October 21, 2014      4:17 PM

Bearse: Trick-or-Treat

From the right--Last minute campaign antics and shenanigans sometime amuse and infuriate

It’s trick or treat season for campaign politics. Lots of tricks, few treats. I am reminded of this every time I drive by a campaign sign. In my first campaign in 1994, over-zealous supporters of our opponent didn’t steal our signs or lay them on the ground, they just cut a big hole in them with a box-cutter. They just stood there as a shameless monument to misdemeanor shenanigans.

I don’t blame Martin Frost or Matt Angle for this high crime. Sixteen years later, our campaign had nothing to do with black-toothing one of our opponent’s teeth on her sign. Stuff happens. Her teeth were too perfect anyway.

Psychological ops are in full force. By now, more than one campaign has dropped a racy flier at four or five houses that happen to be in their opponent’s neighborhood. They want the candidate to think it went district wide.

The rest of Eric Bearse's column can be found in today's R&D Column.

By Eric Bearse

October 21, 2014      4:12 PM

By Eric

October 21, 2014      3:54 PM

Juvenile justice system faces a new host of challenges following merger of agencies

Some numbers are down but needs are up to ensure long-term success

The new head of the state’s merged juvenile justice agency gave a weak grade to last session’s merger of the Texas Juvenile Probation System and the Texas Youth Commission into the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.  

Referrals to the state’s youth facilities are down by 47 percent since 2009. Of the 69,000 juveniles who entered the state’s criminal justice system last year, only 844 ended up in the state’s various permanent facilities. At the same time, TJJD now has oversight of 167 county-run criminal justice programs.

Executive Director David Reilly, appointed to the permanent job as agency head in late summer, said on Monday that he could give the merger no more than a “C.” Some merger elements, like sharing resources between parole and probation, were pluses. But challenges lingered, such as cutting employee turnover and improving the continuum of services to youngsters who enter the criminal justice system.

“It’s passing. It’s passing for sure, I’d say,” Reilly told Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee with oversight of criminal justice. “It’s average. We’ve done some things well. Some other things we haven’t. We continue identifying those things we need to integrate, but that’s going to take a little more time.”

By Kimberly Reeves

October 21, 2014      1:11 PM

Barfield pleads guilty to embezzling nearly $2 million from Dewhurst campaign

Former trusted aide to Lite Guv could face three decades in prison

Appearing before a federal judge who will later sentence him, former David Dewhurst adviser Kenneth "Buddy" Barfield on Tuesday pleaded guilty to embezzling about $1.8 million from Dewhurst's 2012 campaign for United States Senate.

Barfield could be sentenced to as many as 28 years in prison and forced to pay millions in fines and restitution. He declined to comment after Tuesday’s court hearing. He is free on bond for now. The sentencing date has not been set.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said Barfield admitted to knowingly engaging in a scheme to steal campaign funds and use it for his own personal expenses including his home mortgage, school tuition for his children, personal investments and other living expenses.  Among other ways he was making off with cash, Barfield submitted inflated invoices to himself so that he could authorize payments to his companies.

October 21, 2014      10:16 AM

Houston GOP House campaign worker accused of swinging box cutter at Democratic staffer

Accusation of Republican Texas House candidate being a “communist sympathizer” leads to a melee in Alief

Here at Buzz Central in Austin, we’ve been hearing rumblings out of Southeast Texas for a few weeks that race for the Texas House seat held by Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, is getting nasty. The challenge from Republican Al Hoang, a former Houston councilman, is the first time people in the district have a choice between two Vietnamese candidates.  

Now, we get this news via KTRK Television:  

“A fight over a campaign display outside an early voting location led to one arrest. Representatives from both Hubert Vo and Al Hoang's campaign were at the Alief Library early voting location off 7979 S Kirkwood Road. Police say someone in Vo's camp then put up a banner accusing Hoang of being a communist sympathizer.

Police say someone in Hoang's campaign then pulled out a box cutter and started cutting up the banner. That man, identified as Peter Vo, 58, is accused of then swinging the box cutter at a Vo representative who tried to stop him. Peter Vo now faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.”

October 21, 2014      10:07 AM

New Patrick ad focuses on education

"Liberal Leticia" supported Common Core

October 21, 2014      9:46 AM

New Van de Putte TV ad: A Matter of Trust

Paints Republican nominee Dan Patrick as two-faced; "Even Republicans describe him as untrustworthy."

October 20, 2014      6:21 PM

Some Arlington Republican leaders support Democratic Texas House candidate Cole Ballweg

Longtime Republicans say their party’s nominee Tony Tinderholt is “an extremist”

Note: This story has been updated with response from the Tinderholt campaign – SB

After weeks of this kind of talk simmering in North Texas, some local Republican leaders in Arlington came out publicly and said they now support the Democrat running to replace Rep. Diane Patrick. One of those leaders includes Patrick’s husband, Ned Patrick.

He and Republican Arlington City Councilmen Charlie Parker and Jimmy Bennett signed a letter of support for Democrat Cole Ballweg over Tea Party Republican Tony Tinderholt. Also signing the letter was former Arlington ISD Superintendent Mac Bernd. The letter surfaced over the weekend.

“We are supporting Cole Ballweg for Texas House District 94.  Although we are all longtime Republicans, we don’t care about his party affiliation,” the group wrote.  “He is a good man and a successful local business owner who cares about Arlington and is not driven by radical ideology.”

But they did not stop at their support for the Democrat. They also slammed their party's nominee.

October 20, 2014      6:21 PM

Press Releases: Endorsements, campaign attacks, GOTV efforts, and more

October 20, 2014      5:58 PM

SBOE grills publishers over social studies textbooks

Three firms emerge in fight for assessment contract

The State Board of Education on Monday raised questions about the content of a controversial round of social studies textbooks.  

Secondary math, too, is on the list for Proclamation 2015, but it’s the specifics of history textbooks, and often US History, that took center stage. At the same time, the agency scheduled an initial bidders conference across the hall for a four-year assessment contract, which could top $400 million.  

Initial letters of interest in the assessment contract were due to the Texas Education Agency on Friday. The agency would not disclose who had filed the documentation, calling it part of the bid process, but the initial bidders meeting held some clues. The agency would offer no confirmation, but consortia appear to have emerged led by three major testing companies:  McGraw Hill, the non-profit Educational Testing Service and Pearson.

Only a handful of testing companies are large enough to handle the Texas testing contract, which Pearson has held since standardized testing was implemented in the mid-90s. The amount of the assessment contract, half of what is spent on textbooks each biennium, will be one of the few competitive contracts remaining for bid once the majority of states move to Common Core and its common assessments.

By Kimberly Reeves

October 20, 2014      5:18 PM

Notes from the campaign trail – Interracial marriage edition

Controversy erupts once again when Abbott is in a setting where follow-up questions are allowed

The campaign of Sen. Wendy Davis stayed on the attack Monday, making a new argument against Attorney General Greg Abbott and once again generating some national and even international headlines. Davis’ campaign seized on the fact that when the Republican AG met with the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board, he refused to answer a question about whether he would defend a law banning interracial marriage.

Here’s what Peggy Fikac of the Express-News wrote in her column about it:

“Right now, if there was a ban on interracial marriage, that’s already been ruled unconstitutional,” Abbott pointed out. “And all I can do is deal with the issues that are before me … The job of an attorney general is to represent and defend in court the laws of their client, which is the state Legislature, unless and until a court strikes it down.”

When I said I wasn’t clear if he was saying he would have defended a ban on interracial marriage, he said, “Actually, the reason why you’re uncertain about it is because I didn’t answer the question. And I can’t go back and answer some hypothetical question like that.”

By Scott Braddock

October 20, 2014      5:08 PM

Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy PAC runs ad against fracking ban measure

"Drilling has brought millions in natural gas revenue to Denton..."

October 20, 2014      2:56 PM

New Libby Willis TV ad hits Burton on "extreme agenda"

The Democrat takes aim at Republican Konni Burton on equal pay, abortion, and gun restrictions; Willis camp says ad is on network and cable TV now

October 20, 2014      9:49 AM

Poll shows Susan Criss with commanding lead in Galveston Texas House race

Previous polls had shown the race was either candidate’s to win; many observers still believe the race to be a tossup with early voting getting underway

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the lead enjoyed by Criss reflected in the poll – SB

The Democrat running to succeed State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, has a double-digit lead over her Republican opponent, according to a new poll obtained by Quorum Report.

Former State District Judge Susan Criss leads Republican businessman Wayne Faircloth 51 to 39 percent with 9 percent undecided in the poll of 400 likely voters that was conducted over two days starting October 6.

"Criss currently leads Republican Wayne Faircloth by 12 points. Further, Criss has increased her 'strong' support with 44% of voters saying they support her strongly, in May this number was 31%," the pollsters wrote. "That is compared to just 32% who say they now support Faircloth strongly. In other words, Criss has broader and more intense support than Faircloth and it will take a great deal of effort to dislodge her from this lead."

October 20, 2014      9:24 AM

Susan Criss TV ad: Faircloth Out for Himself

Democrat running for Texas House in Gavleston says her Republican opponent Wayne Faircloth got rich on the backs of Hurricane Ike victims

October 18, 2014      4:33 AM

The AP reports the SCOTUS will allow Texas to enforce Voter ID for this election

"The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax..."

Per the AP story:

“WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is allowing Texas to use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election. A majority of the nation's highest court on Saturday rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots.

The Supreme Court's order was unsigned, but three justices dissented.

The law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal appeals court had put that ruling on hold. Early voting in Texas begins Monday. The judge found that roughly 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification.”

Here is the dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes "the greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters."

October 17, 2014      5:16 PM

Updated: Gov. Perry changes his tune on a travel ban in response to Ebola outbreak; Sen. Davis joins him in calling for travel ban

Meantime the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease unveils its first round of recommendations

Note: This story is updated throughout as of 5:16pm – SB

After previously saying that enhanced screening of travelers for Ebola would be a better alternative than banning travel to and from countries dealing with outbreaks of the disease, Gov. Perry on Friday called on the Obama Administration to end air travel from those countries. Perry’s office said that he personally told President Obama that’s what he should do during a phone call on Thursday.  

“Air travel is how this disease crosses borders, and it’s certainly how it got here to Texas,” Perry said. Over the last week or so, Perry had been criticized by some on the right for not joining other conservatives in calling for a travel ban. Meantime, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Ft. Worth, became the latest high-profile Democrat to join Perry and other Republicans in calling for a travel ban.

In fairness to Perry, the situation has changed since he was first asked about the travel ban by Quorum Report during a Capitol press conference. “Based on recent and ongoing developments, I believe it is the right policy to ban air travel from countries that have been hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak, provided there’s an exception for aid workers to continue their important work fighting this disease,” Perry said.

For her part, Sen. Davis said a travel ban is just common sense.

By Scott Braddock

October 17, 2014      5:14 PM

Press Releases: Appointments, endorsements, vicious campaign attacks and more

October 17, 2014      4:01 PM

Stanford: Obama’s $1 Trillion Broken Promise

From the Left: Our liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that President Obama must be held accountable for his vows of nuclear disarmament

How much would you borrow to buy something that you would never use and might kill you and everyone around you? If we’re talking about Uncle Sam’s outdated and useless nuclear arsenal, the price tag is $1.1 trillion. A better—and cheaper—idea might be doing what Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan and a host of others wanted to do in the first place: Get rid of nuclear weapons.

Here’s the basic problem: We’ve got about 4,800 nuclear weapons in silos, on submarines, and in airplane hangars that need to be fixed like old root canals. They’re way past their sell-by date and more dangerous to us than to an enemy that no longer exists, writes Eric Schlosser in “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.” By the way, that is now the scariest book I’ve ever read. It makes Revelations look like a Lifetime Movie.)  

In a 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” noted hippies and peaceniks George Schultz and Henry Kissinger (both former Republican Secretaries of State) and William J. Perry and Sam Nunn (each a Democratic hawk), argued that deterrence was dead as a military strategy because of the threat of nuclear terrorism. Intelligence, not realpolitik, is what stops terrorists from getting the bomb. And what’s stopping Iran’s nuclear program isn’t our ICBMs but economic sanctions and diplomacy.

Getting nuclear weapons off this planet before we’re all killed is a bipartisan idea. At the Reykjavik summit, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev briefly agreed to “eliminate… all nuclear weapons” before hotter heads prevailed. Reagan wouldn’t give up our missile defense program, not understanding that the Soviet Union saw that as a threat.  

Inspired by Nunn, then-Sen. Obama worked diligently on nuclear non-proliferation in the Senate and made a nuclear-free world a goal of his foreign policy as president that he articulated best in 2009 speech in Prague.

Jason Stanford’s entire column can be found in our R&D Department.

By Jason Stanford

October 16, 2014      5:44 PM

Notes from the campaign trail - Ebola Edition

The local politics of Ebola, Battleground Texas to launch its last GOTV effort this cycle, and Perry’s federal account focuses spending in Iowa

While the Ebola scare in North Texas dominates the news landscape in a way that edges out almost every other story, there are a few political items worth passing along to you on this Thursday afternoon.

The first is actually about Ebola.  

Dallas County Commissioners are trying to figure out the best approach going forward and on Thursday they decided not to declare a disaster, even though County Judge Clay Jenkins can declare one on his own later if necessary.

Jenkins, a Democrat who is up for reelection next month, was quoted in the Dallas Morning News as saying “There hasn’t been a need to use extraordinary powers or put people under some sort of special law.”

Jenkins’ handling of this crisis is naturally under close scrutiny in his reelection bid after his polarizing decision earlier this year to extend an invitation to immigrant children who had been flooding across the border during the summer. The invitation ultimately was decided to be unnecessary. Some, especially national commentators, saw Jenkins’ invitation as a rare act of compassion but many at home – particularly some leaders in African-American neighborhoods in Dallas County, were not fans of the idea.  

The way local leaders (or any leaders really) handle these crises can be pivotal in their reelection efforts.

By Scott Braddock

October 16, 2014      5:21 PM

Abbott responds in Voter ID case at the Supreme Court

AG points to Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio cases for precedent

Per the Associated Press:

“Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to keep the state's voter ID law in place with early voting starting next week.

Abbott reminded the court Thursday in a lengthy briefing that it has recently blocked rulings in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio that also sought to change state voting procedures so close to Election Day. Democrats and minority rights groups challenging the Texas law want the high court to enforce a federal judge's decision last week that the state's voter ID law unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi said the law passed in 2011 amounted to a poll tax.

But a federal appeals court Tuesday ruled that Texas could continue enforcing voter ID for this election.”

October 16, 2014      4:57 PM

Press Releases: Campaign attacks, endorsements, (over)reactions to Houston subpoenas and more

October 16, 2014      4:53 PM

New Abbott ad: A Newfound Energy In The Rio Grande Valley

"There is probably no region in the state of Texas that is poised for greater advancement"

October 16, 2014      12:00 PM

Coppedge: Many Texas judges and lawyers are ignorant of or ignoring the law

Veteran of Texas judicial politics argues that criminal penalties might need to be available for judges in cases of breaking campaign finance law

There are some lawyers, judges, judicial candidates and individuals in Texas that are in clear violation of the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act.  This includes some of the wealthiest personal injury trial lawyers in Texas and some judges and candidates for trial courts as well as appellate courts.  It seems that they either cannot read and understand the law or choose to ignore it.

They are violating the legal contribution limits. In some cases the amounts involved are tens of thousands of dollars.  Some individual contributors have made well over one hundred thousand dollars in prohibited contributions over the past few years to numerous judges and judicial candidates.  The law provides only civil remedies but those include a state cause of action against both the recipient and the contributor for three times the amount involved.  The law also includes a cause of action by any opposing candidates against both the recipient and the contributor of twice the amount involved plus legal fees.

Many people do not fully understand the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act. The folks violating it obviously must not.  Or they don't care – either because they don't think it will be enforced or that the potential penalties are not enough to dissuade them.

A law firm in Texas cannot write a check to a judicial candidate for more than the individual limit.

For a judicial race where the individual contribution limit is $5,000, a lar firm cannot make a $30,000 contribution. It can only make a $5,000 contribution. When added together with other contributions from anyone associated with that firm, the total cannot exceed $30,000. That is what many are either ignorant of or ignoring.

You can read the entire column from John Coppedge, MD, by clicking on the R&D Department.  

By John Coppedge, MD

October 15, 2014      5:08 PM

Perry staff is grilled about Enterprise Fund audit

“Frankly I have a lot more issues about the portrayal of what the audit said than what the actual audit said.”

A House select committee on economic incentives appears poised to recommend the state consolidate and evaluate all incentives after a tense exchange this morning with Gov. Rick Perry’s current head of the Texas Enterprise Fund.

If the legislature agrees, it would follow nine other states that have passed bills to determine whether millions of state dollars handed over to private business delivered the right “bang for the buck.” Wednesday morning, Perry staffer Jonathan Taylor faced a committee that was, in turns, frustrated and baffled by Taylor’s assurances the Texas Enterprise Fund was both straightforward and transparent.

Taylor, director of the governor’s Economic Development and Tourism Division, asked the committee to maintain flexibility over the fund, even as a recent State Auditor’s report noted a lack of internal controls and spotty recordkeeping in both early applications and later contracts. In opening comments, Taylor said he had more problems with the portrayal of the audit than its actual contents.

“The big stuff, the audit answered,” Taylor said, noting the audit found funds were disbursed in accordance with the law, with compliance and oversight. “Frankly I have a lot more issues about the portrayal of what the audit said than what the actual audit said. I think some of the criticism over the audit wasn’t the audit, especially not in the detail of the audit.”

By Kimberly Reeves

October 15, 2014      4:44 PM

Press Releases: Voter ID reactions, more Ebola response, campaign attacks and more

October 15, 2014      4:41 PM

Updated: Campaign finance watchdog files suit to force Abbott to act in Nathan Hecht Ethics case

Case has languished for nearly 6 years; group says Abbott “has a duty to prosecute this cold case and collect from Justice Hecht"

Note: Late in the day, the AG’s office responded and this update reflects that – SB

A prominent campaign finance watchdog group on Wednesday said a lawsuit is being filed in Travis County to try to force Attorney General Greg Abbott's office to go after what some have called a “long-slumbering case" about an ethics fine against Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht. The case, by the way, has the dubious distinction of being the longest running appeal of a state ethics fine.

Hecht, as QR readers may recall, was fined $29,000 by the Texas Ethics Commission back in 2008 after the agency found that he broke campaign finance laws.

That ruling was made after Hecht took a $168,000 discount for a legal bill incurred while he was successfully fighting abuse-of-power charges stemming from his support for former US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, who also happened to be his girlfriend.

Hecht appealed in State District Court in 2009 and the case has gone quiet ever since. When someone is fined by the Ethics Commission, they have the option of filing what’s called a “de novo” appeal in court, which starts the process anew.

In a statement on Wednesday, Texans for Public Justice said the group was filing suit to try to force the Office of the Attorney General to defend the Ethics Commission in court, as is required by Texas law.

October 15, 2014      4:02 PM

Justice Antonin Scalia asks Texas for a response to emergency stay of Voter ID law

AG's office confirms deadline of 4 p.m. on Thursday for state to file its response

October 15, 2014      1:42 PM

New Libby Willis ad: Whoppers

Ad for Democratic candidate for Tarrant County Senate seat emphasizes her values of faith, family and working together to get things done

October 15, 2014      1:40 PM

New Patrick ad: Liberal Leticia

Ad focuses on the Lite Guv candidates' positions on taxes

October 15, 2014      1:37 PM

New Van de Putte ad: Rape is Always Rape

Focuses on Patrick claims that some people can have differing opinions when it comes to rape and incest

October 15, 2014      9:36 AM

KR: SCOTUS stay of Texas abortion restrictions comes with interesting implications for the law

Those implications could be limited or wide, depending on the eye of the beholder

The US Supreme Court has agreed to a stay on some requirements of the state’s latest abortion law, leaving room for conjecture: Is the nation’s highest court in favor of exhausting appeals or ready to take on state abortion laws?

For an order of just 125 words, this Court opinion packs a number of decisions easy for conjecture among those following House Bill 2.  

First, let’s get the statements out of the way:

“The Attorney General's Office will continue to defend the law, just as we defend all state laws when they are challenged in court,” said spokeswoman Lauren Bean over at Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office.

And from Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“The U.S. Supreme Court gave Texas women a tremendous victory today. Tomorrow, thirteen clinics across the state will be allowed to reopen and provide women with safe and legal abortion care in their own communities. This fight against Texas’ sham abortion law is not over. HB2 was designed to gut the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade and half of the state’s clinics remain closed. We will continue this legal battle until the rights of Texas women are restored.”

Now here is some tea leaf reading on this particular opinion, given case history:

By Kimberly Reeves

October 15, 2014      9:04 AM

Voter ID Plaintiffs file emergency motion with SCOTUS

After the Fifth Circuit said SB14 requirements would stay in place, plaintiffs ask the Supreme Court to step in

Here is a copy of the filing from the plaintiffs.

October 14, 2014      6:11 PM

Supreme Court halts Texas abortion law that shutters many clinics

5th circuit had lifted stay on ambulatory surgical center requirements of HB2 but the SCOTUS says the rules are on hold until appeals are exhausted

More details from The Statesman.

Here is the order from the Supreme Court of the United States.

October 14, 2014      5:28 PM

Press Releases: Even more wheelchair ad reactions, endorsements, Mexico's energy potential and more

October 14, 2014      5:28 PM

5th Circuit issues stay in voter ID case

Voter ID requirements under Senate Bill 14 will prevail for November elections

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with the state, staying a district court decision that struck down the Voter ID law late last week.

In other words, you will be taking identification with you to the polls in the November election. Last week, US District Court Judge Nelda Gonzales Ramos struck down the implementation of the Voter ID law, Senate Bill 14, less than two weeks before early voting begins in the November general election.

In a 13-page opinion authored by Circuit Judge Edith Brown Clement, the circuit court deemed Ramos’ opinion not a “run-of-the-mill decision.” Instead, the decision was one “that substantially disturbs the election process” just nine days before early voting begins. “Thus, the value of preserving the status quo here is much higher than in most other contexts,” Clement wrote in the 2-1 decision.

October 14, 2014      5:24 PM

Updated: TMA faces possible internal challenges with financial implications from Davis Senate seat endorsement

Conservatives seek to separate membership from access to TMLT potentially undermining physician legislative advocacy

A political standoff is brewing between two doctors’ groups that has the potential to cause serious implications for the way thousands of physicians in Texas cover their liability insurance needs. The already existing tension between the Texas Medical Association and the more conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons has reached a boiling point over the last few weeks following TMA’s endorsement of a Democrat to succeed Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Ft Worth, in the Texas Senate.

The two groups have not seen eye-to-eye on a number of political races this year. The AAPS said the Willis endorsement by TMA “is not an isolated example.” The group pointed to a right-wing blogger who has said the Texas Medical Association is becoming a "liberal-only special interest.”

For some on the right to make that argument, of course, is not news. But the AAPS is harnessing that rhetoric to try to drum up support for a policy shift that could have significant implications for TMA’s membership. But that’s only if the smaller group can gain traction with no real lobby presence in Austin. AAPS does not publicize how many members it has but the Wikipedia page about them says they have 3,000 members nationwide. The TMA has about 47,000 members in Texas.

Now that TMA has endorsed Democrat Libby Willis in the Senate District 10 race over her Republican opponent Konni Burton, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons has said they want doctors to take a stand against TMA by asking that membership in TMA no longer be legally required for doctors to use a unique system for their liability insurance. "No physician should be required to join a group like the TMA that raises money for Leftist candidates," the AAPS said in a statement and encouraged doctors to sign this petition.

The Texas Medical Liability Trust, or TMLT, was created in 1979 during what was described as the state’s first medical liability crisis. It’s a unique, not-for-profit health care liability claim trust owned by its physician policyholders. It is now the largest medical liability provider in the state, protecting more than 17,000 Texas physicians.

According to the latest information available, forty-nine percent of active TMA members are insured in this way. As we understand it, TMA receives royalties in the amount of $48 per insured from TMLT, meaning that TMA received about $750,000 from TMLT per year in recent years. TMA dues for a physician in the active practice of medicine is $525 per year, plus county medical society dues.

TMA President Austin King, MD, an otolaryngologist from Abilene, defended the current link between membership in the group and use of the insurance trust as something conservatives should support, given their opposition to what many deem to be frivolous lawsuits.

By Scott Braddock

October 14, 2014      4:34 PM

New Abbott Ad: Just Like Obama

"Governor Barack Obama" desk plate featured in ad comparing Sen. Davis to President Obama

October 14, 2014      3:02 PM

Bearse: That Ad

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist argues that Davis’ wheelchair ad, and the fallout from it, demonstrate “the lunacy of identity politics.”

Not to go all Kevorkian, but I am for campaign-assisted suicide. If Wendy Davis’ campaign wants to handle a delicate issue with a hammer instead of a scalpel, they have that right. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to recover damages for political malpractice, because Greg Abbott successfully defended caps. I’m joking. I am sure she will sue them when it is over, much like she did the newspaper in Fort Worth.

The greater issue with the Davis Campaign is their loose handling of the facts. Take the example in the ad of the doctor who botched surgeries under the influence of cocaine. They claim Abbott stepped in to help a major contributor on the hospital board. But in reality, Abbott’s role was to defend a law passed by the legislature. He was specifically defending the medical liability caps passed by the legislature, not intervening on behalf of the hospital. There is an important principle at work in many of Davis’ attacks: that Abbott should have ignored, in fact violated, his constitutional duties for the sake of empathy. The irony is he is the state’s lawyer, which includes defending the Legislature where she serves. Legislators would haul him before a committee if he took a pass on representing their interests when a lawsuit claims a statute is unconstitutional.

This line of attack is a pattern of the left. If they don’t like a law, or more specifically an outcome of the law, they expect attorneys general and justices to act against the law. They place the principle of empathy ahead of constitutional limits. Obama so much as said this when he declared in 2005, "the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart." But the duty of a justice is always to follow the law. They are to divorce themselves of the passions of the mob to ensure the rule of law is upheld, and endures. Once we begin to hammer at the edifice of the law, it crumbles.

Perhaps more appalling is this notion that because Greg Abbott was partially paralyzed after an accident, he is somehow duty bound to always side with people who have been victimized. But the truth is you can feel terrible for a woman who is raped and not hold a vacuum cleaner company liable for the actions of a sub-contractor. If you believe the law requires it.

The entire column from Eric Bearse can be found by clicking on R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse