July 28, 2014      5:38 PM

High powered education initiative implodes over student privacy concerns

Fall out from Gates-Carnegie project could lead to enhanced privacy protections ad ed goes higher tech

WASHINGTON DC - Billionaire Bill Gates launched the great $100 million ed tech startup experiment known as inBloom with massive pomp and circumstance at SXSWedu in Austin 2013, touting it as a new tool to accelerate student achievement across the country.

The Gates and Carnegie foundations pledged a nine-figure commitment to scale up what once was known as the Shared Learning Collaborative. In its new non-profit incarnation, InBloom proposed to warehouse data from school districts across the country in a massive cloud repository, pushing massive information back to teachers in a uniform dashboard.

Just over a year later, CEO Iwan Streichenberger was pulling the plug on inBloom after massive missteps in states like Louisiana and New York, where parents were outraged that hundreds of pieces of information, including Social Security numbers, were being stored and used by a third-party vendor.

By Kimberly Reeves

July 28, 2014      4:40 PM

SB: A terrible, no good week for MQ Sullivan

Recent developments suggest a pattern of deception

It would be difficult enough to cover something as complex as a matter before the Texas Ethics Commission if all sides were honest brokers about the proceedings. The fact that they are not makes cutting through the noise that much more of a challenge. Thankfully for those who tell the truth for a living, sorting out fact from fiction becomes easier as more evidence becomes part of the public record.

Steve Bresnen, a longtime lobbyist and former aide to Lt Gov. Bob Bullock, on Monday sent to lawmakers a detailed update on the case of Midland oilman Tim Dunn’s spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan and his organization Empower Texans.

“My greatest fear—as a citizen and professional advocate—is that lying threatens to replace honesty as the currency of public discourse,” Bresnen said of the way Sullivan has conducted himself throughout the proceedings before the TEC. “That’s why it’s been a good week for Texas,” Bresnen said, pointing to the commission’s ruling last week that Sullivan is indeed a professional lobbyist who has failed to register. The commission fined Sullivan the maximum amount they were able to in the case: $10,000.

Sullivan denies the charge and an appeal in court has been promised by his legal team, which includes an impressive number of attorneys for a citizen activist.

Among other things in his update to lawmakers, Bresnen notes that when Sullivan appeared on NBC 5’s Lone Star Politics in Dallas/Fort Worth on July 20, he said he was not asked by the TEC about whether he had destroyed email evidence. When asked specifically if he had trashed emails that showed his alleged lobbying, he told Dallas Morning News reporter Gromer Jeffers "No."

One might safely assume that if Jeffers had lawful subpoena power – the way the Texas Ethics Commission does – Sullivan’s response would have been "On the advice of counsel, I'm not going to be testifying today.” You can see his appearance on TV here. The questions about the case start at about 8:50 in the video.

Sullivan said the commission “never actually asked us about the emails. They never asked us about policies. If they had, they would have found that we, like most businesses, have an email retention program." Sullivan added that in a “real court,” the emails would have been the subject of a line of questioning. Turns out, however, that attorneys for the TEC did directly ask Sullivan about emails to lawmakers during the formal hearing weeks before his television appearance.

Simply put: What Sullivan said on TV does not comport with reality.

By Scott Braddock

July 28, 2014      4:39 PM

Press Releases: Appointments, endorsements, Sen. Cruz engages in bipartisanship and more

July 28, 2014      3:11 PM

Van de Putte proposes five debates with Patrick in race for Lite Guv

Aggressive schedule would include dates in major markets and The Valley

Note: This story has been updated with a response from the Sen. Patrick campaign – SB

The race to preside over the Texas Senate come 2015 would include five debates across the state if the Democratic nominee got her way. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio on Monday proposed debates in major markets as well as the Rio Grande Valley.

In a letter to the Dan Patrick campaign obtained by QR, Van de Putte’s campaign manager Scott Remley asks that all of the debates be simulcast in English and Spanish, social media be incorporated in each of them, and that organizers "strive for a variety of venues and formats that increase accessibility for all Texans."

The debates would be scheduled as follows:      

July 28, 2014      11:00 AM

Former Rep. Delwin Jones is in the Senate race to succeed Duncan

The possibility of a runoff grows in the Sept 9 special election

The race to succeed former Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock now includes four candidates with the addition of former Rep. Delwin Jones. He announced his candidacy on Monday morning. Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock is of course also in the running and as QR has reported, Perry is undecided about whether to withdraw from his House race in addition to seeking the Texas Senate seat vacated by Duncan for the job of Texas Tech System Chancellor.

Lubbock Online reports:

"Jones joins Perry, former Tech (Vice) Chancellor Jodey Arrington, former Sweetwater mayor Greg Wortham and Wolfforth resident Epifano Garza in the race to replace Duncan. The race got more interesting last week when Gov. Rick Perry set the special election date for Sept. 9 instead of Nov. 4, as most politicos assumed would be the case, giving contenders less than two months to campaign. Thus far Arrington leads the fundraising race, bringing in more than $200,000 in the first reporting period; Perry reported raising $130,000 in the first six months of the year and having $195,000 in the bank."

July 26, 2014      11:40 AM

Former State Senator "Bob" McFarland passed last Wednesday

Fourteen years in House and Senate; McFarland was a gentleman in every sense of the word

The obituary with details of the arrangements can be found here.

July 26, 2014      9:54 AM

AgendaWise and Greer lose appeal in libel case brought by Salem Abraham

Trial court had agreed story referencing Abraham was false but dismissed the case on other issues, now back to trial court

Daniel Greer and the AgendaWise crew lost an important legal defense when the Seventh District Court of Appeals remanded the defamation case brought against them by Salem Abraham back to district Court.  The history of the case can be found below.  Abraham is seeking damages.

Agendawise is another one of the operations operated by Midland oil man Tim Dunn and his spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan both of whom sit on the board.  This is the second adverse ruling  against the pair.  The Texas Ethics Commission ruled last week that Sullivan had in fact acted as a lobbyist and failed to register as required by law.  Sullivan will appeal

Meanwhile,  Abraham told QR., “"For people who like to talk a lot about the importance of truth, it is clear to me that Daniel Greer and his puppet masters Tim Dunn and Michael Sullivan are hypocrites and cowards who run and hide when the lies of the organization they control are exposed.  With this ruling, I am hopeful we can discover the full extent of their lies and have them pay for the damage they have done."

By Harvey Kronberg

July 25, 2014      5:20 PM

Optimism over continuation of NCLB waiver on teacher accountability system

Most of the Texas delegation supportive

The state’s largest teacher group has backed up a request for an additional year to test the waters on the state’s new teacher accountability system, a key provision of the federal government’s agreement to waive No Child Left Behind for Texas.

Jennifer Canaday, ATPE Government Relations Manager, said the Association for Texas Professional Educators began meeting with the Texas delegation in June to discuss the one-year extension of the teacher evaluation pilot. Twenty-two members of the Texas delegation signed the

By Kimberly Reeves

July 25, 2014      4:15 PM

Senate GOP Caucus says Racing Commission should defer to lege and stand down on "historical racing" rule making

Joins with Dan Flynn claiming legislative purview over gaming policy in state

The Texas Racing Commission has stirred up a firestorm by considering new rules that would permit betting on “historical racing” in which folks use electronic terminals to wager on historical races in which identifying information has been removed.  Many consider this a possible loophole to expand gaming in Texas.

Rep. Dan Flynn (Van) first focused public attention on the agency’s actions when he sent a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott seeking an opinion on whether the Texas Racing Commission has the authority to even consider such rules.

By Harvey Kronberg

July 25, 2014      10:46 AM

Texans for Public Justice file criminal complaint against Ken Paxton

Civil agency settlement did not resolve criminal allegations

In what should be a surprise to no one, Texans for Public Justice announced today that they filed a criminal felony complaint against Republican Attorney General nominee Ken Paxton for admittedly failing to register as an investment advisor.

In addition, the complaint says, "The Texas Securities Act prohibits a person from acting as an investment adviser representative for an investment firm in Texas unless the person is registered as a representative for that particular firm. The Texas Securities Act provides that any person who renders services as an investment advisor representative without being registered as required by the Act is guilty of a felony of the third degree."

The full complaint can be found here.

Both sides of the partisan divide have been concerned that Paxton faces criminal liability and would not be replacable on the ballot should he be indicted.

By Harvey Kronberg

July 25, 2014      9:29 AM

DMN: John Wiley Price arrested by FBI this morning

"The indictment alleges that from 2001-11, Nealy provided "concealed financial benefits" to Price totaling $950,231. The indictment refers to the funds as "a continuous stream of bribe payments."

The full Dallas Morning News story can be found here.

July 25, 2014      7:37 AM

Alamo Draft House and Greg Abbott vid were preceded by ADF and Ann Richards

See the ad below

July 24, 2014      6:25 PM

Charles Perry says he is still undecided whether to withdraw from House race while running for Senate

Time running out for local GOP chairs to replace him on the ballot in time for general election

State Rep and Senate wannabe Charles Perry today issued a statement indicating he remained undecided whether or not to withdraw his name from his House race while running in the September 9 special election for Robert Duncan’s vacant seat.  He is under no requirement to withdraw from the House seat.

However, by delaying the decision, he makes it impossible for the six county GOP chairs to pick a replacement candidate for the House seat.  If Perry wins the Senate race, another round of special elections to fill the vacant House seat will be required and could deny Lubbock and the surrounding counties representation in the House for the first months of the session.

If Perry loses the Senate race, then he still gets to play but as a state Rep.

His statement follows:

By Harvey Kronberg

July 24, 2014      6:05 PM

As federal highway funds run out, road construction will come to a halt says Pickett

No apparent sense of urgency in D.C. as partisan divide grinds nation's business to a halt

Congress may or may not come to some resolution next week on a solution to fix the Highway Trust Fund, but Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, could hardly tell from his meeting with the state’s leading transportation advocates on Wednesday morning.

US Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, spoke directly to the crisis during his weekly phone call with reporters yesterday. The Senate and House must come to consensus next week before the Congressional summer recess, or risk running short on payments to states on roads and bridges, come early August.

“We have competing proposals, Senate and House, and some amendments that will be voted on along with those two proposals,” Cornyn noted in passing on his weekly conference call with reporters. “The House has come up with a ‘least bad’ solution. It’s a temporary fix, but one that will take us into next year. The big problem that we continue to wrestle with is, ‘What do we do when the Highway Trust Fund continues to be inadequate?’ We have some interesting ideas, none of which have gained critical mass. We need to do better next year, after this temporary fix expires.”

By Kimberly Reeves

July 24, 2014      5:17 PM

Alamo Drafthouse to Greg Abbott: Do not talk during the movie

Riffing off Abbott’s ad that is playing in theaters across Texas, the theater chain known for its strict no-talking policy takes a stern line with the Republican nominee for governor

July 24, 2014      1:45 PM

Updated school finance timeline -- briefs due tomorrow, some think Dietz ruling mid-August

Appeals will linger meaning Lege will have to craft budget anticipating budget impact of court rulings

Parties in the ongoing school finance lawsuit are expected to file final briefs with District Judge John Dietz tomorrow, and the optimistic lawyers among the plaintiffs expect a decision could be issued as early as mid-August.

What we do know is the number of court exhibits, witnesses and findings of the current ongoing school finance case dwarf the last school finance trial in Dietz’s court. This was a 16-week court case with 100 witnesses on the stand, 5,700 admitted exhibits and a draft document from Dietz that was pushing 350 pages and most likely will top 400 pages before it’s all over. Findings from the last school finance trial were well under 200 pages.

Wayne Pierce of the Equity Center, who was about to take the stage at a conference on school finance and legal issues, said he was optimistic about the outcome.

By Kimberly Reeves

July 24, 2014      12:59 PM

PAAT calls MQS ruling a landmark decision

“…a complaint filed with a county attorney could result in prosecution, using the Commission's interpretation in this case as a baseline for their investigation.”

In a message to members of the lobby group for Texas lobbyists, the Professional Advocacy Association of Texas' president Jack Gullahorn said that this week's ruling by the Texas Ethics Commission in the case of Michael Quinn Sullivan was "a landmark decision."

The ruling, which will be appealed by Sullivan and his organization Empower Texans, found that not only is Sullivan a professional lobbyist who has failed to register - a charge he denies - but he also either lost or destroyed thousands of emails that were requested under a lawful subpoena. He has denied that as well on television, but not under oath.

That aspect of the case could open up criminal liability for Sullivan, as QR has reported. The commission fined Sullivan the maximum amount they were able to in the case, which is $10,000. Sullivan, by the way, is also accused of running a political action committee without making legally required disclosures but the TEC has yet to address that.

By Scott Braddock

July 24, 2014      12:33 PM

House members tapped for lottery panel

Bingo and the lottery under scrutiny following last session’s debate

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on Thursday tapped several lawmakers to the Legislative Committee to Review the Texas Lottery and Texas Lottery Commission.

The committee, which was created by The Legislature last year, will study bingo and the distribution of the revenue it generates and the potential impact of eliminating the state lottery.

“The House had a healthy and productive discussion about the Texas Lottery last year, and this committee will continue that discussion,” said Straus. “I hope these Members will take an objective and thorough look at how the lottery and charitable bingo impact our state.”

July 24, 2014      10:51 AM

Press releases: Creighton endorsed by TX Tea Party PAC; border reax; same sex marriage report and more.

July 24, 2014      10:47 AM

Stanford: Phil King's problem with prosecutors

From the left--King has history with Public Integrity which is looking at a criminal complaint filed against him

Ethics enforcement in Texas is so relaxed that you really have to put your back into corruption to draw the interest of prosecutors. You can launder corporate money, like Tom DeLay did. You can take bribes, like one judge named Angus McGinty did when he exchanged favorable rulings for car repairs. That fella made life easier for prosecutors when they found a text message he sent to the person bribing him that read, “I’m a whore for money.”

Or you can do something with more creativity, more flair. Sometimes it takes a guy like state Rep. Phil King to really make a statement by making it a policy not to disclose in-kind gifts. According to Assistant District Attorney Rob Drummond, the Travis County Public Integrity Unit has received a criminal complaint and is “reviewing it to determine whether to open a criminal investigation.”

In June, Denton resident Aaron Renaud filed a complaint with the Public Integrity Unit that largely covered the same ground that Betty Richie covered with her ethics complaint against Tom Craddick in May. Both Renaud and Ritchie allege that Rep. Tom Craddick funneled $25,000 into his daughter’s Railroad Commission campaign by giving it to Phil King who gave it to the Dallas-Fort Worth Conservative Voters PAC to do turnout for Christi Craddick in North Texas. Concealing a contribution in this way is a no-no, but King messed up when he didn’t disclose the contribution from Tom Craddick until after Ritchie filed her complaint, but that’s probably not enough to draw a loo k from prosecutors.

The rest of Jason Stanford's column can be found in today's R&D Department.

By Jason Stanford

July 24, 2014      10:25 AM

Texas same sex marriage battle looms at federal appeals court

A "prohibition of disparate treatment is what the federal judges are relying upon when they’re hearing these cases on state (gay marriage) bans.”

Just as a federal judge struck down the same-sex marriage ban in Colorado, it’s worth noting that the Texas test case on the same subject is headed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday with the state’s first set of briefs.

The Colorado ruling is stayed, pending a review by the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals. If that appeal fails, Colorado would become the 27th consecutive state in the process of striking down same-sex marriage bans based upon the last year’s ruling in United States v Windsor. That ruling, as you may be aware, did not legalize same-sex marriage, but it declared a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act an unconstitutional deprivation of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.

“The Windsor case was not specifically about marriage, but the guts of that decision is that the equal protection clause does apply to gay people,” said Chuck Smith of Equality Texas. “That prohibition of disparate treatment is what the federal judges are relying upon when they’re hearing these cases on state bans.”

And, of course, Texas will get its own turn with De Leon v Perry, in which plaintiffs asked for an injunction in the state’s gay marriage ban in 2013. Two couples are involved: A lesbian couple married in Massachusetts but denied the right to jointly adopt in Austin and two gay men who were denied a marriage license in Texas.

By Kimberly Reeves

July 23, 2014      5:17 PM

House panel digs into economic incentive funds used to lure jobs to Texas

Sparks fly over ideology versus what happens “in the real world”

The special Texas House committee appointed by Speaker Joe Straus to scrutinize Gov. Perry’s job-luring pots of money – chiefly the Texas Enterprise Fund – got down to work on Wednesday. In its first hearing, the House Select Committee on Economic Development Incentives listened to expert witnesses for and against the incentives that were called everything from “interstate job piracy” to essential “tools in the toolbox” for continuation of the state’s dynamic economic growth.  

Chair of the committee, Rep. Angie Chen Button, R-Richardson, stressed that while Texas has been a dominant economic engine among the states, it is important to ensure that "any spending has greater benefit than cost to taxpayers.”

The Texas Enterprise Fund, according to the state's numbers, has been used to invest more than $560 million in businesses that either moved to Texas or expanded operations here. 75,000 jobs have been created as a result, according to those state numbers. The TEF and the Emerging Technology Fund, both used and touted by Perry over the years, have come under fire from some on the right who call them “tax cronyism” and some on the left who say they amount to “corporate welfare.” In asking lawmakers to study this, Speaker Straus said “We owe it to taxpayers to take a detailed look at what has worked and what can be improved.” Some programs may need “retooling” and others have possibly “outlived their usefulness,” Straus said.

A very vocal critic of the funds, Greg LeRoy, who’s the executive director of a Washington-based group called Good Jobs First, said lawmakers need to be careful that they don’t allow incentives to turn into subsidies. The difference, LeRoy said, is that an incentive gives a company a reason to do something it would not otherwise do while a subsidy is the act of “paying companies to do what they would have done anyway."

July 23, 2014      5:16 PM

Nelson names Finance Committee Director

Shannon Ghangurde comes with Nelson from HHS Committee

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, announced on Wednesday that Shannon Ghangurde will be the director of the Senate Finance Committee, which Nelson now chairs.  

Ghangurde’s been Director of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee since 2008. She also worked for Sen. Buster Brown years ago. "Shannon is a veteran staffer who brings extensive policy and budget experience to this new role. She will get the job done," Nelson said.

July 23, 2014      2:54 PM

Study: After HB2, abortions drop 13% but at a cost

"...a strategy that shifts from “demand side” – informed consent, waiting periods, parental approval – to a strategy of “supply side” – restrictions on doctors and medical facilities."

Sen. Dan Patrick’s camp has remained strangely silent, although a new study out today shows the impact of House Bill 2 has been a 13 percent reduction in abortions.

 On the floor of the Senate, Patrick often told his colleagues he wanted to make abortions medically safer and make sure those seeking abortions had the best available information to make informed decisions. But he also didn’t shy away from talking about his own desire to protect life from conception.

“When you wake up in the morning, you have to know what you believe in. When I wake up in the morning, I know what I believe in,” Patrick told San Antonio Express News reporter Kolten Parker last session, a clip he posted on his campaign website. “I respect and follow the law, as is. So we pass the sonogram bill, we’ll pass this bill. We’ll do everything we can to reduce the number of abortions -- which we are in Texas -- under the law, but the question is, ‘Do you want to end abortion?’ And the lieutenant governor didn’t answer that question. I want to end abortion.”

The shorthand from an initial report that will appear in the journal Contraception does appear to support Patrick’s goals. The number of abortion clinics in Texas has dropped from 41 to 22. The percentage of abortions, once some of the initial restraints of House Bill 2 were in place, dropped 13 percent. And the percentage of early-term medical abortions – those abortions induced by a combination of drugs -- was down 70 percent between last November and the end of April.

By Kimberly Reeves

July 23, 2014      2:34 PM

Democrats roll out plan for aggressive voter protection program

“When asked by Quorum Report about what the effort will actually entail, Battleground laid out some ambitious numbers.”

Calling it the “largest and most comprehensive voter protection program Texas has ever seen,” the Wendy Davis campaign along with Battleground Texas on Tuesday essentially said they’re ready to go to war to ensure minorities and others are able to make their voices heard in the November election.

Davis’ campaign manager Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, told volunteers and reporters on a morning conference call that the stakes are too high to take anything for granted. He and others said it has become the norm for voters to be disenfranchised only to have that information become known after the election results are in and it’s too late to do anything about it.

That’s why Democratic groups are being proactive this time around, Turner said.

Sen. Davis joined the call as well to tout her record in the Texas Senate on voter protection as well as her participation in court battles over the issue. She sought to contrast that with her Republican rival Attorney General Greg Abbott, who she said has tried to weaken the voting power of some Texans through redistricting as well as his philosophical and legal support for Texas’ voter ID law. "He is not working for all Texans," Davis said. “We have certainly never accomplished anything in America with less democracy and we are not going to start now," she said.

When asked by Quorum Report about what the effort will actually entail, Battleground laid out some ambitious numbers.

July 23, 2014      1:53 PM

Political confusion and financial burdens result from Sept 9 special SD28 election

Local parties could have to fund up to four special elections

Governor Rick Perry’s decision to call a special election on September 9 to replace Senator Robert Duncan has generated confusion and the likelihood of serious expense on the 51 counties in SD28 and the six counties in Rep. Charles Perry’s House district.  Duncan’s term expires in 2017, so this special election will determine who serves through the next biennium.

The political confusion centers on if and when Perry follows through with his original stated intention to resign his House seat to run for the Senate.  With a September 9 special election date, there is no requirement to do so.  If he does resign in the next few days, the GOP county chairs in the six county House district can name a replacement to be put on the November ballot.    

By Harvey Kronberg

July 22, 2014      4:58 PM

Rare agreement in Texas about the burden of health care

Interfaith group turns to conservative lawmakers for long-term solutions

Two US appeals courts have issued dueling decisions around the Affordable Health Care Act, but the leader of one of the state’s biggest faith-based organizations has a longer-ranging question: Do Texas lawmakers intend to leave employers, and especially small employers, on the hook for health care costs?

The DC circuit court on Tuesday morning said health care subsidies should be available only to state-established health care exchanges, cutting out states like Texas, which of course refused to establish its own exchange. Hours later, however, the Fourth Circuit of Appeals, struck down a similar challenge. The White House already has indicated the DC decision will be appealed to the full 15-member court.

For Bee Moorhead, who heads Texas Impact, the real question ahead of the 2015 legislative session is not yes or no to subsidies. It’s how Texas intends to shape its own health care future in a way that does not unduly burden small business owners.

The Affordable Care Act offered two levers intended to contain health care costs: A statewide health insurance exchange and a federally subsidized expansion of Medicaid. Texas has rejected both. Those decisions shifted the question to business owners who choose, or don’t choose, to offer health care coverage.

By Kimberly Reeves

July 22, 2014      4:47 PM

Press Releases: The well-being of children, Obamacare ruling reactions, border statements and more sniping in the race for governor

July 22, 2014      3:41 PM

Bearse: Rethinking Rick Perry

From the right: The maturing of Perry as national personality is more than just repackaging

I am loathe to make predictions about politics – especially about elections more than two years away. Ask me who the Republican nominee for president will be, and I will say, “ask me in August, 2016.” Ask me who the Democratic nominee will be, and it is tempting to go with the presumptive favorite Hillary Clinton, but in this case I will take the field. She’s like California Chrome before the Belmont, only there has been no Kentucky Derby or Preakness where she enters the race on a winning streak.

I think Democrats will figure out their nomination is worth fighting for, not a coronation because “it’s my turn.” Look how well that message worked for Senator Hutchison’s gubernatorial bid in 2010.

I don’t know what my old boss, Rick Perry, will do. I don’t know if he will run, or ride off into the sunset. But if he runs, we may very well look back on this period as his “training montage,” like in the movie “Rocky.” Rocky hit the gym, Perry hit the books, and they both began the transformation from street fighter to contender.

First, you have to look at the political backdrop. We have a president who won’t even acknowledge that the crisis at the border is worthy of a visit. Imagine if President George W Bush did a fundraiser in Shreveport and didn’t adjust his schedule to see New Orleans right after Katrina had hit. This is the group that likes government solutions. Why can’t they come up with any?

The rest of the column by former Perry speechwriter Eric Bearse can be found in today's R&D Department.

By Eric Bearse

July 22, 2014      12:49 PM

Perry sets Sept 9 special election for Duncan Senate seat

Nov 4 had been the likely date; this means candidates must file no later than close of business on Aug 1

July 22, 2014      7:56 AM

Press releases: Mostyn top Davis donor, Reax to troops on the border, Straus on managing costs and more

July 21, 2014      5:12 PM

HK: Ethics Commission ruling may create possible criminal liabilities for MQ Sullivan

TEC alleges losing or destroying evidence plus lobbyist Sullivan refused to answer questions under a lawful subpoena.

We and others will be exploring these issues in more depth in the coming days, but the shocker in the today’s Texas Ethics Commission Ruling was the quite explicit declaration that Michael Quinn Sullivan and his associates either lost or destroyed substantial amounts of evidence sought for the investigation.  The exact quote referenced in our earlier story by Scott Braddock was that Commissioners were “left with the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Sullivan and Empower Texans have destroyed or lost thousands of emails sent to members of the Legislature during 2010 and 2011.”

In addition, Sullivan refused to answer questions under a lawful subpoena.  That would be his right if he invoked his Fifth Amendment protections.  He did not.  Instead, he refused to answer citing First Amendment which is a questionable legal theory at best.

Sullivan has multiple legal channels available to appeal and his attorneys of course said they will do so.  Nevertheless, along the way, Sullivan may have exposed himself to possible criminal liability.

By Harvey Kronberg

July 21, 2014      4:07 PM

Perry uses controversial Exec Order deploying military to border

Shifts from humanitarian crisis to criminal incursions; law enforcement unclear about value of military

Gov. Rick Perry deflected criticism of his executive order to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border this afternoon, shifting the focus from deportee children from war-torn countries to drug traffickers and criminal opportunists crossing the Texas border to commit hundreds of thousands of crimes over the last 6 years.

News of Perry’s decision to deploy the National Guard troops to assist the Department of Public Safety in the ongoing effort called Operation Strong Safety leaked out over the weekend, giving critics enough time to question the how, why and how useful the National Guard would be at the state’s southern border.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, called for support along the border last month with emergency funds, but he balked at the use of additional law enforcement in The Monitor over the weekend.

“They (cartels) are taking advantage of the situation,” Hinojosa told The Monitor. “But our local law enforcement from the sheriff’s offices of the different counties to the different police departments are taking care of the situation. This is a civil matter, not a military matter. What we need is more resources to hire more deputies, hire more Border Patrol. These are young people, just families coming across. They’re not armed. They’re not carrying weapons.”

By Kimberly Reeves

July 21, 2014      3:41 PM

Updated: Ethics Commission finds MQS guilty of failing to register as a lobbyist

Agency finds that MQS and Empower Texans either lost or destroyed email evidence; maximum civil penalty of $10,000 is imposed

Note: This story has been updated throughout, including reaction from lobbyist Steve Bresnen – SB

The Texas Ethics Commission on Monday announced that the agency has found Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Empower Texans and a spokesman for Midland oilman Tim Dunn, guilty of failure to register as a lobbyist. For that, the commission imposed the maximum civil penalty of $10,000.

The agency found, among other things, that Sullivan and Empower Texans either lost or destroyed thousands of pieces of email evidence. Commissioner said they were “left with the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Sullivan and Empower Texans have destroyed or lost thousands of emails sent to members of the Legislature during 2010 and 2011.”

“The Texas Ethics Commission unanimously finds that Mr. Sullivan, as part of his regular employment, communicated directly with members of the legislative branch to influence legislation without properly registering as a paid lobbyist,” the order said. The commission said the agency didn’t seek a contempt order against Sullivan because it would have delayed the case, however commissioners felt the fact that Sullivan was uncooperative bolstered the case against him.  

By Scott Braddock