Claver Recommends

The Other Prop. 1: State prop. gets overshadowed by electoral hot topics

PHOTO BY JOHN ANDERSON

There’s a multibillion-dollar transportation initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot. No, not that one. While Aus­tinites mull building a new rail system, also on the ballot will beState Proposition 1, which could put $1.5 bil­lion a year into road repair and maintenance. And chances are good that you have heard nothing about it.

Currently, what happens is basically that a portion of state gas and oil tax revenue goes into the Economic Stabilization Fund (better known as the “Rainy Day Fund”). If Prop. 1 passes, half that sum would move instead into the State Highway Fund. Unlike Austin’s rail proposition, the money will not go to a specific project, but will be spent like any other revenue on the general upkeep and maintenance of Texas roads. Even should Prop. 1 pass, the results will be, at best, a patch job. Lawmakers heard last session that, if current hydrocarbon tax revenues hold, the measure will provide $1.5 billion a year. Unfortunately, the Texas Department of Transportation estimates it faces $5 billion a year in unmet needs.

The public vote is an oddity, and nearly didn’t happen. Austin Sen. Kirk Watson noted that, between the anti-tax, anti-fee, anti-toll, anti-rail, and anti-debt groups, “everyone had a way to be against whatever the funding was.” Normally, constitutional amendments like Proposition 1 take place in the first election after the session in which the Legislature approves them; but knowing the measure was controversial, Speaker Joe Straus got lawmakers to delay it a year, so it would not endanger voter approval of the new $2 billion State Water Implementation Fund. Now the road funds are the only statewide proposition, and seemingly have fallen into oblivion.

“It’s definitely flying under the radar,” said Scheleen Walker, director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. The group has not taken an official position on the measure, instead concentrating on endorsements in local and statewide races. It’s a complicated issue: Environmental groups generally are frustrated by the lack of rail and public transit options in the proposition, but then, congested roads generate more pollution. Still, Walker said she’s been telling voters to ask themselves one simple question: “Is this the issue that you really want to tie up Rainy Day funds?”

A handful of “Yes on One” groups have sprung up, most with strong links to the GOP: Former TxDoT chair and Gov. Rick Perry’s chief of staff Deirdre Delisi sits on the board of Move Texas Forward, while Karen Rove, wife of Karl Rove and a heavy-hitting lobbyist in her own right, serves as treasurer of Texas Infrastructure Now. However, neither group has made a major splash. The most high profile campaigning has actually been from out of state: In July, Wisconsin-based Case Construction Equip­ment sent its Dire States tour, highlighting collapsing infrastructure, on a seven-day excursion to Texas in July, and returns on Sept. 22. Why does a Wisconsin corporation care about a Texas proposition? Spokesman Bill Elverman admitted that, in part, it’s because they have large commercial construction customers in Texas. Yet there’s also a worrying lack of national discussion about infrastructure investment. Congress is at an impasse over the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and Missouri voters recently rejected a temporary sales tax increase for bridge and road investment. By contrast, he called Prop. 1 “a very unique opportunity, because there’s no new taxes and no tolls.”

So why aren’t Texans talking about the first serious investment in road infrastructure since the last gas tax increase, two decades ago? Watson suggests there’s no spare political energy. He said, “There’s been a few editorials, but it’s all being subsumed in everything from the governor’s race to, right here in Austin, the other Prop. 1″ (the local transportation bond). He’s still optimistic the measure will pass. “Most people, when they hear what the proposition is and does and will achieve, they’ll go, ‘well that’s a no-brainer’.”

If Watson is right, and voters approve the $1.5 billion a year this November, that still leaves the big question of how to cover the other $3.5 billion needed just to maintain the status quo. The Democrat will be pushing to end gas tax diversions (“I’m going to scream bloody murder to make that happen,” he said, and he will seemingly have Straus’ support). However, that would only raise another $1 billion, and Watson expects to fend off the only major suggestion coming from the right: Transfer all sales taxes on motor vehicles to roads. Continuing to advocate for fiscal transparency, Watson slammed that as just another diversion, one “that would blow a $3.2 billion hole in the state budget.”

BY RICHARD WHITTAKER

Texas lawmaker failed to disclose his own clout letter in UT flap

AP Photo/Eric Gay

The co-chair of a legislative committee that investigated University of Texas regent Wallace Hall failed to disclose his conflict of interest in his conduct of the investigation: he had written one of the clout letters at issue in the controversy.

When Hall began asking questions about legislators pulling strings to get their unqualified friends and family members into UT, Speaker Joe Straus responded by assigning Reps. Dan Flynn and Carol Alvarado to lead a committee in finding grounds to impeach Hall.

Flynn, however, is one of the lawmakers who tried to pull strings for a family friend, and never disclosed that fact throughout his yearlong investigation, even as the question of legislative influence became the subject of two official investigations and independent media investigations, and ultimately led to the forced resignation of the university’s president, Bill Powers.

Flynn wrote a letter to Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa on behalf of a family friend who was applying to UT; the name of the applicant and the letter’s date are redacted on a copy of the letter that was published Thursday by the Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune published 112 pages of correspondence with Cigarroa’s office involving letters of recommendation; five of those letters were from state legislators: Reps. Flynn, Tryon Lewis and Brandon Creighton, and Sens. Carlos Uresti and Mario Gallegos.

A limited inquiry into Powers’ correspondence with legislators regarding 86 applicants found those applicants were four times more likely to be accepted than the general population.

The Tribune didn’t bother to mention Flynn’s letter in its own report. It did mention that Tryon’s letter invokes clout by referring to funding for the university’s engineering program.

The release also included a letter from Regent Steve Hicks to Powers on behalf of an applicant. Hicks is a supporter of Powers.

By Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org

Contact Jon Cassidy at jon@watchdog.org or @jpcassidy000.

Is the conservative press legitimate? Texas speaker wants a rule

Photo from Texas Legislature

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus wants a committee of journalists to decide which reporters are “legitimate” so the Legislature can limit Capitol access to sufficiently apolitical reporters.

Straus made his suggestion to Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune, during a public interview at TribFest, the Tribune’s lucrative annual conference in Austin.

The timing of Straus’ remarks is noteworthy.

Since the last legislative session, three right-leaning publications have come to figure more prominently in Texas politics, and none has been particularly favorable to the Republican speaker.

Michael Quinn Sullivan’s Empower Texans website continues to hire reporters and analysts. Breitbart launched a Texas-specific publication in February and publishes articles by Sullivan.

Watchdog.org has figured in the biggest political story of the last year, the University of Texas admissions scandal and the impeachment of Wallace Hall.

Sullivan is Straus’ main antagonist in state politics. Breitbart has criticized Straus in dozens of articles. Watchdog.org has spotlighted Straus’ role in the admissions scandal, and criticized his effort to decrease government transparency.

Ramsey asked Straus if he planned to distinguish between journalists and advocates when deciding who to allow onto the House floor during the legislative session. In the old days, Ramsey said, it was easy to identify reporters,  all of whom worked for newspapers, TV, or radio.

“Now it’s blurry and there are journalists who work for publications of whatever kind that have an ideological viewpoint,” Ramsey said. “One of them is 60 years old, The Texas Observer, they have been here for ages. When you get to this point where you’re looking at a spectrum of people calling themselves journalist who includes sort of like old-school definition of journalist all the way to maybe this is an advocate, do we let them on the floor of the House? Where is the thinking on this right now?”

“I don’t know,” Straus answered. “I do know what I would like to see happen and I would like for the press association or the whatever organization is out there of media members to kind of maybe self-describe what’s legitimate and what’s not. I don’t know.”

The Legislature has long granted access to left-leaning reporters from Texas Monthly and the Texas Observer, not to mention the dailies. Straus has had little to object to from Texas Monthly, which regularly puts him and his allies on its list of Best Legislators.

“But the media landscape clearly is changing,” Straus said.  “The Texas Tribune is an example of that. But those that have a political point of view that then engage in campaign politics and they’re nothing but political consultants who were working in the off year, maybe it would fit under a different definition. But the San Antonio Express News makes endorsements in campaigns, so I don’t know where the line is, but it’s a tricky one and it’s complicated. Again, I would like for maybe the media associations to help us sort it out.”

According to House rules, the House Committee on Administration oversees press credentials, said Straus spokesman Jason Embry. The chairman of the committee is Rep. Charlie Geren, one of Straus’ lieutenants.

That sort of arrangement is common in state legislatures. Correspondents committees handle credentialing for U.S. Congress.

According to a legal brief filed for the Society of Professional Journalists, when “a government official denies a reporter a press pass because of something he or she has published, the denial is presumptively unconstitutional. However, government officials are unlikely to expressly state that they are withholding a credential for this reason.”

Handing credentialing over to a press committee helps elected officials dodge liability. Press committees, however, are made up mostly of mainstream reporters comfortable with the magazines and alt weeklies that have been telling compelling and factual stories from left of center and much less so with the same kind of reporting and storytelling from the right.

Watchdog asked Sullivan and Breitbart Texas’ editor, Brandon Darby, whether they would be applying for Capitol press credentials.

“No one from Empower Texans has ever applied for floor access,” Sullivan said. “I had legislative press credentials years ago when I was at the Denison Herald and Brazosport Facts. Not to say Empower Texans wouldn’t in the future, but thus far we have not.”

Darby didn’t respond right away.

Watchdog.org’s Deputy Editor Mark Lisheron has had credentials for years. This reporter doesn’t, and doesn’t plan to ask for any.

Which doesn’t mean this reporter would sit still for a press committee denying him the option.

By Jon Cassidy | Watchdog.org

Contact Jon Cassidy at jon@watchdog.org or @jpcassidy000.

Transgender man says AT&T violated city’s NDO

Photo: Screen Shot from KSAT report

Matthew Hileman left job over claims of discrimination, harassment

SAN ANTONIO - The AT&T fired back at claims that it violated the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance on Monday.RELATED CONTENT

Matthew Hileman, a transgender man, filed a formal complaint after leaving his job with Resources Global Professionals, a company contracted by AT&T, saying two co-workers made derogatory statements and placed a sign with a gay slur on his desk.

“They started talking about how they wouldn’t be able to tell who was a transgendered man and made lots of references to transgendered women and derogatory terms about both parties,” Hilemasn said.

AT&T conducted an investigation after Hileman’s accusations and said no wrongdoing was found.

In a letter sent to the city attorney’s office, a spokesperson for AT&T said, “Both employees were interviewed and denied making any offensive or threatening statements.”

AT&T also claims the company had no evidence an employee placed a derogatory sign on Hileman’s chair.

Hileman’s attorney Justin Nichols wants his client’s former co-workers to go on the record about what happened as they determine whether to pursue legal action against the company.

“I’m really concerned that AT&T has thumbed its nose at the nondiscrimination policies and that would send a signal to other businesses that they can do the same thing,” Nichols said.

AT&T sent a letter to the city attorney’s office that lays out its defense, and says the city neither defines nor has the authority to determine what constitutes discrimination.

Hileman says he’s dealt with enough and he’s not going to back down.

KSAT is still awaiting comment from the city regarding AT&T’s claims.

A hearing on Hileman’s deposition request has been scheduled for October.

On Tuesday morning, AT&T representatives sent this statement: “While we investigated carefully and were unable to substantiate Mr. Hileman’s allegations, we continue to take the matter seriously, and agreed to and participated in mediation. This is an issue we really care about, and it’s an area where we have a great record. We do not tolerate discrimination of any sort, including that based on sexual orientation or gender identity, age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion or national origin.”

Park Cities-area race for Texas House features clashes on abortion, other social issues

Photo courtesy of The Dallas Morning News 

The rivals for a Park Cities-based House seat have staked out strikingly different views on abortion, pay equity for women and other social issues as the campaign heads into its final six weeks.

Republican Morgan Meyer and Democrat Leigh Bailey recently cranked up appeals to voters, largely hewing to their party platforms on hot-button concerns.

Meyer, 40, a lawyer, is the front-runner in House District 108, thanks to the GOP-heavy makeup of the Park Cities, Preston Hollow and central Dallas. But Bailey, 35, a lawyer, is trying to make inroads among independents and newcomers to the district.

The first-time candidates, who both live in University Park, met Tuesday with the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News. They agreed on the need to boost state funding for education and infrastructure but said they would not increase taxes.

Bailey said she’d dip one time into the state’s rainy day fund, tap the projected budget surplus and eliminate some tax exemptions. Meyer said he would cut state agencies’ inefficiencies and use the budget surplus.

Their matchup so far has been quiet compared with the ugly, expensive GOP primary that Meyer won. Meyer and Bailey generally focused this summer on raising money and only recently have begun to turn their attention on each other.

Bailey sent voters two mailers that described her business experience, ranging from restaurant cashier to corporate attorney. The fliers did not list her party affiliation. One praised her as “an independent leader who won’t let partisan politics get in the way.”

On social media, she slammed Meyer over his opposition to abortion rights, saying he wants to “close women’s health clinics.” She also said he does not support “fair pay for equal work.”

She called his policies “a threat to Texas women” and urged voters to keep the district “in the 21st century.”

A video that Battleground Texas, a political activist group, plans to release online Wednesday showcases Bailey, who supports abortion rights.

She says in the video that “health care decisions should be made by a woman, her family and her doctor — not by politicians in Austin.”

Meyer rejected her criticisms. He said he opposes abortion, with one exception: when the life of the woman is at risk.

He said he favors a state law requiring all abortion clinics to meet the building, equipment and staffing standards of hospital-style surgery centers. That law is now under legal challenge by abortion rights advocates.

Meyer said, “That does not mean I believe in favoring the closing of women’s health clinics. One is not equal to the other.”

Bailey said that law, now on hold because of court challenges, would shutter more than half of the state’s remaining abortion clinics.

On another issue, Bailey said she wants to pass legislation that ensures pay equity for women. Statistics indicate that Texas women make 79 cents on the dollar for the same work as men.

Meyer said he would back equal pay efforts, if there are gaps in federal law.

On same-sex marriage, Bailey said she supports that, and Meyer said he’s against it.

By Melissa Repko

mrepko@dallasnews.com

Leader against abortion is under attack from the right

Photo: AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN – RALPH BARRERA

This should be a moment of triumph for Texans who oppose abortion.

Forty years after Roe v. Wade, Texas has passed every abortion restriction possible under current law.

Clinics closed. State money is cut off. Hospital rules dissuade doctors.

So why would activists turn against each other?

“It’s very unfortunate,” said Joe Pojman of Austin-based Texas Alliance for Life, target of an anonymous online political attack ad accusing him of ties to — gasp! — the Republican establishment.

For some Texas Republicans, establishment is now a slur.

“One of the worst parts of my job is to face this split in the pro-life movement,” he said, calling the ad the latest in a series of attacks involving differences over end-of-life issues, a Dallas-area Texas Senate primary and support for Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.

Houston-based Texas Right to Life took a more absolutist position in the last Legislature on when and how to take terminally ill patients off life support, opposing both Texas Alliance for Life and the state’s Roman Catholic bishops.

The groups also split along familiar ideological lines, disagreeing over whether to support some of the party’s veteran abortion fighters or more libertarian-minded Tea Party conservatives.

Texas Right to Life is not directly connected or named to the unsigned website bashing Pojman,joepojman.org.

Two calls to officers of Texas Right to Life at office and mobile phones were not returned Tuesday.

Pojman said the website appears to be designed by the same Austin company that has worked for several political opponents.

“I believe all the groups in the pro-life movement have a moral obligation to work together, and that’s the best way to serve vulnerable babies and patients,” Pojman said.

The website is “not all factually correct,” he said.

For example, the site blames Pojman’s group for opposing liberty-minded Tyler Republican state Rep. Matt Schaefer in the March primary, but the group donated to and endorsed Schaefer.

The website also criticized Pojman’s group for not coming to the aid of state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, a libertarian Republican more closely aligned with the party’s Ron Paul faction.

Texas Alliance for Life also ran headlong into Tea Party opposition by backing three-term state Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, a doctor and author of past abortion bills. Deuell lost to Tea Party leader Bob Hall of Canton and remains in litigation against Texas Right to Life over radio ads.

And then there’s the split over three-term House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican elected by a bipartisan consensus and facing re-election when the House convenes Jan. 13.

“We were skeptical, but we believe in results,” Pojman said.

“Straus is conservative and pro-life. Without Straus, we would not have passed the sonogram bill, defunded Planned Parenthood or passed House Bill 2,” the most recent abortion law.

He called opposing Straus’ re-election a “fool’s errand.”

If only we knew the name of the fool.

BY BUD KENNEDY

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/09/23/6144033/leader-against-abortion-is-under.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Democrat challenges GOP’s Paxton to debate in AG race

File Photo 

AUSTIN – Democratic candidate for attorney general Sam Houston wants his opponent, state Sen. Ken Paxton, to agree to a debate ahead of the November general election.

Houston is expected to issue the challenge Wednesday at a news conference in Austin, demanding his Republican opponent “quit hiding from the media and the voters,” spokeswoman Sue Davis confirmed.

“To me, this is fair. He’s either going to debate me or explain to somebody why he hasn’t,” Houston said Friday. “How is this guy going to be attorney general if he won’t even address the issues?”

Houston contends his opponent hasn’t made a public appearance in months, ever since Paxton admitted to repeatedly soliciting investment clients over the last decade – a service for which he pocketed up to a 30 percent in commission – without being properly registered with the state as an investment adviser representative.

Texans for Public Justice, the same watchdog group that filed the original complaint against Gov. Rick Perry that eventually led to his August indictment, has also filed a complaint over Paxton’s noncompliance with state securities laws with the state ethics commission.

Paxton was reprimanded by the Texas State Securities Board and on May 2 fined $1,000 for the violation.

In response, Paxton spokesman Anthony Holm called Houston’s debate demand a desperate ploy from an underdog candidate.

“It’s not surprising that anyone losing by 20 points – and unable to raise meaningful campaign funds – would want free publicity. Rabidly pushing debates is most often the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass,” said Holm.

He did not answer follow-up questions about whether Paxton would agree to a debate. Houston was unchallenged in the Democratic primary.

The general election season has been characterized by top-ticket scuffles over the timing and nature of debates. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, challenged her Republican opponent for lieutenant governor state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston to five debates. He has agreed to one, scheduled for Sept. 29 in Austin.

Meanwhile, at the top of the ticket, gubernatorial candidates Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott continue to spar over the issue. On Friday, Abbott backed out of a second televised debate scheduled for Sept. 30, saying he did not agree with the roundtable format. He later agreed to another debate that same day, but Davis is calling on him to stick to the originally agreed to format.

Paxton was first elected to the state House in 2002. He won re-election four times, and in 2010 launched an unsuccessful bid to unseat House Speaker Joe Straus, before winning a seat in the state Senate in 2012.

He easily defeated his Republican primary opponent, state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas, thanks in part to a nod of support from popular Tea Party darling U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Paxton’s Democratic opponent is a Houston lawyer who in 2008 ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court. In that race, Houston garnered 46 percent, losing to Republican incumbent Dale Wainwright by a five point margin.

By Lauren McGaughy

Mohamed Elibiary has left the building

Photo: Center for Security Policy

Mohamed Elibiary, an Islamist with extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and a record of influence operations in the service of its agenda, has announced his departure after five years on the Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council. We can only hope that – at a moment when the danger posed by shariah-adherent Muslims is becoming more palpable by the day – the Department decided to stop legitimating an advisor who has publicly championed that it was, “ inevitable that ‘Caliphate’ return”, contended that the United States is “an Islamic country with an Islamically compliant constitution.”

Elibiary had always been brazen in his support for Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, including featuring the Muslim Brotherhood “R4Bia” symbol on his twitter page, and publicly lauding Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb.

In 2011, Elibiary was also suspected of utilizing his security clearance in order to access confidential documents from the Texas Department of Public Safety, and seeking to “shop” the files to journalists in order to label then Presidential candidate Governor Rick Perry an “Islamophobe.” In May 2014, during testimony before Congress, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson admitted to Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX), that this was “problematic.”

Whatever the cause of Elibiary’s departure from a senior advisory capacity in the Obama administration, it must be welcomed because – as documented in the Center for Security Policy’s online, video-based course entitled The Muslim Brotherhood in America: The Enemy Within” (MuslimBrotherhoodinAmerica.com) – he played a prominent role in blinding the U.S. government to the threat posed by the Brotherhood’s “civilization jihad.” This was the practical upshot of a sequence of events that began with Elibiary being given the FBI’s highest civilian award at the Bureau’s Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia in September 2011.

Shortly thereafter, Spencer Ackerman of Wired Magazine published pictures of materials in the FBI Training Academy’s Library that Elibiary and his ilk deemed “offensive” accompanied by a series of screeds about the need to stop employing such information and trainers employing it to prepare Bureau personnel to protect us against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On November 8, 2011, then-Homeland Security Advisor to the President (now CIA Director) John Brennan agreed not only to accommodate that demand but applied the purge to the U.S. military, U.S. intelligence community and Department of Homeland Security, as well.

Unfortunately, as welcome as the news is that Mohamed Elibiary may be less able in the future to run subversive influence operations from within the U.S. government, his next publicly announced mission is disconcerting. In response to a Tweeted question from investigative reporter Ryan Mauro (who conducted a highly illuminating interview with Elibiary in the fall of 2013), the former Senior Fellow at the Obama Department of Homeland Security announced that he was now going to turn his attention to “reform[ing] the conservative movement so the GOP can win in 2016.”

I had an opportunity to witness personally Mohamed Elibiary’s involvement with the conservative movement when I was invited in the Spring of 2013 to address a conservative group that meets monthly in the Park Cities neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. Undeterred by his presence, I briefed the group on the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood, its goals of imposing shariah worldwide under the rule of a Caliph, and its practice of stealthy, pre-violent “civilization jihad” to advance that agenda.

I also discussed the enabling role that has been played on behalf of and with Muslim Brotherhood-tied Islamists like Abdurahman Alamoudi, Sami al-Arian, Nihad Awad and Suhail Khan in their influence operations targeting the George W. Bush in the run-up to and during his administration by a prominent conservative activist, Grover Norquist. As recounted at length in Agent of Influence: Grover Norquist and the Assault on the Right, the Brotherhood front called the Islamic Free Market Institute, founded by Norquist and Alamoudi, and Norquist’s self-styled “Center-Right” Coalition meetings in Washington and similar groups meeting in state capitals and major cities across the country have served as vehicles for facilitating the penetration and subversion of the conservative movement.

In the course of my Park Cities briefing last year, I did not mention Elibiary by name and he did not make any intervention or otherwise challenge my briefing. After the meeting ended and he left, however, I asked the organizer, “Why do you have a Muslim Brother in this meeting?” Interestingly, he did not reply by saying, “Who are you talking about?” or “What evidence do you have that anyone here is a Muslim Brother?” Instead, he simply said, “The Center-Right Coalition recommended him.”

One can only assume that if Mohamed Elibiary is going to be involved in “reforming the conservative movement,” he will be doing it with the help of Grover Norquist. And that prospect should be of concern to all of us – as are Norquist’s past dealings with such Islamists to, among many others, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey, former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy, former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Lieutenant General William G. “Jerry” Boykin and six of their colleagues in the community of influential national security practitioners who signed a cover letter accompanying the Statement of Facts that makes up the body of Agent of Influence. It should be required reading for all conservatives.

Frank Gaffney, Jr.

GOP poll shows Paxton with big lead in AG race

File Photo

AUSTIN – State Sen. Ken Paxton‘s campaign is touting a double-digit lead over his Democratic opponent in the race for Texas attorney general, citing a poll commissioned for his campaign and released Tuesday.

The poll was performed by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, a Republican polling firm with locations in Washington, D.C., Oklahoma City and Austin. The poll surveyed 1,003 likely general election voters Aug. 24-26, 2014. They were asked: “If the general election for Texas Attorney General were held today, for whom would you vote for if the candidates were?”

Crosstabs provided to the Chronicle by Paxton spokesman Anthony Holm showed 52 percent chose his client and 28 percent chose Paxton’s Democratic opponent, lawyer Sam Houston, with 17 percent undecided. Paxton fared far better among conservatives, garnering the support of 75 percent of those polled.

Of those surveyed, 54 percent self-identified as conservative and 31 percent as independent. “Liberal” was not parsed out in the provided crosstabs. The margin of error was +/- 3.1 percent.

“Senator Ken Paxton is taking advantage of his convincing primary and runoff election victories and heading toward a dominant general election win,” a WPA press release accompanying the poll stated. “While he certainly has room for growth, the fact Paxton is already exceeding 50 percent of the vote illustrates his strength as a candidate.”

In response, Houston spokesperson Sue Davis criticized the timing and nature of the WPA poll: “I find this memo laughable. I find it interesting that Mr. Paxton’s spokesperson created it after they found out about our news conference.”

On Wednesday, Houston plans to challenge Paxton to a debate ahead of the November general election.

“They don’t release the actual numbers or the actual questions. Do the respondents know about Mr. Paxton’s legal problems? Do they know he admitted to a third degree felony? Knowing this, would people really think Ken Paxton could be an effective attorney general?” Davis asked.

Paxton was reprimanded by the Texas State Securities Board and on May 2 fined $1,000 for repeatedly soliciting investment clients over the last decade – a service for which he pocketed up to 30 percent of the management fee – without being properly registered with the state as an investment adviser representative.

Even so, he solidly defeated state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas in the late-May Republican primary, thanks in part to a nod from U.S. Ted Cruz. Houston was not challenged in the Democratic primary.

WPA, which has counted Tea Party favorites U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and U.S. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) as clients, was founded by Chris Wilson, who served as executive director of the state Republican Party under George W. Bush’s governorship. Chris Perkins once headed up former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s political action committee.

Lauren McGaughy is a reporter in the Houston Chronicle’s Austin bureau. She can be reached at lauren.mcgaughy@chron.com or on Twitter @lmcgaughy.

Texas Attorney General Poll – Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research

Update: Texas, Mexico escalate border surge disagreement

Photo: Houston Chronicle 

Update, 2:15 p.m. on Sept. 12

AUSTIN – Texas and Mexico escalated their disagreement Friday over Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to send the state’s National Guard to the border.

Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto called the deployment “reprehensible” in an interview published in a daily newspaper.

“It is an attack on good relations and neighborliness,” Nieto told El Universal, adding that, “the policy is completely unacceptable and it does not embody the spirit of cordiality and friendship between two nations,” he added.

In response, Perry criticized Mexico for not addressing the spike in unaccompanied minors from countries such as Honduras who have crossed Mexico into American.

“Gov. Perry deployed members of the Texas National Guard to disrupt criminal activity that threatens all American citizens, and which is primarily a result of the U.S. federal government’s lack of commitment to securing our southern border,” Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said in a statement that was more sharply-worded than comments yesterday about a Mexican ambassador’s statement on the same topic. “While Mexico has made progress in many areas, the government has not addressed the flow of unaccompanied minor children en route to the U.S. from Central America. Rather than questioning Gov. Perry’s decision to do what he knows is right for the citizens of his state and country, we wish the Mexican government would instead work more cooperatively with us to address this very serious problem.”

 Original post, 7 p.m. on Sept. 11

AUSTIN — Top Mexican and Texas officials criticized each other Thursday over the surge in Lone Star State law enforcement personnel at the border.

The Mexican government started the war of words by issuing a statement calling this summer’s surge in Texas National Guard troops and state Department of Public Safety officers “irresponsible” and politically motivated.

“The unilateral measure taken by the government of Texas is undoubtedly mistaken and does not contribute to the efforts in which our two countries are engaged to build a safe border and create a solution to the phenomenon of migration,” said the statement, which said Mexico “deeply rejects and condemns the deployment.”

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fired back later in the day, saying it was Mexico that was being “insulting” by implying the surge is political.

“I find it puzzling and frankly offensive that the government of Mexico chose the 13th anniversary of the most tragic attack on our homeland to call on Texas to throw open our international border to illegal immigration, trafficking in drugs and human lives, and potentially even terrorists who wish to harm America,” Dewhurst said in a news release, adding that, “On this day of all days, we are reminded of the threats, both foreign and domestic, that face our nation.  Regardless of the source of such misguided criticism, I will always make my top priority each day to protect the safety of all Texas citizens.”

The surge in law enforcement started in June in response to a massive spike in the number of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the southern borders. Officials said the children took up so much time that Border Patrol could not stop illegal activity by Mexican drug cartels.

Dewhurst, Gov. Rick Perry and state House Speaker Joe Straus agreed in June to spend $1.3 million per week on the surge in state Department of Public Safety officers. Perry announced the National Guard deployment in July, and the troops started deploying last month.

On Thursday, Perry’s office adopted a less angry tone than Dewhurst or the Mexican government.

Our borders should not be open and vulnerable to exploitation by ruthless criminals,” Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed wrote in a statement. “The governor is focused on ensuring drug cartels and other criminals don’t get a free pass into Texas and the rest of the nation because our borders are unsecured. We look forward to continuing to work with Mexico to address illegal immigration and the tragedy of unaccompanied minors.”