Welcome to the final week of traditional summer. Of course, it used to be that everything (school, football, the new TV year, etc.) started after Labor Day Weekend, but that’s not the case any more…
Posts Tagged ‘Texas’
Got a bunch of links building up concerning Wallace Hall, Joe Straus and related topics that I’m just going to shotgun out here:
Dwight covered the indictment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on “three felony counts of securities law violations” a while back, but I wanted to touch on a few unusual aspects to the indictment.
Now I’m just a simple
Hyper-Chicken from a backwoods asteroid blogger, so I won’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the security laws Paxton theoretically violated. But it does appear that something stinks about the Paxton indictment:
The two charges of fraud against Paxton don’t involve misrepresentation on Paxton’s part, or any other violation of a clear principle. Rather, the prosecutors think Paxton should have volunteered more information about his own investments in the course of selling stock in a company, and that his not doing so amounts to fraud.
Paxton isn’t being accused of telling a lie, which is a factual question. He’s being accused of the much more subjective charge of misleading investors by failing to state a material fact. Actually, the indictments just allege the failure to state a fact; they don’t explain how anyone was misled.
Mateja told Texas Lawyer he had expected Paxton would be accused of making a fraudulent misrepresentation, and that he was surprised by the actual indictment.
“They are saying that it was unlawful for him to fail to mention that he had not personally invested (in a tech company called Servergy) and he would be receiving compensation,” Mateja said.
If that by itself were found to be a crime, securities traders across the state could be facing criminal exposure every time they make a sale, unless they take the unusual step of telling clients that they hadn’t purchased the stock for their own portfolios.
Paxton did have stock in Servergy, though: 100,000 shares that he’s been reporting on his annual disclosure forms since 2011.
The prosecutors are apparently unclear about whether Paxton already held those shares when he solicited investors, or whether he got them later, as they accuse him of failing to disclose to them that he “would be compensated, and had, in fact, received compensation from SERVERGY, INC., in the form of 100,000 shares.”
So either he would be or he had been. What the newspapers miss is that this isn’t an explicit violation of any law. It’s the special prosecutors’ opinion that Paxton should have volunteered this information.
The Paxton indictment becomes even more suspect when you see who’s really behind them, mainly Texas Speaker Joe Straus’ team.
There is now little doubt that the coalition government of liberal Republicans and Democrats who control the Texas House are responsible for the politically motivated indictments against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The leadership of that coalition, headed by Speaker Joe Straus, and Paxton have been political opponents for several years. In 2011, Paxton challenged Straus for the Speaker’s office and though he was unsuccessful, Paxton went on to win an open state senate seat in 2012. From there, he launched an underdog bid for Attorney General, defeating Straus’s boyhood friend, Rep. Dan Branch, in the process.
The indictments against Paxton were unsealed on Monday to reveal that the complainants were none other than Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana) and a Florida businessman with connections to Cook, Joel Hochberg.
Cook is chairman of the powerful House Committee on State Affairs. It was at Cook’s Austin home that Straus was chosen to be speaker in 2009. As one of Straus’s most powerful lieutenants, Cook used his committee this session to stop a major ethics reform package, to bury pro-life legislation and legislation aimed at curbing illegal immigration, and to prevent a vote on legislation aimed at protecting paychecks from being raided by public employee unions.
Hochberg was not well known to Texans before Monday, but research reveals connections to Cook spanning decades. Cook earned his millions at the helm of a videogame publishing company named TradeWest that was founded by his father. Joel Hochberg was the creator of the popular video game “Battletoads” and other games that were published by TradeWest in the 1990s.
(I never played it, but Battletoads is widely described as the most difficult video game to beat of all time. )
On Saturday, just before the indictments were leaked to the New York Times by one of the special prosecutors involved in the case, we ran a piece examining, amongst other things, a series of open records requests filed with the offices of several members of House leadership. The requests, which were filed with the offices of House Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio), Rep. Jim Keffer (R–Eastland), and Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth), sought records of communications and meetings with the Travis County DA’s office about Paxton’s case. It is unclear what records specifically were being sought, but it is clear that the person who filed the requests, Democratic operative Matt Angle, thought there had been communications between those offices and the DA about Paxton.
Since then, a source has informed us that two other member’s of Straus’s leadership team, Rep. Drew Darby (R–San Angelo) and former Republican Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, were overheard discussing Paxton’s case at the 2014 Republican State Convention. According to the source, Darby and Hilderbran stated that they were waiting until after the 84th legislature commenced to renew their attacks on Paxton.
In short: The Paxton indictment, like the Perry indictment, appears to be more about politics than crime.
(Hat tip: Push Junction.)
Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:
“Thanks to our low-tax, low-regulation environment that allows all businesses to thrive, the State of Texas has become the national leader for technology job creation, and we continue to attract tech companies from around the country and around the world,” [Governor Greg] Abbott said. “On behalf of the State of Texas, I am pleased to welcome LiveOps to the Lone Star State as the company seeks to transform cloud-based customer service. With their help, the State of Texas can, and will, continue to lead the nation in job creation within the technology sector.”
Well, isn’t this special:
A gunman killed during his attack on an Islamic prophet Muhammad art show in Garland, Texas, reportedly bought a pistol through a botched federal firearm sting.
Nadir Soofi bought a 9-mm pistol at a Phoenix gun shop in 2010, one report said, that sold illegal firearms through ATF’s heavily criticized Operation Fast and Furious to track firearms back to Mexican drug cartels.
See, that’s the problem with the Obama Administration. You can pick something out of The Crazy Rightwing Conspiracy Book of Madlibs and have it turn out to be true…
Been a while since I took a look at the last region of Texas where Democrats still wield political power: the Rio Grande Valley. What’s going on down there these days?
Would you believe…corruption?
The Rio Grande Valley is considered the most corrupt area in the country, according to the latest statistic from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Valley has the highest number of federal public corruption convictions. In 2013, 83 cases received guilty verdicts or pleas. The FBI since launched their anti-corruption task force.
Let’s look at a few examples, shall we?
They’re called politiqueras — a word unique to the border that means campaign worker. It’s a time-honored tradition down in the land of grapefruit orchards and Border Patrol checkpoints. If a local candidate needs dependable votes, he or she goes to a politiquera.
In recent years, losing candidates in local elections began to challenge vote harvesting by politiqueras in the Rio Grande Valley, and they shared their investigations with authorities. After the 2012 election cycle, the Justice Department and the Texas attorney general’s office filed charges.
“Yes, there is a concern in which the politiqueras are being paid to then go and essentially round up voters and have them vote a certain way,” says James Sturgis, assistant U.S. attorney in McAllen.
In the town of Donna, five politiqueras pleaded guilty to election fraud. Voters were bribed with cigarettes, beer or dime bags of cocaine. In neighboring Cameron County, nine politiqueras were charged with manipulating mail-in ballots.
Funny how much of that voter fraud Democrats claim doesn’t exist there is. (Hat tip: Push Junction.)
These are only the stories that have caught my eye this year…
We’ve known, from the drips and dabs that slipped out, that the UT admissions scandal was worse than the Kroll report actually let on. But we didn’t know it was ten times worse:
At least 764 applicants initially denied admission to the University of Texas were admitted thanks to a backdoor program for the wealthy and politically connected administered by former president Bill Powers.
More than 200 of those applicants were admitted despite having their applications cancelled by the Admissions Office.
The total is more than 10 times the 73 applicants widely reported from an investigation paid for by the university and conducted by Kroll Associates. Kroll withheld the full findings from its 107-page final report.
The Kroll investigation confirmed what had been common knowledge in the wealthy Dallas-area community of Highland Park, which includes UT Regent Wallace Hall and House Education Committee chair Dan Branch: students were getting into UT at extraordinary rates, despite bad grades.
UT admitted seven Highland Park students with grade point averages below 2.0 and SAT scores below 800.
The very worst of the students UT admitted, the investigation showed, were clustered in the districts of Branch, House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), and Sen. Kirk Watson, (D-Austin).
Straus has gone to even greater lengths than UT to cover up the abuses. He authorized a special committee operating behind the scenes in an effort to impeach Hall for asking too many questions about the admissions process.
A very cynical part of me wonders if this is the root of Straus’ stranglehold on the Speaker’s office: his power as the go-to fixer for getting unqualified students into UT.
If you hadn’t heard, Wallace Hall, who uncovered the scandal, is suing UT chancellor William McRaven for access to the documents Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has already said he’s entitled to.
Indeed, UT’s dishonest coverup may be a big factor in the Supreme Court in agreeing to hear an appeal on Fisher vs. University of Texas, “a 2008 lawsuit brought by a white student claiming the university’s diversity-seeking admissions system had unfairly deprived her of admission.”
The Dallas Observer‘s Jim Schutze (who, unlike myself, favors affirmative action) explains:
The court did receive a blistering friend-of-the-court brief (see copy below) from the Cato Institute, a conservative think-tank, in support of Fisher’s request to be heard again. The Cato brief called the court’s attention to an investigation of admissions at UT that grew out of the Hall disclosures. Cato told SCOTUS the investigation proved that UT’s “claimed diversity rationale is a sham.”
That would be new evidence, maybe. But if it goes to the university’s core integrity – if the university has been lying to the courts about why it handles admissions the way it does – then maybe it’s not so new. Maybe it goes right to the heart of the existing case.
We have talked here often before about revelations brought forward by Hall showing that the former president of the university and some of the regents were handing out undergraduate admissions to sons and daughters of influential state legislators the way favors of love are distributed in a bawdy house. But does that kind of corruption go to the affirmative action question?
Nobody knows if the Cato amicus brief played any role at all in the high court’s eventual decision to rehear Fisher. But if it did, this would be why: When the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 to send Fisher back down to the 5th Circuit, the court said the lower court needed to take a tougher look at the university’s admissions policies. The Supreme Court told the lower court not to just take the university at its word but to examine the university’s admissions closely under a doctrine called “strict scrutiny.”
The 5th Circuit basically said yeah, yeah, OK, we strict scrutinied them, and we still trust them. So the 5th Circuit upheld the university. Fisher appealed back to the Supreme Court saying the 5th Circuit hadn’t really done the strict scrutiny strictly enough.
Then along comes the Wallace Hall evidence of an under-the-table secret admissions program the university forgot to tell the courts about. In fact, Hall’s investigation found evidence of lying, destruction of documents, coercion – enough story lines for an entire season of The Sopranos, all having to do with UT admissions.
A Supreme Court case is likely to bring national attention to a scandal the local mainstream media has tried to downplay or bury. And if it turns out UT actually lied to the courts, well, that sort of thing tends to make federal judges a mite testy…
(Hat tip: Push junction.)
Time for another Texas vs. California update!
What’s remarkable (or not, depending on your worldview) about the huge disparity in poverty rates between California and Texas is that the states are diametrically opposed in their taxing, spending, and regulatory policies. California, featuring America’s highest marginal income-tax rate, ranks as the fourth-most taxed state in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation, while no-income-tax Texas came in at forty-seventh. In a broader survey of economic freedom that includes labor law and regulation, Canada’s Fraser Institute rated Texas and South Dakota as tied for first with California lagging far behind at forty-third, just ahead of New Jersey at forty-fourth.