Mon October 6, 2014 2:33 pm By Erica Grieder

Over at The Dallas Morning News, Gromer Jeffers Jr has a piece about Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney-general nominee: 

In a rare interview last week with The Dallas Morning News, Paxton said he is mindful that political rivals are pushing a narrative that he faces a possible indictment, perhaps even after he takes office as the state’s top lawyer.

In May, the Texas State Securities Board said Paxton violated state law by soliciting clients, for pay, for a company that dispenses investment advice even though he had not registered with the board. He was fined $1,000. It can be a crime, but Paxton describes it as an administrative error.

I find myself in a state of genuine (although inconsequential) confusion over several things. First of all, this comment, "It can be a crime." In certain cases, that sentence makes sense. Rick Perry's efforts to encourage the Travis County district attorney to resign, for example, may be tantamount to coercion, which is a crime; hence his indictment on charges of coercion (abuse of official capacity). In Paxton's case, however, authorities have already determined that the action described--soliciting paying clients as an investment advisor, without having registered with the Texas State Securities Board--was a violation of state law. That's why they fined him. Paxton himself, in describing his failure to register as an administrative error, is only commenting on his motive, not on the supposed legality of his actions. And as a number of sources reminded me with regard to Perry, if you broke the law by accident, it still counts.

My second point of confusion is why Paxton's presenting himself as the victim here. I get it, as a political gambit, but this is not, let's say, an argument one would take to appellate court. The suggestion that Paxton could possibly face indictment over actions that violated the law and that he's already admitted to isn't a "narrative" being pushed by political rivals. It's a factual comment about a possibility, a possiblity that Paxton himself acknowledged to Jeffers: "We have [a lawyer] ready, if anything does happen.” It's arguably a possiblity that should concern Republicans more than Democrats; the last time I heard someone raise a concern about this, in fact, it was a conservative lawyer, and the concern was that the looming possibility of an indictment would potentially give the federal government leverage against the Texas attorney general. And for that matter Paxton's actual political rival--the Democratic candidate for attorney general, Sam Houston--did tell Jeffers that Paxton might be indicted, but his main point was about the action itself, the failure to register as an investment advisor: “He wants to be the state’s top law enforcement officer, and he broke the law." 

Third point of confusion: As the Republican nominee, Paxton has to be considered the presumptive successor to Greg Abbott, the current attorney general. Yes, Texans are notoriously disinterested in government, and yes, it's a downballot race, and no, the Texas Constitution doesn't even say that the attorney general has to be a lawyer. Still...I mean, come on. 

Speaking of which, today is the last day to register to vote in this year's general election. (If you're not sure whether you're registered, you can check via the secretary of state's website.) 

Thu October 2, 2014 12:33 pm By Paul Burka

I'm not surprised that the race for governor has tightened according to the recent Lyceum Poll. This is a contest between two candidates who have the support of large constituencies that stretch far beyond Texas. Abbott is among the state's most prominent attorneys and is no stranger to the U.S. Supreme Court. Davis staked her claim to fame with her memorable filibuster of HB 2. Republicans have the advantage in numbers, this being Texas, but Democrats seem to be somewhat resurgent, and Davis gave them a shot in the arm with her strong performance in the final debate. Abbott has to be the favorite, but this is not a particularly strong Republican ticket, and the full force of the Texas Enterprise Fund scandal has yet to be felt. It's going to be closer than people think.

Wed October 1, 2014 8:48 am By Paul Burka

The final debate in the 2014 governor's race is over, and the winner was clear-cut: Wendy Davis. She was the aggressor from start to finish. Davis hammered Abbott on his $300,000 in contributions from payday lenders and on his cozying up to the insurance industry. She favored Medicaid expansion. He opposed it.

Abbott and Davis also clashed over money for schools. Abbott said "Texas children deserve a first-class education" and talked about his education plan. It is primarily directed at early childhood and pre-K. It does not go beyond the fourth grade. Davis touted her filibuster against the $5.4 billion in cuts imposed by the 2011 Legislature. Abbott's response on health care was lame. He rolled out a long-discredited idea that Texas should seek block grants from the federal government. It's straight from the TPPF playbook. We know this won't work because Rick Perry and TPPF have been trying to get block grants for health care for years, and they have never succeeded in prying money out of the feds.

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Mon September 29, 2014 11:53 pm By Paul Burka

I thought that the lieutenant governor's debate between Leticia Van de Putte and Dan Patrick tonight was pretty amazing. Van de Putte was a traditional candidate, who advocated for the longstanding major issues that define Texas politics: schools, health care, transportation. Patrick was totally different. He is the most formidable radical politician the state has produced in my career of covering the Legislature.

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Mon September 29, 2014 11:04 am By Paul Burka

When one looks at the wheeling and dealing that went on with the Texas Enterprise Fund, my question is this: Why is it not an impeachable offense? These folks used the Enterprise Fund for their private playground. They awarded $222 million to entities that, according to the Dallas Morning News, never submitted a formal application or agreed to create a specific number of jobs (all of which is required for those seeking TEF grants). Remember, these are state tax dollars that Perry and Abbott were playing fast and loose with, and they were getting goodies from campaign contributors. Abbott, not incidentally, has received $1.4 million in contributions. Isn't he in the position of being a fiduciary with respect to the Enterprise Fund?

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