Monday, May 21, 2018

The most important national story at play in Texas tomorrow (since 538 whiffed)....

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
1 John 4:1 (NIV)

We just read this embarassingly bad analysis from about the national stakes in Texas' Congressional runoffs. It's cliche-filled nonsense that, at best, illustrates the hazards of long distance punditry. 538 spends 80% of their time discussing the Democrats despite the fact that Democrats in Texas are irrelevant (unless they're being enabled by Republicans). Honestly, it's not even worth your time.

That being said, there is a national story brewing (for anyone who wants to pay attention): The Republican runoffs, and what they could mean for the Republican conference in the U.S. House.

No matter what happens tomorrow, conservatives are at least +2 in Congressional races in Texas this cycle. Van Taylor is going to replace Sam Johnson. And whoever wins CD-21 is going to be light years better than Lamar Smith. That's already two improvements.

The other four run-offs contrast Texas good ol' boy "Republicans" with grassroots conservatives. If conservatives have a good night tomorrow, it pulls the center of gravity in the Texas delegation significantly to the right. And, if the Texas delegation moves right, so does the Republican conference as a whole.

Those runoffs are below:
  • CD 2 (Ted Poe seat): Crenshaw (conservative) vs. Roberts (Good Ol’ Boy)
  • CD 5 (Hensarling seat): Pounds (conservative) vs. Gooden (Good Ol’ Boy)
  • CD 6 (Barton seat): Wright (conservative) vs. some hack (Good Ol’ Boy)
  • CD 27 (Farenthold seat): Cloud (conservative) vs. Bruun (Good Ol’ Boy).
Right now, the Texas delegation has one solid conservative (Gohmert). It has a few reasonably decent members (eg. Hensarling, Ratcliffe, Roger Williams). The rest are good ol’ boy types.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how, as you replace good ol’ boys with conservatives, the Texas Delegation shifts to the right.

It also doesn’t take a genius to see how, as afore mentioned impact occurs, it has a ripple effect on the rest of the Republican conference.

[Note: With all due respect to our friends in the national media, if you just had to google the phrase “good ol’ boy,” you might want to refrain from commenting upon politics in this state.]

Bottom Line: There are several races in Texas tomorrow with potentially large national impact. But they’re happening on the Republican side, not the Democrat. If you want to understand how the national media missed Trump, THIS is how the national media missed Trump.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Comeback Begins....

"For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,"
Ephesians 2:8

Pop quiz hotshot: What if we were to tell you that there's something new coming out of the University of Texas and it's utterly, totally, completely, and unambiguously good?!?

We're talking, obviously, about the baseball team.

For those who aren't aware, the Longhorn baseball team just won their conference. With today's victory over TCU, combined with Oklahoma State's EPIC CHOKE against Tech, the Longhorns finished the regular season with the best record in Big 12 play. It was a long time in coming.

There's a lot we could say. There's a lot we probably will say. But the short version is that the 2018 Longhorn baseball team is the most interesting thing the athletic department has done since Colt McCoy graduated.

We know we're living on borrowed time until the UT Politburo figures out that the blogger "Cahnman" and the Longhorn Network Character "Heavy Metal David Ash" are the same person.  But before that day comes, there's something we need to say: For the first time in ages, we're happy.  The University has done something very, very, very right and we commend them for doing so.

Don't get us wrong: The University's most politically embarrassing days remain in front of it.  But the seeds of righteousness we started planting five years ago are beginning to bear fruit.  And we have a conference championship in baseball as proof.

Bottom Line: The University of Texas remains one of the most valuable brand names in the world.  Their athletic department just had its most significant accomplishment since Colt McCoy graduated.   And there's more coming....

Friday, May 18, 2018

CD 5: Pounds' honest wealth vs. Gooden's Pay to Play

"The riches of vanity shall diminish: but he that gathereth with the hand, shall increase them.
Proverbs 13:11

We tend to like the Texas Observer.  Even though they're liberal, they frequently do good work on areas like corporate welfare.  But yesterday's article about Bunni Pounds' work as a political fundraiser for conservative candidates is downright silly:
Thirteen days after the Plano party, Pounds made a big announcement: She was launching her own congressional bid. Pounds is running to replace retiring Congressman Jeb Hensarling, who personally tapped Pounds to take the Dallas-area 5th Congressional District seat he’s held since 2003. Her main qualification? For the better part of a decade, Pounds worked as the political fundraiser for Hensarling and, more recently, for a long list of other GOP candidates, including many prominent Texas conservatives like Van Taylor. On its website, Bunni Pounds & Associates claims to have raised more than $10 million for congressional candidates and “other political clients.” Pounds recently told NBC DFW that the goal of her company was to “make sure our conservative liberty-minded candidates were taken care of.”

She may be campaigning as a grassroots conservative, but she’s fishing for money from the same swampy ponds she frequented as Hensarling’s fundraiser.

Pounds worked as the chief fundraiser for Hensarling’s campaign as he rose to one of the most powerful positions in Washington: chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking and Wall Street. She also was the fundraiser for a PAC that Hensarling used to dole out funds to his GOP colleagues. A vehement advocate for extensive deregulation of the financial sector, Hensarling authored the Financial CHOICE Act, a bill that aims to cut the legs out from Dodd-Frank. Pounds was, in turn, charged with securing millions of dollars in contributions from donors, many of whom were in industries that had business before his committee.

After years of only raising money for Hensarling, Pounds set up her own political fundraising and consulting shop in 2015 and within two years had turned it into a half-a-million-dollar business with nine employees, according to her campaign website. The site also boasts that Pounds “is now seen as one of the top fundraisers in North Texas from Fort Worth all the way to Tyler.”

This background raises questions not only about Pounds’ qualifications for office, but about whose debt she’ll be in should she become a member of Congress. Groveling to donors day in and day out is enough to compromise your average politician, to say nothing of someone whose expertise that was before they became a politician.
And?!?  She had a certain set of views on public policy and she raised money from people with similar views on public policy to elect candidates with similar views on public policy.  That's called electioneering 101.

[Note: And, for the love of God, can somebody please explain to the peons at the Texas Observer that Wall St. actually LOVES Government Regulation?!?]

Contrast Bunni Pounds with her opponent:
His name is Monty Bennett, and it’s not even a little surprising that the Dallas hotelier wants to defeat Pounds. Her opponent in the May 22 GOP runoff election is state Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, who passed special interest legislation benefiting Bennett's East Texas ranch while receiving over $100,000 in campaign donations from him, records show.

Gooden’s personal financial statement on file with the Texas Ethics Commission also shows he owns a small slice of Henderson County property with Bennett. Campaign records show Bennett and his MJB Operating LP have given Gooden at least $140,000 for past legislative races, making him Gooden’s largest individual donor.

With the congressional race, Bennett’s critics are seeing a familiar pattern come to a head. Andy Jones, a small business owner who’s clashed with Bennett over property in Henderson County, said Bennett “throws money at everything” to get his way — and questioned whether he would have disproportionate influence over Gooden if elected to Congress.

"That makes me wary because that’s how he works — he buys folks," Jones, a Pounds supporter, said of Bennett’s history of giving generously to Gooden. "I’m afraid with so much money coming from one person — that those votes won’t be straight-up fair."


Bennett’s Henderson County ranch in deep East Texas has been at the center of a long-raging controversy pitting Bennett and Gooden against the Tarrant Regional Water District in Fort Worth. Bennett’s 1,000-acre Lazy W Ranch sits in the proposed path of a $2.3 billion, 150-mile pipeline that will carry water from East Texas to Dallas-Fort Worth, according to court documents.

Less than a year after the water district sought to enter Bennett's property to conduct a survey, Gooden quietly pushed a bill through the Legislature that helped Bennett fight the Tarrant Regional Water District's efforts to condemn a piece of his land for its pipeline.

The 2011 legislation, HB 3864, created the Lazy W District No. 1, a municipal utility district which court records say is comprised entirely of Bennett’s ranch. That has allowed Bennett’s Lazy W to assert “immunity as a governmental entity,” according to a Texas Supreme Court decision that took his side in a procedural fight in 2016.

In an email, Bennett said his and Gooden's joint ownership of an acre in Henderson County had “nothing to do” with the Lazy W District No. 1. Bennett is the president of the board of directors, state records show.

After creating the district, Gooden went to bat for Bennett in his battle to get records from the Tarrant water district, citing his prerogative as a member of the Legislature in 2014 to receive information — including “confidential information“ — as long as it’s used for legislative purposes.

Gooden’s campaign declined to answer a list of questions for this story, including why he owns property with his largest legislative donor and whether he thought Bennett would have undue influence over him if he gets elected to Congress.
Bottom Line:  Both of the candidates in this race have money, but they came about it differently.  Bunni Pounds voluntarily exchanged resources with those of a like mind.  Lance Gooden created a water district to benefit your biggest political donor (on a property where he had an ownership interest).  This does not seem like a difficult choice...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

So THAT's why the UT Board got a new chair last September....

"Let him that stole, steal no more: but let him rather labor, and work with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give unto him that needeth."
Ephesians 4:28

Associated "Republicans" of Texas is a longstanding Rino entity with close ties to the Bushes.  In recent years, it's become a key cog in Joe Straus' machine.  Buried deep in an article about their activities this election cycle, however, we noticed something interesting:
And two El Paso businessmen — ART board member Woody Hunt and Paul Foster, vice chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents — have also dumped in $450,000 and $250,000 since July, respectively.
But there's one detail the article missed: Paul Foster used to be the Chairman of the UT Board.

As the article discusses, ART's activities this cycle started to heat up in September, which got us thinking about another story from last September:
Tucker appointed Board of Regents chairman


AUSTIN—Regent Sara Martinez Tucker, appointed in 2015 by Governor Greg Abbott to a six-year term on The University of Texas System Board of Regents, was unanimously elected chairman of the board at a special called meeting Monday.

Tucker was nominated by Chairman Paul Foster, and the motion was seconded by Vice Chairman Steve Hicks. “It has been an immense honor to serve as chairman of the board these last four years, but it was time to pass the gavel to a new leader,” Foster said. “It was a pleasure to nominate Regent Tucker, who has brought great insight and guidance to the Board over the last two years. The UT System and all of its institutions are going to benefit greatly under her very capable leadership.”
As we noted at the time, the whole thing seemed strange.

Now we know why.

It also explains this story from December.

The best part: Foster's term is up this January, and there's zero chance Abbott re-appoints him after a stunt like this.

Bottom Line: Say what you will about Greg Abbott, but he does not take personal disloyalty lightly (and, in this case, that worked out for the best)....

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

#atxcouncil: Alter's act of pointless virtue signaling to cost Austinites $500k....

"Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil, and cleave unto that which is good."
Romans 12:9

We had noticed they were doing this last week.  We thought it was dumb but didn't give it a lot of thought.  Then we saw this:
The next time the Austin Police Department rearms its more than 1,900 sworn officers, taxpayers can expect to pay as much as half a million dollars more than the last time the department purchased new weapons.

Rather than trade in the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm handguns, the weapons will be destroyed unless an officer chooses to buy their handgun from the department, according to an ordinance passed with little discussion Thursday by the City Council.


The council did not ask the department to make a presentation at any time before the vote, nor did the department make a recommendation, according to Commander Mark Spangler, who is in charge of procuring ordinance as head of the APD Training Academy.


By trading in the old handguns, taxpayers saved $362,328. The department also expected to save $157,152 a year on its practice ammunition and $10,233 per year on its duty ammunition, he said.


Taxpayers can expect nothing in return as more than $1 million in sidearms will be destroyed, assuming none of the 1,908 sworn officers buys back his gun. Assuming the same savings as 2016, taxpayers will still be responsible for nearly $670,000 in firearms that will be destroyed.

Alter’s ordinance does not speak to the costs.
Here's the thing: Typically, we prefer to see them grandstand over national issues.  They don't have jurisdiction, and it takes up time that could otherwise be spent doing thinks like creating "sick leave" entitlements.  Or banning dockless scooters....

But, apparently, now we've gotten to the point where they cost us money even when they're grandstanding.

Bottom Line:  They've certainly done worse things, but this is highly obnoxious....

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Farenthold's New Gig Unintentionally Illustrates SEVERAL Problems with Texas' Good Ol' Boy Politics.

"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness."
Proverbs 16:12

By now we assume you've heard about Blake Farenthold's new position as a taxpayer-funded lobbyist for some obscure port agency on the Gulf Coast.  We could say a lot about it.  Suffice to say, we share the disgust.

While we're tempted to wax emotional about the topic, it teaches several lessons.  While Farenthold's specific situation makes his case particularly appalling, the underlying conduct is not unusual.  It's not always this blatant, but the bad behavior is very common.

To wit:
  • Taxpayer Funded Lobbying -- This biggest problem with this set up is that taxpayer funded entities are allowed to hire lobbyists (or "legislative liaisons" or "governmental affairs specialists" or whatever the euphemism this week) in the first place.  Taxpayer funds should not be used to lobby against taxpayers.  Period.

    Once that disgraceful practice is permitted, you shouldn't be surprised when it's used disgracefully.
  • Obscure Local Governments -- Question: Had you ever heard of the "Calhoun Port Authority"?!?  Neither had we.  But it's there.

    Texas is littered with corrupt, obscure, entities back by the power of the state.  Nobody can keep track of them all.  But they all have power to tax.  And they can all hire lobbyists.

    And they all have employees (most of whom receive taxpayer funded pensions).
  • The "Revolving Door" -- In both the Texas Legislature and the U.S. Congress, former members are allowed to lobby current members as soon as they leave the body.  That should be banned.  But, at a minimum, there should be a "cooling off period" of at least two (and, realistically, more like five) years.
  • No Consequences for EGREGIOUSLY bad sexual behavior -- The financial stuff should be enough to condemn this arrangement, but questionable financial practices aren't the main reason Blake Farenthold left Congress.

    The main reason Blake Farenthold left Congress is because, as a married man in his mid-50's, he ("allegedly") made regular gratuitous sexualized commentary to female staffers in their 20's.

    Yet nobody cares.
Bottom Line: While Farenthold's case is particularly blatant, the underlying "business model" is common.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Congressional candidates silent as Federal Courts (once again) mess with Texas' election laws

"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Revelation 21:8

We've discussed previously how Congress has the authority to shut down the various, ongoing, Federal lawsuits against Texas' election laws.  We've also discussed how the failure to do so is one of the biggest marks against Texas' congressional delegation.  That remains the case.

During the 2018 election cycle, we've discussed how shutting down this nonsense would be one of the easiest ways for a candidate to stand out.  We've also discussed how that's not happening.  That also continues.

In that context, we present last week's news out of San Antonio:
Texas has less than a week to tell a federal judge in San Antonio how it will begin complying with the National Voter Registration Act, a decades-old federal law aimed at making it easier for people to register to vote by forcing states to allow registration while drivers apply for or renew their driver’s licenses.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled more than a month ago that Texas was violating the law, sometimes called the Motor Voter Act, by not allowing Texas drivers to register to vote when they update their driver’s license information online. But it wasn’t clear until this week what exactly state officials would have to do to address that — and by when they’d have to do it.

Now, Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project — which sued the state over the issue in 2016, saying Texas’ current system disenfranchised thousands of voters and violated the U.S. Constitution — have until Thursday to propose a detailed fix for the system. After that, Garcia will weigh the proposals and order a remedy.
And what, pray tell, has been the response of the Republicans in Texas's congressional delegation?!?  Nothing.

Likewise, what has been the response of the candidates for the various runoffs for the various Congressional seats?!?  Likewise nothing.

The place where this is most infuriating is CD-21.  Chip McCall and Matt Roy are both solid conservatives going to ridiculous lengths.  Well, here's a local issue, starring a Clinton appointed judge.  This is the lowest of low hanging fruit.  Yet, neither seems interested.  We'll probably get more childish name calling.

Bottom Line: Early voting began this morning; if any candidate looking for late momentum wants to pick it up, it's sitting right in front of their face.