, kids: When you break the law, don’t go bragging to reporters about it. Read the rest, and go pop some corn as the proceedings are about to begin. Juanita has more.

Once again, I’ll take the under

There’s a bizarre new UT/Texas Trib poll that’s so odd I can’t even come up with a good introduction for it, so I’m just going to jump straight to the weirdness:

Republican Gov. Rick Perry leads his Democratic challenger, Bill White by 10 points — 50 percent to 40 percent — in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, which was conducted in the days leading up to early voting. Libertarian Kathie Glass has the support of 8 percent of respondents; Deb Shafto of the Green Party gets 2 percent.

[…]

• In the race for lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst is leading Democrat Linda Chavez-Thompson 51 percent to 38 percent. Libertarian Scott Jameson has 9 percent, while the Green Party’s Herb Gonzales Jr. has 2 percent.

• Attorney General Greg Abbott leads Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky 55 percent to 35 percent. Libertarian Jon Roland has 11 percent (when the total here and elsewhere doesn’t add up to 100 percent, rounding is the culprit).

• Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs, the only major-party candidate in her race, has the support of 51 percent, while Libertarian Mary Ruwart pulls 11 percent and Ed Lindsay of the Green Party has 9 percent. This is the only contest in the poll in which undecided voters were not pushed to make a choice; as such, 29 percent of respondents identified themselves as undecided.

• Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is leading Democrat Hector Uribe 50 percent to 37 percent in his bid for re-election, with Libertarian James Holdar garnering 12 percent.

• Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples leads Democrat Hank Gilbert by the same margin: 50 percent to 37 percent. Libertarian Rick Donaldson has 12 percent.

• In the race for a slot on the Railroad Commission that is the only open seat on the statewide ballot, Republican David Porter leads Democrat Jeff Weems 50 percent to 34 percent, with Libertarian Roger Gary at 10 percent and Art Browning of the Green Party at 5 percent.

I’m not sure what is more surprising, the numbers received by the Libertarian candidates in these polls, or (as one commenter said) the fact that Ross Ramsey could write this story without once making note of them. How out of the ordinary are the Libertarian numbers? I went through every statewide election result on the Secretary of State webpage going back to 1992. Here are the best performances by year of a Libertarian candidate in contested statewide races:

Year Race Candidate Pct ========================================= 2008 RRC David Lloyd 3.51 2006 Lt Gov Judy Baker 4.35 2004 RRC Anthony Garcia 3.59 2002 Land Comm Barbara Hernandez 4.12 2000 Senate Mary Ruwart 1.15 1998 Land Comm Monte Montez 2.72 1996 Sup Ct Eileen Flume 3.64 1994 RRC Buster Crabb 3.15 1992 RRC Richard Draheim 6.98

A couple of notes: The Senate race in 2000 was the only non-Presidential contest that had an R and a D in it at the state level. 1996 featured the only appearance of the Natural Law Party; they were in three state races, including the Presidential race, and topped out at 0.75%, though they did break 1% in some Congressional contests.

And then there’s 1992, which features the number that most likely jumps out at you, Richard Draheim’s 6.98%. That race featured Democratic incumbent Lena Guerrero, who had been appointed to the Railroad Commission by then-Governor Ann Richards. During the election campaign it was revealed that she had lied about getting a degree from UT, which turned into a huge scandal that sent her campaign into a ditch. I’ve no doubt that this was the main contributor to Draheim’s unparalleled performance. Yet even under those circumstances, it’s not in the 8 to 12 percent range that UT/TT is crediting this year’s crop of Ls with.

You can, I trust, see why I’m skeptical. If that’s not enough, note that in the past four Governor’s races, the best any Libertarian candidate has done is 1.46%, considerably less than what UT/TT claims Glass to be polling at. I’d set the over/under in all of these races at 4%, and I’d take the under on all of them. No other poll has shown anything like this, including the two previous results from UT/TT. How they could fail to remark on these highly remarkable numbers is a mystery to me. BOR has more.

Can we finally get some US Attorneys?

A “Republican and former federal prosecutor” named Bill Mateja wrote an op-ed over the weekend that simultaneously cheered and criticized the Republican obstruction of getting US Attorneys nominated for Texas.

Why should Republicans, who have played their hand so well, now help Democrats get these posts filled during a Democratic administration? The simple answer is that while their stand may be principled and worthy of kudos to the extent they’ve beaten back Democratic efforts to install mere politicos, it is no longer what is best for Texas.

Mike McCrum’s recent announcement that he was withdrawing his name from consideration for the San Antonio U.S. attorney’s post underscores the fact that whatever the cause of the political logjam, it simply has to end.

McCrum — a first-rate, prosecutor-first-Democrat-second lawyer – withdrew his name even though he seemed to be the pick of Democrats and Republicans. He had been on hold too long without the ability to take on new cases, which was anathema to his legal practice and bringing home the bacon.

[…]

The time is now to put empowered federal prosecutors in place, even if it means Republicans relinquish their upper hand and settle for someone who is politically not what they would prefer. Again, I call on our senators to end this stalemate, whether by making things happen or allowing or greatly easing the way for Democrats to move nominees to confirmation. I trust that the senators’ principled stand on this issue will result in Democratic nominees who aren’t merely political hacks and who, while not perfect from the senators’ political vantage, can get the job done.

It’s interesting that Mateja mentioned the specter of “political hacks” or “mere politicos” three times but never claimed that any such candidates had been seriously put forth, and the one nominee he did name he called “first rate”. Protest a bit too much, Bill?

I give Mateja credit for accurately citing Republican obstructionism as the primary reason for the delay, but of course this is much bigger than just Cornyn and KBH throwing their weight around. The entire strategy of the Republican Party from January 21, 2009 onward has been to obstruct and delay, which has been a huge success for them thanks in no small part to the dysfunction of the Senate. I have no doubt that it would be an acceptable outcome to our Senators and to any Republicans who might succeed either of them for these positions to remain unfilled for as long as President Obama is in office. The GOP is perfectly content to ensure that the economy remains broken in order to maximize their chances of retaking the White House in 2012. Why should they care about a few white collar criminals going unprosecuted in the interim? But hey, good luck trying to get them to listen to you, Bill. My advice would be to accompany your pleadings with a few bags of unaccountable corporate cash, but to keep your expectations low anyway.

On a side note, the next time someone tells me that we need to stop electing judges because doing so is just too political, I’ll show them this and ask why they think the appoint-and-confirm process would be any less political. At least with elections I get to have a say in it.

Census participation numbers

Good news.

Seventy percent of Houston households returned their 2010 census forms by mail, up 6 percent from 10 years ago.

That could translate into millions of dollars in additional federal funding, according to city officials.

Bragging rights, too.

Just 68 percent of the forms sent to Dallas addresses were returned.

The numbers that really count — population totals, which determine everything from congressional seats to transportation funding – won’t be released until December, with additional information released over the next few years.

Nicely done. A statement from Mayor Parker, along with a comparison to how Houston did versus other big cities, is here.