Texpatriate endorses for Attorney General

This should be a long and intellectual editorial about the political history of the Attorney General’s office, about the nuanced policy disagreements between the major candidates and the different criteria one should use before making a decision on whom to support for the state’s top lawyer. But this decision is just not complex enough to warrant all that. One candidate is an admitted crook, and should stay far away from high office.

State Senator Ken Paxton (R-Collin County) has admitted to engaging in securities fraud, a felony in Texas, when he solicited clients to a capital management firm without properly registering himself, despite being paid to do so. He has been officially reprimanded and fined by the State Securities Board. The Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office has even initiated an investigation against Paxton, though any indictments that might be issued would not occur until after the November election.

Now, if Paxton wins the election but still gets disbarred for his unethical behavior and just shoddy lawyering, he would still be able to continue on in office (our state’s founding fathers, in their grand wisdom, decided you don’t have to be an Attorney to be Attorney General). But if convicted of a felony, he would be removed from office. This is not that small of a possibility.

In our opinion, Paxton is already a confessed crook. Someone like him is either too nefarious or too mindless to follow the law; either way, he should not be rewarded with the privilege to help enforce it. And Texas should not have to relive the excitement of the 1980s when it comes to dealing with public officials who have been found guilty of felonies.

The Democratic candidate, Sam Houston, has a great deal of problems himself that make us think perhaps he is also not ready for prime time. But being camera shy and perplexed on some more complicated issues is a far cry from a felonious crime-spree.

Houston specifically has a rather unclear stance on what criteria the Attorney General should use when determining to defend a state law or not. We don’t know exactly what he believes, and this ambiguity troubles us to some extent. However, we do agree with Houston on many of the underlying principles, such as personal opposition to Texas’ strict anti-abortion laws and homophobic constitutional amendments.

In our view, the second-most obvious difference between Houston and Paxton is their legal experience. Paxton is a second-rate lawyer who has been propped up merely by his skills in Tea Party rabble rousing. Sam Houston, on the other hand, is a well-respected attorney in the City of Houston area, focusing on litigation as a named partner in a major firm.

Though most of all, Houston is willing to approach the issues of the Attorney General with an open mind. This stands in contrast to Paxton’s small and petty ideological approach, which results in the exact type of hubris that can lead to the aforementioned hubris.

What type of laughing stock will Texas be when it has the only Attorney General in the country who is no longer an attorney? We’re not sure what the punch-line would be, and we don’t care to find out by electing Paxton.

Accordingly, this board endorses Sam Houston for Attorney General.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the voting board.

Rick Perry, what have we?

The Texas Tribune reports that Governor Rick Perry has created the “Rick PAC,” a political action committee designed to funnel Perry-approved money throughout the country in preparation for this year’s general elections nationwide. Specifically, the group will reportedly focus upon Congressional campaigns around the country. Given the horrendously gerrymandered districts in Texas, I take it that none of his “investments” will be close to home.

No doubt, this is yet another stop in the road to the White House for Rick Perry, who obviously wants to run for President in 2016. My pertinent sources range from “he’s inclined to do so” to “it’s a 100% done deal.” Suffice it to say, it’s safe to assume we will be talking up a Rick Perry 2016 campaign for at least another year, if not longer. I talked up the prospects of Perry’s tentative run last month in my 5 Part series on the 2016 election, but at this point, I think the more relevant conversation is about Perry’s transition out of the Governor’s mansion and beyond.

Perry is indubitably a lame duck at this point in his governorship (Quack! Quack!). The Legislature will not go into session again during his administration, and future leaders such as Senator Ted Cruz and Attorney General Greg Abbott have already taken over the microphone. Perry is at best an afterthought at this point, existing as a mere formality in Texas politics, only breaking the mold to exercise one of his few powers or walk the other way on an issue. Even his great archenemy, UT-Austin President Bill Powers, will outlast him in public office.

Now, Perry will surely combat the descriptor of being hobbled or a mallard of any form. He obviously still sees himself as the marauding, swaggering cowboy with near-omnipotent influence over all of Texas. And, to a certain extent, he still is.

Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune opined on Perry’s power earlier this year, when he compared him to former Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullcok in the sheer amount of lemmings he has placed within every nook and cranny of State Government. It will take the better part of a decade for all this positions to come up for reappointment, and even then, bureaucrats have a pernicious penchant for adapting to new circumstances, such as a new Governor. Expect the old “Perry men” to quickly become “Abbott men” if and when the need arises.

But these debates aside, Perry’s de jure and de facto power in Austin will be reduced to zero in roughly five months. For the first time in many years, he will find himself evicted from public housing. Like any adjustment in one’s personal and professional life, the change may be frightening, but it also presents new opportunities. With unwavering alacrity, I am positive that Perry will be up for the challenge, whatever it might be.

In my opinion, Perry will make a major announcement of an “Explanatory Committee to look into a possible candidacy,” an evidently mandatory harbinger of the official Presidential announcement, sometime in March. That leaves a negligible amount of time in between his eviction from Colorado Street and the start of his stump speeches. The missing ingredient had been how to remain relevant between now and then. The “Rick PAC” will certainly be a good place to start.

Texpatriate endorses in Comptroller primary

The Texas Comptroller is an incredibly unique position, one without a readily identifiable counterpart at the local or national level. At first glance, one might think the job predominantly revolves around managing and keeping the State’s money. While the Comptroller may do many of these functions today, they were not and are not the prime duties of the office. Indeed, the office of State Treasurer had originally completed these tasks. The prime responsibility of the Comptroller of Public Accounts is to forecast revenue for the upcoming biennium, which in turn binds the Legislature as to how much money it may appropriate throughout its session. These estimates are important, because they can make or break just how painful the austerity in any particular year will be. For example, the incumbent Comptroller, Susan Combs, greatly underestimated revenue a few years ago –for ideological reasons– leading to excessive cuts.

This board has not been impressed by Combs’ tumultuous tenure in office. Putting ideology above the welfare of the State has led to disastrous results, most notably the painful cuts to Education in the 2011 session. Accordingly, we would be remiss to continue with business as usual by supporting her handpicked choice as successor, State Senator Glenn Hegar. Rather than talking about accounting, Hegar has seemed very busy on the campaign trail touting his stance on abortion. Rather than aspiring to be a protector of the State’s financial integrity, Hegar appears content to protect the integrity of the 2nd Amendment. We fail to see how either has anything to do with the office of Comptroller.

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Patterson the Pragmatist

Common knowledge would have you believe that all four Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor are equally conservative, with each and every one occupying a political position just right of Attila the Hun. Accordingly, the prevailing wisdom has held that for liberals or centrists considering casting ballots in the GOP primary, there are no good options. After a few bouts of news in the last few days, I now must strongly disagree with such an overly simplified assessment.

First, The Dallas Morning News reports that Jerry Patterson, the State’s Land Commissioner and a Lieutenant Governor hopeful, has begun calling out his opponents for too extreme of conservatism over the theoretical repeal of the 17th amendment. The over 100 year old statute provides for the direct election of the US Senate, taking that power out of the hands of the State Legislatures. For what it is worth, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples –another hopeful– blasted the idea, albeit on less pragmatic grounds (he noted that direct election led to the reign of Ted Cruz).

As the Burnt Orange Report noted back in October, this fodder penetrated into the mainstream following a primary forum in October. At that point, incumbent David Dewhurst and State Senator Dan Patrick unequivocally noted, on the record, that they wished to repeal the amendment. However, in addition to these statements, Bob Price tweeted that he privately confirmed the remaining candidates were also in favor of repeal. Price is a well-respected journalist for Texas GOP vote, a conservative newsource that is actually pretty straightforward. I’ve placed calls to Patterson’s campaign and received no comment by press time on this alleged discrepancy.

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Texpatriate on State Income Tax

The following Editorial was written by Noah M. Horwitz and concurred to by George Bailey & Andrew Scott Romo. Olivia Arena dissented from this Editorial, but did not write a response.

The Austin Chronicle recently commented on developments related to the Special Election in House District 50. From what I understand, the three Democratic candidates are desperately trying to outflank one another to the left in the somewhat yuppie district. One of these such issues is taxation. Celia Israel, arguably the most progressive candidate in the race, has come out swinging in favor of a State Income Tax, and has berated her opponents for not doing so.

Texas, of course, is one of nine states without an income tax. The most recent public official to have the untethered temerity to support one was Bob Bullock, the Lieutenant Governor from 1991-1999. Bullock supported the tax, much to the chagrin of then-Governor Ann Richards, who opposed a tax. Richards, most Conservative Democrats and Republicans joined together to push the idea down.

The Texas Constitution (Article 8, Section 24) places some restrictions on possible State Income Taxes. Most notably, any tax must explicitly be approved by the voters. Given that referendums take place in odd-numbered years, where turnout often dips into the single digits, this means that a State Income Tax’s enactment would be extremely unlikely.

But aside from the infeasibility of a State Income Tax’s chances to pass, I would like to talk about why it is bad idea as well.

Continue reading to see Horwitz’s reasoning!