UT (nervously) awaits next batch of Perry regents

From a statement by the Texas Exes, the university’s alumni association:

The terms of three distinguished members of The University of Texas System Board of Regents expired this past Friday. These appointments will be made by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

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If the new regents are anything like the last group, the appointments could set off another firestorm of criticism of Perry’s governance of the university. Perry’s most recent appointees opposed many of the goals of the university, including its commitment to research. The university has been in turmoil ever since Perry named Gene Powell as regents’ chair, and Powell promptly made statements to the effect that UT doesn’t need to produce a “Cadillac education,” an old-fashioned Chevy Bel Air would be just fine.

Perry and Abbott: deal or no deal?

If so, what is it?

Brad Watson of WFAA-TV in Dallas made big news with his report of a potential deal between Perry and Abbott. From the station’s website:

In an exclusive WFAA interview Wednesday, [Jan. 31] Gov. Rick Perry said Attorney General Greg Abbott has told him he won’t run against him in next year’s GOP primary should the incumbent seek reelection.

 Of course, just a few hours later, the story was updated to include a statement from Abbott’s spokesman, Eric Bearse:

A spokesman for Abbott’s campaign issued a statement saying he wasn’t familiar with any such deal, and called any speculation about the attorney general’s political future “unproductive.” 

“Gov. Perry and Gen. Abbott are close friends, and talk frequently,” wrote Abbott’s spokesman Eric Bearse in the statement. “I am not going to comment on private conversations I am not privy to. General Abbott is focused on taking care of the business of Texas, and political speculation right now is unproductive. The time for politics is after the legislative session.

There is only one scenario that makes sense. Perry has told Abbott that he is not running for a fourth term. There is no deal. Abbott would not defer to Perry when the AG has enough money to win a primary in his campaign account, while Perry’s fundraising has been anemic by comparison. The rest is theater: Perry can save face by saying Abbott promised not to run against him, and Perry can still pretend that he can win another term (which he can’t).

GOP Presidential Candidates are Banking Their Billionaires

The Republican presidential candidates are collecting billionaires like squirrels hoarding nuts for winter. And this cache of cash may keep at least several campaigns politically viable until the Texas GOP presidential primary next March.

The money primary usually is the great winnower of presidential hopefuls. Candidates who come out of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina underfunded simply do not have the money for the stretch run and frequently drop out before Texans vote in March. The advent of super Pacs in 2012 started changing that, with candidates spending a combined $10 million on television ads ahead of the Iowa caucus alone. Rick Perry spent $2.86 million on Iowa television advertising

With the prospect that winning the nomination in 2016 could cost as much as $100 million apiece, the race is on for candidates to win over the billionaires—or as Molly Ivins would have called them, the oligarchs. White House hopefuls like Ted Cruz and Rick Perry are turning to people whose disposable income runs into the millions of dollars.

The billionaire buzz caught fire today with reports that the Koch brothers, Charles and David, were leaning to throwing their financial might behind Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. After listening to Walker speak at an exclusive New York gathering Monday, David Koch declared that Walker could defeat Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton in a general election, and Koch called Walker a “tremendous candidate.”  In a statement later Monday, Koch denied that he was endorsing any candidate for president. The Kochs have said they plan to spend $889 million during the 2016 election cycle to promote candidates and their small-government philosophy. If they jump into the GOP nominating process, they could be a game-changer for the candidate they back. Though their fortune comes from Kansas-based Koch Industries, the brothers own refineries, pipelines and chemical technology operations in Texas, as well as Georgia-Pacific and the Matador Cattle Company, which covers 130,000 acres in the Caprock area.  

Texas Senate Votes for Local Control of Statewide Political Corruption

The Legislature this year is eager to do away with local control: city plastic grocery bag bans or the use of red light cameras, restrictions on tree cutting or the carrying of firearms on municipal property—plus, the big one, banning hydraulic fracturing to drill for gas within a city limit.

But by a 20-11 vote today, the Senate made it clear that local control is just fine when a state official—including the senators themselves—is accused of committing an ethics crime ranging from election code violations to the corruption of bribery, perjury and abuse of office. Essentially, they voted to put the venue for prosecuting an alleged crime into the location where they will have the greatest influence over whether that crime is prosecuted, their own hometown.

Border Security and Border Rhetoric

An interesting piece is out there this week on the Brownsville federal judge who blocked President Obama’s executive order on immigration brought to my mind, again, that the debate on immigration and border security too often is about sound bites rather than people.

The article I’m referring to was about Judge Andrew S. Hanen, who was in a Baylor law school study group with conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Priscilla Owen and liberal Houston trial lawyer John Eddie Williams. While President Obama has portrayed the case as one of judge shopping by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott to find a right-wingnut jurist, this piece in the not-so-conservative New York Times leaves you with a completely different picture of Judge Hanen.

Mr. Williams said he differed with Judge Hanen on immigration, supporting Mr. Obama “100 percent.” But he said, “I would disagree with anyone who would say Andy Hanen has any prejudice. His decisions will always be based on sound legal grounds.”

Clinton and Perry are Birds of an Email Feather

As Texan George W. Bush’s eight years as president wound down in 2008, Bush told Politico that there was one thing he was looking forward to in a return to private life:

“Emailing to my buddies. I can remember as governor I stayed in touch with all kinds of people around the country, firing off emails at all times of the day to stay in touch with my pals One of the things I will have ended my public service time with is a group of friends. And I want to stay in touch with them and there’s no better way to communicate with them than through email.”

Bush, the email addicted Texas governor, had gone cold turkey on taking office as president, knowing his email accounts would be public record and thus fodder for reporters and opposition researchers to pore over looking for material that could be used to embarrass him.

Apparently, rather than follow the path of this Texas governor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chose to follow the path of another Texas governor, Rick Perry, and engage in removing emails from public scrutiny. While each used different techniques, Clinton and Perry both found ways to make public disclosure of their emails difficult. When it comes to the public’s right to know what their government officials are doing, Clinton and Perry seem to be birds of a feather.

Perry Compares Middle East Troubles to Texas Border

In an apparent effort to restore his gravitas as a presidential candidate, former Governor Rick Perry delivered a tough foreign policy speech to conservatives this morning that compared problems in the Middle East to securing the Texas border.

Perry focused his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference less on the red meat of domestic politics and more on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the Crimea and the threat of ISIS. The crowd was enthusiastic for Perry’s foreign policy rhetoric, but gave him only polite applause when he turned to national issues.

Perry's Second Chance at a First Impression

Polling in presidential races this early tends to have the Flavor of the Week feel – the candidate with the most favorable publicity tends to take the lead. Rick Perry has been trailing in these polls, but a new one has some data that might give the former Texas governor hope that his “Ooops” moment from 2011 is not haunting him.

Although the survey of Republican voters by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling puts Perry into the also-ran category, the poll also suggests that Perry may get a second chance to make a first impression. Among the Republicans surveyed, 43 percent held a positive opinion of Perry, while just 18 percent had an unfavorable view. Another 40 percent said they are not sure they have an opinion of Perry. That’s the crowd he can still win over, and the ones that his opponents have to remind of his missteps in the last presidential race.

Finally, A Real Governor

Greg Abbott is off to a great start as governor. He is doing exactly what a governor ought to do. He has started by addressing the major needs of the state, roads foremost among them, but also education. He has assembled a formidable staff of experienced hands who know their way around the Capitol. I’m optimistic that he will not be awash in ideology.

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