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Bob Perry

The fox has always guarded the henhouse

News item: Rick Perry appointee says something obnoxious and privileged about the people his company fleeces for his fortune.

The official who oversees Texas’ consumer watchdog says payday-loan customers — not the lenders — are responsible when the loans trap them in a cycle of debt.

William J. White says it’s out of line to even question an industry that has had its practices called exploitative by many critics, including the Catholic Church.

White was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to chair the state agency that oversees the Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner, which is responsible for protecting consumers from predatory lending practices.

White also is vice president of Cash America, a major payday lender that the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month socked with its first sanctions for abusive practices.

White didn’t return calls earlier this month for a story about his dual roles as payday lender and consumer defender. But, on Dec. 12, as the Finance Commission wrapped up its monthly meeting in Austin, he agreed to answer a few questions.

“What you’re doing is totally out of line,” White said, as the interview wound down. “This fox-in-the-henhouse stuff is totally political.”

His company and others in the industry have been accused of making payday loans to desperate people in amounts they can’t afford to repay. Customers become trapped in a cycle in which all of their disposable income — and some non-disposable income — goes to payday lenders, critics say.

Former El Paso city Rep. Susie Byrd spearheaded a payday-lending ordinance early this year that is on hold until the city council debates it on Jan. 7.

White was asked to respond to Byrd’s claim that payday lenders in Texas profit by making people poor.

“That’s really is not worth responding to,” White said. “People make decisions. There’s nobody out there that forces anybody to take any kind of loan. People are responsible for their decisions, just like in my life and in your life. When I make a wrong decision, I pay the consequences.”

Ha ha ha ha ha. Dude, you’re rich and politically connected. You don’t pay consequences for anything. You have people for that.

Anyway. Sen. Wendy Davis took exception to White’s offensive remarks.

Democratic governor contender Wendy Davis is calling on William J. White to step down as chairman of the Finance Commission of Texas for saying people who take out payday loans are responsible for their own situations.

White, vice president of Cash America, should be an advocate for consumers on the state board but instead makes excuses for his own predatory industry, Davis said.

“William White can’t protect Texas consumers while he represents a predatory lending company on the side,” she said.

That’s a feature, not a bug. I’ll get back to that point in a minute. In the meantime, Lisa Falkenberg presses the point.

In April 2012, [White] signed the commission’s resolution complaining of the “complexity” and “confusion” of local payday regulations. He asked the Legislature “to more clearly articulate its intent for uniform laws and rules to govern credit access businesses in Texas.”

In other words, he asked lawmakers to bigfoot (or, pre-empt) local protections, forcing cities to conform to the state’s do-nothing regulation.

[…]

“There’s nobody out there that forces anybody to take any kind of loan. People are responsible for their decisions … ,” White told the Times reporter. “When I make a wrong decision, I pay the consequences.”

There’s nobody out there who makes you buy gas after a hurricane, either, or book a hotel room because your flood-prone house flooded. Yet the state, through Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, still protects people against price gouging and profiteering on misery after such an event. I guess the misery of the working poor is another matter.

[…]

Earlier this week, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Wendy Davis, of Fort Worth, declared White’s comments a “blatant conflict of interest,” and called on Perry to remove White from the state post.

Perry – no surprises here – isn’t budging. And what from Abbott, the Republican candidate hoping to succeed Perry? As of deadline Tuesday, silence.

The attorney general’s spokesman didn’t respond to a phone message or to a list of questions asking, among other things, whether he would have appointed a payday loan executive to watch over the payday loan industry. Abbott himself has taken more than $21,000 from Cash America’s PAC, according to campaign finance records. He also has promised a fresh perspective and transparency in government.

Here’s a chance to prove it. Abbott should follow Davis’ lead and call for White’s ouster, condemn the commissioner’s comments and show he’s prepared to lead differently, to cast aside old ways, and to replace cronies with competent, fair appointees.

Oh, Lisa. You’re such a kidder. Of course Greg Abbott will never do this. In fact, he’s already defending White. (Sen. Sylvia Garcia, on the other hand, is with Wendy.) Hell, the only reason he goes after gasoline price gougers is because they directly affect everyone, including suburban Republican voters, who scream bloody murder when it happens. The people whose lives are being wrecked by payday lenders don’t have voices that Greg Abbott hears. To him, that’s just the free market. And if it has to be regulated at all, best to have someone at the helm that really, truly understands the needs of the businesses that are being regulated. Anyone besides me remember the Texas Residential Construction Commission, or TRCC? Remember who Rick Perry appointed to be the first head of that commission? Here, let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

Consider how the Residential Construction Commission came to be created and how it was appointed.

According to a report released earlier this year by public advocacy groups, Texas homebuilders donated $5 million to executive and legislative candidates, political parties and political action committees during the 2002 election cycle, which completed the Republican takeover of the statehouse.

Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, a major contributor to Gov. Rick Perry and Republican causes, gave $3.7 million of the total.

Bob Perry (who isn’t related to the governor but obviously shares his political philosophy) and other homebuilders were a driving force behind creation of the new commission. The new law established some construction and warranty standards for the new agency to regulate, but its primary purpose was to offer homebuilders protection against lawsuits brought by unhappy customers.

Homeowners now have to go through an expensive, commission-run dispute resolution process before pursuing any legal action over construction complaints. This is more bureaucratic and potentially more intimidating than the mandatory arbitration process that most builders already required in new home contracts.

The law also limits the damages that homeowners can recover, and the makeup of the commission has consumers justifiably concerned.

The law requires four of the nine commissioners to represent builders. State regulatory boards typically include some members of the industries being regulated.

The argument is that technical, industry input is necessary for effective regulation, but the fox-and-henhouse practice also is a testament to the lobby’s influence.

Two of the “public” members appointed to the Residential Construction Commission by the governor also have strong ties to the homebuilding industry. And, even more troubling for consumers, one of the industry representatives, John Krugh, an executive of Bob Perry’s homebuilding company, was appointed to the commission by Rick Perry less than a month after the governor had received a $100,000 political donation from Bob Perry.

The governor’s office denied any connection between the contribution and the appointment, but skeptical consumers should be forgiven.

The TRCC was such a crony-tastic debacle that it finally got sunsetted in 2009. But the philosophy is ever with us. William White is just John Krugh in another context. Same story, different chapter. And it’s always been fine by Greg Abbott. If Greg Abbott had ever had an inkling to put the interest of consumers over the interest of business, he’d have shown it before now. If you want that to happen, you don’t want Greg Abbott as Governor, because he’ll keep doing what he and Rick Perry have always done. It’s nothing new, and it’s not a secret.

30 Day campaign finance reports, selected legislative races

Here’s a sampling of 30 day finance reports from state legislative campaigns. I used the Back to Blue list as a starting point and added a few races of interest to me from there.

Dist Candidate Raised Spent Loan Cash ========================================================== SD10 Davis 843,878 346,466 0 1,537,783 SD10 Shelton 606,586 153,204 0 566,825 SD25 Courage 27,603 14,791 0 14,546 SD25 Campbell 566,920 592,332 90,000 7,407 HD12 Stem 29,228 23,325 0 24,566 HD12 Kacal 58,460 33,438 0 30,196 HD23 Eiland 134,051 80,923 0 101,419 HD23 Faircloth 92,890 46,816 30,000 43,089 HD26 Nguyen 12,051 22,808 0 10,840 HD26 Miller 45,765 27,995 1,000 9,496 HD34 Herrero 69,722 49,667 0 25,655 HD34 Scott 125,430 68,349 0 255,629 HD43 Toureilles 46,170 23,973 0 11,585 HD43 Lozano 260,590 185,421 0 89,770 HD45 Adams 48,020 25,800 36,000 32,241 HD45 Isaac 128,502 44,595 140,250 69,918 HD78 Moody 73,754 48,371 0 21,858 HD78 Margo 306,071 82,170 0 202,898 HD85 Olivo 9,738 3,490 2,150 10,143 HD85 Stephenson 34,696 16,146 0 21,677 HD102 Hancock 27,245 4,924 0 7,380 HD102 Carter 112,821 109,543 0 66,776 HD105 Robbins 24,687 36,999 1,505 30,583 HD105 H-Brown 123,449 68,244 52,615 87,997 HD107 Miklos 74,020 56,401 0 24,707 HD107 Sheets 280,354 96,777 0 146,778 HD114 Kent 121,236 89,824 0 132,748 HD114 Villalba 172,885 147,326 0 42,612 HD117 Cortez 48,015 44,610 1,844 18,620 HD117 Garza 52,559 72,669 0 62,371 HD118 Farias 51,015 34,925 0 25,482 HD118 Casias 23,730 21,714 0 852 HD134 Johnson 217,346 103,699 0 263,301 HD134 Davis 332,120 99,582 0 232,383 HD136 Stillwell 61,060 20,842 2,000 8,632 HD136 Dale 112,273 22,798 35,000 82,853 HD137 Wu 58,221 55,152 50,000 32,263 HD137 Khan 55,351 40,877 10,000 23,894 HD144 Perez 104,939 30,082 0 107,729 HD144 Pineda 77,357 49,460 0 33,428 HD149 Vo 38,665 27,632 45,119 48,768 HD149 Williams 134,990 56,342 1,500 74,222

Here’s a sampling of July reports for comparison. A few thoughts:

– I don’t think I’ve ever seen a greater disparity in amount raised and cash on hand as we see here with Donna Campbell. Campbell, of course, had a runoff to win on July 31, which covers the first month of this filing period, and a cursory perusal of her detailed report shows the vast majority of the action was in July, as you’d expect. I’d still have thought she’d collect more cash after the runoff, since she’s a heavy favorite to win in November. Assuming she does win, we’ll need to check out her January report from 2013.

– Overall, the Republicans have done a very good job of raising money to protect their vulnerable incumbents. The main exception to this is John Garza in HD117, though he still leads his opponent, Phillip Cortez. The difference between Rs and Ds on amount spent is a lot smaller, which may indicate that their strategy is to do a late blitz, or it may mean they’re just sitting on a lot of cash.

– Turncoat Rep. JM Lozano initially filed a report with almost no cash raised and no expenses listed. Apparently, he “forgot” over $250K in contributions. That total includes $100K from Associated Republicans of Texas, almost $68K from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, $25K from Texas Republican Representatives Campaign Fund, $6K from the Texas House Leadership Fund, $15K from Bob Perry, and just for good measure, $2K from Koch Industries. Hey, I’d want to forget about all that, too. Here’s his current corrected report; there may be another to come.

– After a somewhat anemic July report, Rep. Sarah Davis kicked into overdrive for this period. Ann Johnson, who has an ad I’ve seen a few times on the Headline News Network, did a pretty good job keeping pace, and still has a cash on hand advantage. I presume Davis has some ads running as well, since she got a $100K in kind contributions from Texans for Lawsuit Reform for TV advertising, but I have not seen any such ads myself. She also collected $100K total from Associated Republicans of Texas ($65K) and Texas Republican Representatives Campaign Fund ($35K), plus $20K from Bob Perry.

– Mary Ann Perez had the next most impressive haul after Ann Johnson, showing some very strong numbers for that open swing seat. I presume her strategy is the do a late push as well, given the cash she has on hand. And given the money they’ve sloshed around to so many other candidates, I’m surprised David Pineda hasn’t been the beneficiary of a few wads of dough from the usual suspects. We’ll see what his 8 day report looks like.

– If your eyes bugged out at Dianne Williams’ totals in HD149, I assure you that mine did as well. A closer look at her detailed report shows that nearly $115K of her total came from one person, a Mrs. Kathaleen Wall. Another $5K or so was in kind from various Republican PACs. Take all that out and her haul is much less impressive. The money is hers to spend, of course, it’s just not indicative of some broad-based support.

That’s all I’ve got. Anything interesting you’ve seen in the reports?

Down to the wire for “sanctuary cities”

There’s an 11th hour lobbying effort to stop the “sanctuary cities” bill as it is.

As two of Texas’ most politically-involved business leaders emerged as opponents, a bill banning “sanctuary cities” lost crucial momentum Friday, raising the possibility the measure will be killed or substantially weakened before the special session of the Texas Legislature ends Wednesday.

HillCo Partners’ lobby team, led by Neal T. “Buddy” Jones, is working on behalf of Houston home builder Bob Perry and San Antonio grocery store magnate Charles Butt to alter a proposal that would permit law enforcement officers to inquire about the immigration status of people they detain, Jones’ partner Bill Miller confirmed.

Miller declined to detail the changes Jones hopes to make in the legislation, saying only that they have “given language to members” to consider including in the proposal, which would carry financial penalties for cities that prohibit law enforcement from inquiring about immigration status.

The opposition of the business leaders demonstrates a schism in the Republican Party on the issue, designated a priority by Gov. Rick Perry. Bob Perry, no relation to the governor, is a prolific Republican contributor who has given $2.5 million to the governor’s campaign coffers since 2001. HEB CEO Butt has made substantial contributions to members of both parties.

Friday, the House State Affairs Committee canceled hearings scheduled to pass the bill for the second day in a row, due to a lack of a quorum, as exhausted lawmakers returned home to tend to their businesses and families. A meeting has been scheduled for Monday, but House leaders did not rule out that a meeting could be called during the weekend if enough lawmakers return to Austin.

[…]

Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, who sponsored the measure, expressed frustration that the two businessmen are “trying to kill the bill” at such a late hour.

“It’s good to know that my good friend, Buddy Jones, and his clients, Mr. Butt and Mr. Perry, decided after six months what they think a sanctuary cities bill ought to look like,” he said. “I don’t know where they’ve been for six months.”

Well, Burt, not to put too fine a point on it but for the first 140 days they knew that Democrats would kill the bill in the Senate, so there was no urgent need on their part to do anything. With the two-thirds rule out the window for the special session, they figured they needed to get their act together, and that meant lobbying Republicans. Any questions?

Perry and Butt aren’t the only ones telling Republicans to back off, and much as it pains me to say anything nice about the likes of Norman Adams and Steven Hotze, they’re doing the right thing for mostly the right reasons, so kudos to them. If they do succeed here, however, I still believe they need to rethink their strategy going forward, because unfortunately this issue isn’t going away. In fact, unless there’s a miraculous breakthrough on windstorm insurance reform in the next 24 hours or so, it may reappear later this week. So keep fighting the good fight and all that, but try to remember that plugging your fingers into the leaks isn’t the same thing as repairing the levee. PDiddie has more.

Bell scores $2 million verdict against RGA

Chris Bell racks up his second legal victory related to a lawsuit stemming from the 2006 Governor’s race.

A state district judge Tuesday ruled that the Republican Governors Association violated state campaign finance laws and ordered it to pay Chris Bell, the 2006 Democratic candidate for governor, $2 million.

Judge John Dietz’s order, following a May trial, found that the GOP group failed to disclose two $500,000 donations made to Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign in the final days of the 2006 campaign.

The $2 million judgment comes after it was disclosed this summer that the Perry campaign had paid Bell $426,000 to settle similar claims against him.

Bell can’t comment about the Perry settlement because of a confidential agreement, but he was free to react to Tuesday’s decision.

“People should be glad that there are repercussions when people try to hide the source of campaign donations,” Bell said. “If the judge had ruled for them, most of our election laws would have gone out the window.”

Bell had previously settled with the Perry campaign for $426K. The Chron has more, including the final judgment and findings of fact, which seem pretty clear. The RGA will appeal anyway, so this story isn’t over quite yet.

No, they won’t “cross swords” over this

A few days back, I blogged about how immigration reform is supposedly going to be a wedge issue for the GOP because evangelicals and business types support it. I took issue with a statement by Bill Hammond, the president of the Texas Association of Business, who claimed that this is an issue on which they would “cross swords” with their “traditional friends” by noting that nothing in Hammond and TAB’s campaign contribution history supported such a claim. Think Progress, riffing off of a post by John Coby, provides further evidence of this. They looked at the signers of a DMN op-ed that called on Congress to “pass realistic immigration reform” and wrote the following:

However, despite calling on Congress to “pass realistic immigration reform,” many of those wealthy Texas businessmen have donated thousands of dollars to a party that hasn’t only blocked any chance of comprehensive immigration reform, it’s also actively working to pass anti-immigrant, restrictionist policies that will make it even harder for them to do business. In all fairness, many of the businessmen donated funds to pro-immigrant Democrats as well — however those donations paled in comparison. Instead, many of them helped get several Republican candidates get elected and continue supporting the GOP throughout 2010, despite it’s swing to the far right on immigration.

Bob Perry of Perry Homes tops the list with $134,600 in the year 2010 alone. Over $65,000 of Perry’s money went directly to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which presumably provides strategic support to Republican senators who have done nothing but stall and obstruct Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) efforts to propose and enact comprehensive immigration reform. An additional thousand dollars went to Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) campaign, despite the fact that he recently tried to block federal funding of the Justice Department’s lawsuit against SB-1070 and “led the assault” on immigration reform in 2007.

Similarly, Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, founder of the Red McCombs Automotive Group and co-founder of Clear Channel Communications has donated a total of $10,000 to the NRSC. However, McCombs most shocking contribution was to immigration zealot Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). Woody Hunt of Hunt Construction has donated $60,800 to the NRSC this year as of April 2010. Hunt also donated almost $10,000 to Sen. Orrin Hatch(R-UT) who recently accused President Obama of “pandering to Hispanics” by “pretending” he’s going to do something about immigration. Bob Barnes, chief executive of Schlotzsky’s restaurant chain, donated $15,000 to the NRSC in March 2010 and an additional $15,000 to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who has firmly refused to work with Democrats on immigration reform.

Cornyn has since gone even further to the right on immigration by supporting a “review” of the 14th Amendment. (Good thing he wasn’t around back in 1868.) I doubt he’ll lose a dime from any of his current backers over that. Hell, I doubt he’ll ever be publicly criticized by any of them.

I’m not claiming that these business interests should now throw all their money at Democrats. They have other reasons for supporting Republicans. They like having their taxes cut, and they like having their regulations rolled back. Sure, they’d also like to see comprehensive immigration reform, but not as much as those things. So they overlook the utter intransigence of the Republicans that they support on this, and on many other issues they give lip service to, and instead write op-eds and make meaningless statements about “crossing swords” and hope people think that will have an effect. Maybe if the Perrys and the Beecherls and the McCombses and the Hammonds used the access they have to Republican leaders to forcefully communicate their distress over all this hurtful, counterproductive nonsense, and called them out in public and by name when they obstruct and oppose the policy goals they claim to support, I might give them some credibility. But they don’t do that – can’t take a chance on jeopardizing those future tax cuts, you know – so I see no reason to take them seriously.

Meet the Mostyns

I have two things to say about this.

Attorney Steve Mostyn said Tuesday he and his wife, Amber Anderson, are committed to putting a “substantial” amount of money that likely will exceed $3 million into ending hard-right Republican politics in Texas government.

The pair already has put $1.3 million into committees that can help Democrat and former Houston Mayor Bill White win the governor’s office, making them far and away his biggest benefactors in this race.

“My gut seems to be dictating this instead of my head,” Mostyn said. “If my head was dictating it, I’d probably put the money into a trust fund for my kids.”

The couple’s largesse and manner of giving is rapidly turning them into a Democratic version of Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, a frequent and substantial donor to Republican and conservative candidates and causes.

The Mostyns are also the main funders of the Back to Basics PAC. Regarding the comparisons to Bob Perry, call me when Governor White names a Mostyn Law Firm employee to a newly-created commission that has the power to positively affect their own firm’s bottom line. It’s never been just about the money where Bob Perry is concerned, it’s been about what he has gotten for that money.

Two, I have been in favor of restricting the total amount of money that a single donor can give in an election cycle for a long time. A bill to do just that was introduced last session by Democratic Reps. Mark Strama and Mike Villarreal but predictably got nowhere. (I actually think the $100K limit this bill would have imposed is too low. I’d go for $250K, with an inflation adjuster built in to allow for the increasing cost of elections. But these are details to be quibbled over. It’s the principle that matters.) I know plenty of other Democrats who would like to see such limitations enacted. If Republicans don’t like what the Mostyns are doing, perhaps they will reconsider their opposition to bills like this one. Until such time as we are living in my ideal world, however, I’m not going to criticize Democratic activists for engaging in legal activities.

Bob Perry loses lawsuit to homeowners he’s screwed

Good.

By now, surely you know the story of Bob and Jane Cull, which has been around for a decade — when the twosome sued Perry Homes, claiming their house in Mansfield went to hell shortly after they bought it for $233,730 in 1996. At almost every turn, folks found Perry Homes liable for damages — including the arbitrator who said they deserved $800,000 (one quarter of which was to pay for “mental anguish”).

But home-builder and Swift Boater Bob Perry and Perry Homes refused to pay up; so too Warranty Underwriters Insurance Company. And the Supreme Court of Texas — every single member of which got some dough from Bob Perry — likewise refused to rule in the couple’s favor: In 2007 it vacated the arbitration award and kicked it back to the lower court, which is where it landed a few weeks ago.

But [Monday], a Tarrant County jury told Perry to pay up, ruling that Perry Homes owes the Culls $7 million in actual damages and $40 million in punitive damages. Warranty Underwriters is on the hook for $4 million more in punitive damages.

Good for the Culls, who truly deserve some justice. Of course, Perry will appeal this, and if he loses there he’ll surely go back to his besties on the Supreme Court for another bailout. Big shots like Bob Perry just don’t get held accountable for their sins. I hope I’m being overly cynical about that, but given that he’s spent over a million bucks to overturn that original $800K judgment, I don’t think I am. Some more background is here, and more on the verdict is here and at Swamplot. Thanks to Hair Balls for the tip.

Eight days out: Spending on voter outreach by At Large candidates

As with the Controller’s race, I took a look at spending on voter outreach for At Large candidates in the 30 day out report. Given that some large number of people have no clue about who is running for these offices, I figured I’d better look at the 8 day out reports as well. Here we go, starting with the big field in At Large #1:

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Karen Derr 1,000.00 Advertising (HBAD) Karen Derr 150.00 Advertising (Jewish Herald Voice) Karen Derr 251.00 Advertising (Allen Jamail) Karen Derr 1,813.78 Advertising (Allen Jamail) Herman Litt 300.00 Advertising (Charity Productions) Herman Litt 600.00 Advertising (Jewish Herald Voice) Herman Litt 15,998.63 Mailer Herman Litt 1,110.65 Yard signs L Allsbrooks 2,000.00 Signs S Costello 840.13 Push cards S Costello 970.30 Push cards S Costello 80,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) S Costello 12,625.00 Production S Costello 79,975.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) S Costello 297.42 4 x 4 signs S Costello 2,846.98 4 x 4 signs Don Cook 315.73 Yard signs Don Cook 432.24 Postcard mailer Rick Rodriguez 1,500.00 Door hangers Rick Rodriguez 650.00 Web ad (Houston Chronicle)

Costello’s media buy is the big news here. You figure that has to be an advantage for him for getting into the runoff, as nobody else is doing anything remotely like it. Only Litt has sent a significant amount of mail, so advantage to him as well. I’ve been getting text messages from the Lonnie Allsbrooks campaign, but did not see an expenditure listed for text messaging; it may have simply been classified as “phones” or “phone service” or some such, however. I also didn’t see anything relating to video production, but that expense may be recent enough to not be in the 8 day report. He does have a contribution of $7280 listed in this report from “The New Beginning hosted by Nosa Edebor”, which I suppose could be an in-kind donation of the video production, but 1) it wasn’t listed as such, and 2) that’s above the $5K contribution limit. There was also a $12,125 contribution from the 30 day report that I’d forgotten about till I went back looking for something that might relate to this, with “friends of Barrett Brown” written in the in-kind box. Not sure what that’s about, but again, over the $5K limit. Oops.

UPDATE: I received the following in response to this:

We, here at the Allsbrooks Campaign, saw your latest blog entry about the At Large Candidates spending on voter out reach. We noticed you had some questions about our expenditures and our contributions.

1. First there is the question of text messages. Those are sent directly from our campaign phone and not by an outside company, so that is included in our “phone service”.

2. Secondly there is the video production of our latest video or slide show on YouTube. That video was done by a friend of Mr. Allsbrooks and will be on our next campaign finance report. Given it came out after the final day of our last report.

3. Lastly there is the question of our actual contributions because they appear to be over the $5000 limit. The “friends of Barrett Brown” and “The New Beginning hosted by Nosa Edebor” were two separate fundraisers that had nothing to do with the video production. The reason they are over the $5000 single person limit is because they were hosted by those people and other people were contributing to the campaign.

Thank you for you time,
Allsbrooks Campaign 09

So there you have it.

At Large #2:

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Sue Lovell 30,450.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Sue Lovell 1,418.04 Mail R Shorter 375.00 Advertising (D-Mars) R Shorter 750.00 Signs Griff Griffin 70.00 Signs Griff Griffin 160.00 Push cards Griff Griffin 300.00 Flyers Andrew Burks 1,957.19 Signs Andrew Burks 376.80 Campaign Literature

My understanding is that Lovell’s purchase is enough for a week on cable – MSNBC was the station I’d heard – but I have not seen a video of her ad, nor have I seen it myself (no surprise since I never watch cable news). Anyone out there seen this? As for the rest, I guess they finally had their fill of Subway sandwiches at Griff’s headquarters, as I saw no more purchases of them. Good news for Lovell that nobody else is spending money, bad news that Griff and Burks come with built-in name recognition, thanks to their tireless efforts to be on a ballot as often as possible. She may win without a runoff, but it’s easy to imagine those two getting 20-25% of the vote each, and that leaves her very little room to get to 50% plus one.

At Large #4:

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Noel Freeman 4,354.90 Printing & processing bulk mail CO Bradford 125.00 Radio ad (KWWJ) CO Bradford 75.00 Ad (Williams Temple) CO Bradford 1,000.00 Ad (African American News & Issues) CO Bradford 650.00 Radio ad (KCOH) CO Bradford 1,948.50 Door hangers CO Bradford 2,704.52 Push cards CO Bradford 2,186.65 Campaign signs CO Bradford 420.00 T-shirts CO Bradford 5,347.55 Door hangers CO Bradford 500.00 Texting campaign info CO Bradford 225.00 Ad (Jewish Herald Voice) CO Bradford 300.00 Ad (Our Tribune) CO Bradford 530.43 Yard signs Curtis Garmon 357.63 Car magnets Curtis Garmon 525.01 Push cards Curtis Garmon 1,428.48 Bumper stickers Curtis Garmon 2,458.36 Signs Curtis Garmon 1,200.00 Ad (KSEV)

We knew about Freeman’s mail piece, which attacked Bradford; I’m not sure if that had gone out before and this is a second mailing or if it’s just going out now, but he’ll need it to counter some of Bradford’s outreach. As with Gene Locke, Bradford has a paid field campaign, though of course not nearly as large, and he’s been on the radio. Bradford has the better name recognition, too, which cuts both ways for him. Garmon is basically self-financing – he listed no contributions on his form, and all of his expenditures were filed on the Schedule G form, which is for spending money loaned to oneself for the campaign.

Finally, At Large #5:

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Jolanda Jones 8,521.44 Printing Jolanda Jones 23,115.12 Direct mail Jolanda Jones 21,273.92 Direct mail Jack Christie 3,003.94 Signs Jack Christie 5,000.00 Ad in mailer (Tx Conservative Review) Jack Christie 5,000.00 Ad in mailer (HCRP) Jack Christie 8,865.10 Mailer Jack Christie 30,000.00 Mailer

Jones hits the mailboxes in a big way, though as yet I have not seen what she may have sent. Anyone gotten this? Christie did pretty well in this period after having squat to report with 30 days out. He raised $48K, helped by six $5K donations, including one each from Bob and Doylene Perry. He also spent $62K, which includes that $30K mailer, which was a loan to himself. Makes you wonder what things would be like if he’d gotten an earlier start. Regardless, I think his late push has the potential to make this a race again. I still expect CM Jones to win, but Christie could sneak up on her and force a runoff. I did not see any reports for Davetta Daniels or Carlos Obando; at least in the latter case, he may have been distracted.

Coming Monday: Spending in the district Council races.

UPDATE: See the note above from the Allsbrooks campaign. As of this morning, reports from the Obando and Daniels campaigns were available online. Obando had some expenditures on signs, and Daniels had three entries totaling $3500 on “advertising/marketing”, whatever that means.

Perry’s haul

Rick Perry does what Rick Perry does best.

Gov. Rick Perry has raised $4.2 million in the final nine days of June, giving him $9.3 million to begin his expected GOP primary campaign against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Hutchison transferred money from her U.S. Senate account at the end of last year, giving her $8 million to start the campaign.

Perry was prohibited by state law from raising money during the regular legislative session and through the period when he can sign and veto bills. Hutchison had no such restrictions.

Hutchison’s campaign was giving no hint of how much she raised. Detailed reports on fund-raising for the first half of this year are not due until next Wednesday.

“Kay Bailey Hutchison is proud of her strong statewide support, which is both broad and deep,” Hutchison spokesman Hans Klingler said in a statement.

It’s a good total for Perry, and Hutchison’s weak response suggests that maybe she didn’t do so well, or at least that she didn’t measure up to the perceived expectations. Either way, it’s another news cycle win for Perry, who has been on a roll with that lately.

But please. He did not raise this money in nine days. He raised it over six months’ time. It was only in the last nine days that he was able to actually collect the checks that his supporters had been sitting on since January, waiting for the fundraising window to open again. I’ll stipulate that if he’d been able to work the phones and hold events his total would likely have been higher; we’ll have a better idea of how much higher when we see the fundraising reports for this six-month period. The same will be true of anyone else that was subjected to the legislative blackout period. So let’s not overstate what happened here.

Perry’s campaign refused to release a list of his donors on Wednesday.

He financed his 1998 race for lieutenant governor in part with a $1.1 million loan guaranteed by three donors. And in 2006, a $1 million donation by Houston businessman Bob Perry, no relation, to the Republican Governor’s Association coincided with a $1 million donation from the RGA to Perry’s campaign.

Again, we’ll have a better handle on this six months from now. If Perry’s funding comes entirely or in large part from the usual set of plutocrats, he may have a hard time keeping up.

With half a year of fund-raising left to go, Perry and Hutchison could enter the primary with each having $20 million budgets.

It used to be the accepted wisdom, at least in Democratic circles, that primaries were bad and destructive and wastes of money. That was before last year, when the many positive effects were demonstrated, including energizing and engaging newer voters, broadening the donor base, generating name recognition for the eventual winner, and doing tons of voter contact that came in handy in November. This, however, is the kind of primary that those naysayers had worried about. It’s not going to be an energizing campaign, it’s going to be an exercise in trench warfare and increasing the other candidate’s yuck factor. Which isn’t to say it can’t be overcome – November is a long way from March, Democrats overcame a lot of hostility from their primary last year, and Republicans did very well in numerous races in 2002 and 2004 in other states after nasty primary fights – but you can see the cause for concern. The cause for concern on the Democratic side is looking at those dollar amounts and thinking there’s no way to compete with them. That’s the sort of thing that led to the Strayhorn folly of 2006, and may lead to crossover primary voting for Hutchison next year; there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence of Dems being willing to do that just to make sure we don’t get four more years of Rick Perry. Until the Democratic field is settled and we get a better idea of how those fundraising efforts are going, it’s all guesswork.

Finally, in related news, there’s another poll showing Perry with a lead over KBH in the Republican primary. I don’t really have anything to say about this, but Burka, BOR, and The Contrarian do, so go check them out.

Another veto battle

We know about the ruckus caused by HB770. Another once-obscure bill that has generated post-session controversy is SB1410, which has firefighters up in arms.

Texas firefighters and others who value “local control’ want Gov. Rick Perry to veto legislation prohibiting cities from passing ordinances requiring fire sprinklers in new residential homes.

Homebuilders want Perry to sign the law because, they say, it would make new homes too expensive if cities were to require fire sprinklers.

“Fire sprinklers make up for human error. Residential fire sprinklers are the only system that can be put into a home today that will stop a fire before it reaches a deadly proportion,” Dallas Fire Chief Eddie Burns said Monday.

More than 40 Texas fire chiefs gathered near the Governor’s Mansion, which an arsonist torched one year ago.

Houston Assistant Fire Chief Karen Dupont was particularly blunt about SB 1410 – the legislation firefighters want Perry to veto.

“By prohibiting the enactment of any local laws that would require fire sprinklers in your homes, the Texas Legislature has mandated substandard housing in the state of Texas,” Dupont said. “This bill would not allow Texas cities require homes to be built in compliance with nationally recognized codes and standards.”

But the Texas Association of Builders has sent a letter to Perry urging him to sign the bill. Texas homebuilder Bob Perry (no relation) is one of the governor’s largest campaign contributors. And other homebuilders also have been generous to the governor.

What’s he going to do? Go against “local control” and the firefighters? Or, go against his campaign supporters?

Here’s some more coverage from around the state on the firefighters’ plea for a veto. Rick Casey jumped on it over the weekend, as SB1410 would have a direct local effect.

The law would not take effect until Sept. 1, but it retroactively voids all local ordinances passed since Jan. 1, including one that West U. passed last month mandating sprinkler systems in all new homes.

The amendment was attached to a Senate bill by Rep. John Otto of Dayton, a small town northeast of Houston, who had failed to get his own bill on the subject to the House floor.

West U. Mayor Bob Kelly this week sent Gov. Rick Perry a letter asking him to veto the bill.

Mayor Kelly told the governor the issue wasn’t so much the ordinance itself, but the “assault on local control.”

Dayton is in a rural area “with entirely different dynamics than our urban community,” Kelly wrote. He said West U. building codes should not be made in Otto’s Liberty County.

“Local control has always been a fundamental tenet of your philosophy of government,” the mayor wrote the governor. “The amended Senate Bill 1410 attacks that philosophy. We strongly urge your veto.”

You can see the text of Rep. Otto’s amendment here. Mayor Kelly’s argument is convincing to me. If a particular city wants to impose this regulation, knowing full well the effect it would have on home prices (which, as Casey points out, would be chump change for your typical West U swankienda), I think they should have the right to do so. The voters of West U or Plano (which has an ordinance requiring sprinklers for houses of 6000 square feet or more) or wherever are perfectly capable of voting the bums out if they don’t like it. I’d side with the builders if this were a fight about a state requirement to include sprinklers in new construction, but I see no reason to forbid a city that wants to do it. I agree with the firefighters – SB1410 should be rejected.

UPDATE: And here’s SB1410 House sponsor Rep. John Otto with the case for the residential sprinkler ban.

Bell lawsuit against Perry advances

In November of 2007, Chris Bell filed a lawsuit against Governor Rick Perry’s 2006 re-election campaign and the Republican Governor’s Association claiming they illegally hid $1 million in donations from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry. The suit alleges that the RGA was not legally set up to make donations at the time of the contributions to Perry. More information on the allegations in the suit is here. On Tuesday in Austin, the plaintiffs survived a motion to dismiss.

District Judge John Dietz late [Tuesday] denied efforts by Texans for Rick Perry and the Republican Governors Association to throw out a lawsuit brought against them by Democrat Chris Bell, who ran against Perry in 2006, said Bell lawyer Buck Wood.

[…]

Wood said the Dietz ruling did not address Bell’s own effort to have a summary judgment in the case. If that effort is also denied, the case will move closer to a trial.

Good for Bell. These things obviously move very slowly, so don’t expect the next update to come any time soon.

Ethics and finance bills to get their turn

One never really expects bills relating to ethics and campaign finance reform to make it through the process, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on them.

In the last session, for example, at least 105 bills related to general ethics, lobbying or campaign-finance were filed. Only nineteen became law.

This session, members of the House and Senate again are considering more than 100 bills.

Among them are bills that would places caps on individual campaign donations to candidates, prohibit former lawmakers from immediately becoming lobbyists and prevent campaign payments to relatives.

Another bill, filed by Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks, would make lawmakers who run afoul of the ethics rules pay fines to the Texas Ethics Commission with personal funds, rather than with campaign donations.

“It makes a bigger impression on you if you write your own check rather than out of campaign dollars,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me to fine me $500, or $50,000, and I can just go down the hall, raise it and pay it.”

Geren said some of his colleagues strongly objected to his bill. Among the other bills that could face challenges is a measure that would explicitly prohibit any payments of campaign funds to relatives.

The bill, by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, is a reaction to recent ethics findings against lawmakers who, for example, hired their wives as campaign bookkeepers.

“We’re trying to make sure that campaign contributions are used in furtherance of another cause, and that it’s not a slush fund to pay members of your family,” she said.

Another bill would restrict the most prolific donors from giving more than $100,000 in total to all candidates during an election cycle.

Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, for example, has donated more than $2.1 million to elected officials from both parties since January 2008, according to campaign finance reports.

Geren’s bill is HB477, Thompson’s is HB3178. It’s hard to argue with Geren’s bill, since what he describes is generally what happens. I will say that TEC enforcement, such as it is, tends to be a bit capricious, and their guidelines are not nearly as concise as they should be; as such, I’m at least somewhat sympathetic to claims that this will be unfair to the members who aren’t as well-heeled as some of their colleagues. Still, I think the general principle is correct. As for Rep. Thompson’s bill, the poster child here is Christi Craddick (latter link is a PDF). Were it not for abuses like that, I wouldn’t care much about a bill like that, but if it weren’t for abuses like that such a bill likely wouldn’t exist in the first place.

The contributions limit bill is HB391, by Reps. Mike Villarreal and Mark Strama; both have introduced legislation like this in previous sessions. It’s something I’ve been calling for myself for some time now, so I’ll be rooting for it. As with the others, I don’t really expect it to get anywhere, but bills like these serve a useful purpose regardless. If nothing else, I look forward to hearing what the opponents have to say about it.

The TRCC should be sunsetted

What EoW says. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s ludicrous to think that a rational profit-maximizing actor such as Bob Perry would spend as much as he does on political access without expecting to get some kind of return on his investment. Seeing him collect the returns on his investment, in a manner that clearly contravenes the public interest, should therefore come as no surprise. John has more.