Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gov. Perry Is Hiding A $21 Billion Texes Budget Deficit

"Saddle bags" by Nick Anderson - Houston Chronicle
Dallas Morning News:
New assessments, obtained by The Dallas Morning News after a recent huddle of senior legislative staff members, show that even if lawmakers decide to spend all $9 billion in the state's rainy day fund, they still would need to come up with almost $12 billion more to close the gap - through some combination of spending cuts, accounting tricks and new taxes or fees.

The figures, prepared by staff at the Legislative Budget Board and then tweaked by House leadership, show the situation has deteriorated since spring.

In May, Pitts, the House's chief budget writer, drew derision from some GOP leaders when he said the shortfall could be between $15 billion and $18 billion. Perry said someone had "reached up in the air and grabbed" the figure.

The latest figures, though, show the gap as high as $20.6 billion.

Revenue is not rebounding quickly from the economic downturn, as Comptroller Susan Combs predicted it would. Population is expected to keep growing rapidly, which swells demand for education and social services, already high because of the recession.

You can watch a video clip here where Rick Perry say that "I've got a lot of confidence in this comptroller." [Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Republican Susan Combs] He goes on to say, "I don't necessarily think it's a particularly good use of the comptrollers time to do a budget estimate every time someone pokes their head up out of a hole and says 'let's do a budget estimate." It's quite obvious Rick Perry does not want his controller to release a budget report that shows a $21 billion budget deficit any time before the election, as the truth about Texas' fiscal health is clearly detrimental to Governor Perry's re-election bid.

Politifact verifies claims from Democratic opponent Bill White that our state's debt has doubled under Rick Perry. When he assumed office in December 2000, Texas held $13.7 billion in debt. Adjusting for inflation, that's today's equivalent of $16.6 billion. As of August 2009, we held $34.08 billion in debt. Rick Perry has more than doubled our state's debt, even after you adjust for inflation.

Perry also claims he's cut state spending as well, but it's actually increased 45%.

He's claimed to have vetoed $3 billion worth of spending, when, in truth, $2.5 billion of that never was passed into law anyway and would not have been spent, regardless of his 'veto'.

Despite all of the above proof that our Governor has failed miserably as a steward of our state's fiscal matters, he's running ads claiming

that, "the economic success Texas is experiencing because of the leadership and pro-growth policies put into place by Governor Rick Perry. The keys to success? Don't spend all the money. Keep taxes low. Keep regulations fair and predictable. Tort reform to prevent frivolous and junk lawsuits. Fund an accountable education system. Then get out of the way and let entrepreneurs and the private sector do what the private sector does best-- create jobs. Since 2005, Texas has created far more private-sector jobs than all over states combined."

We Texans here in Collin County know Perry's political ad claims are half-truths, slanted estimates, and flat out lies.

No wonder Gov Perry is too chicken to debate Bill White. He's tanked our state's fiscal health with one hand and written a book about what a great fiscal conservative he is with the other. In one breath he claims there is no budget crisis in Texas and then he claims Texas' has a financial crisis caused by the Obama administration.

Houstonians, who re-elected Bill White as mayor with 91% and then later, 86% of the vote, were proud to call him our mayor. It's time for Collin County to elect a Texas Governor in which we can again be proud. Visit Bill White for Texas and read about his accomplishments with the city of Houston that includes job growth and balancing budgets.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Election Day Vote Centers Coming to Collin Co. Again On Nov. 2nd

Late in the 2009 legislative session the Texas legislature passed HB719, which amends Section 43.007 of the Texas Election Code to require the Texas Secretary of State (SOS) to implement a program that allows Commissioner's Courts in selected counties to eliminate election precinct polling places and establish county-wide Vote Centers for certain elections.
These Election Day Vote Centers work almost exactly like Early Voting Vote Centers. During the early voting period for each election cycle, a number of polling places appear through out the county where any registered voter in the county can vote in any of those places throughout the early voting period.
Collin County gain approval from the Texas Secretary of State to use Vote Centers for the first time on election day in the November, 2009 constitutional amendment election.

The Collin County Commissioner's Court today voted to authorize Sharon Rowe, the Collin County Elections Administrator, to notify the Director of Elections in the Texas Secretary of State office, that Collin County seeks approval to implement the County Wide Vote Center Program again for the November 2, 2010 election. The Texas Secretary of State is expected to approve the request.

If approved by the Texas SOS, any Collin County registered voter will be able to vote at any of the 70 proposed countywide Vote Centers located around Collin County on Election Day, November 2, 2010.

In 2009, less than 5% of the voters turned out for the constitutional amendment election at one of the 57 countywide Vote Centers. The 2010 General Elections, which headlines the Gubernatorial contest between former Houston Mayor Bill White and incumbent Rick Perry, will likely have a turnout in excess of 38 percent of registered voters.

The 70 proposed countywide Vote Centers, which allows any registered voter to vote at any voting location on election day, is about half the number of polling locations that would be expected under the old local precinct voting location election model.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

New Republican Collin County District Clerk Plus Five Others Indicted For Organized Criminal Activity.

From the Dallas Morning News
by Ed Housewright:
July 31, 2010 - Patricia Crigger, the incoming Collin County district clerk, and five other office supervisors have been indicted on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity.

The indictments stem from a Texas Rangers investigation that alleges Crigger and the others pressured district clerk employees to work on Crigger's spring campaign.

Crigger received about 54 percent of the April 13 Republican primary runoff election vote, defeating law office manager Alma Hays.

She faces no Democratic opposition on the November 2, 2010 election ballot and is therefore due to take office Jan. 1, replacing longtime District Clerk Hannah Kunkle, who is retiring.

The general election is Nov. 2. The deadline to remove a candidate's name is Aug. 20, according to the Texas secretary of state's office.

If Crigger withdraws her name before then, the local Republican Party executive committee can name a replacement to be on the ballot, said Ann McGeehan, elections director for the secretary of state.

The Democratic Party of Collin County Executive Committee also would be allowed to place a name on the ballot, even though the party had no candidate in the primary.

Anyone can file as a write-in candidate through Aug. 24, McGeehan said.

If Crigger doesn't withdraw her name by Aug. 20, she will stay on the ballot. She would win the election if she receives the most votes.

If she is still under indictment, has not been convicted and decides not to take office Jan. 1, the county's state district judges would name her replacement, McGeehan said. The replacement would serve until the November 2012 general election and could seek election for the remaining two years of the term.

A candidate becomes ineligible to serve upon final conviction, McGeehan said. So if Crigger were convicted but appealed her case, she could take office while the appeal is resolved.

The Collin County Commissioners Court sets the budget for the district clerk and other elected officials. But commissioners can't fire an elected official or any of his or her staff.

County Judge Keith Self, who heads Commissioners Court, declined to comment on the indictments.

"Because it's a legal issue, I need to be very careful to make no comment," Self said.

Crigger and the other supervisors could not be reached for comment.

"It's really sad it's come to this," said Fred Moses, chairman of the county Republican Party. "She's worked hard for the party."

A judge issued arrest warrants on Friday and set a $5,000 personal recognizance bond for each. All six defendants appeared voluntarily at the Collin County Jail about 12:30 p.m. to be processed, said sheriff's spokesman John Norton. They left about an hour later, he said.

Under state law, a person can hold office while under indictment but can be removed if convicted.

Engaging in organized criminal activity is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

The one-page indictments were returned Thursday against Crigger, Sherry Bell, Rebecca Littrell, Amy Mathis, Lorrie Robertson and Marcia Simpson.

The identical indictments say the women tampered with government records and committed theft by falsifying time and attendance records to show employees were working when they were not.

"This is a dark day for Collin County and its taxpayers," Hays said in a statement Friday. "I hope the legal process reveals the truth and that the integrity of the district clerk's office is restored. I am proud to say that I ran an honest campaign and that I had nothing to do with this investigation."

The six women indicted are among nine supervisors in the district clerk's office, which has 63 employees.

A search warrant affidavit from the Texas Rangers investigation says district clerk employees were asked to assist Crigger's campaign in "various ways, such as walking neighborhoods and holding campaign signs at polling places."

They were rewarded with paid time off, the document says.

It mentions five unnamed district clerk employees who talked with the Rangers during their investigation.

Armed with a search warrant, authorities seized computer hard drives, memory cards, Crigger campaign literature, calendars and other items on June 3.

At the time, Kunkle released a written statement on behalf of her and her office, which is responsible for keeping state district court records. She criticized the execution of the search warrant.

"If they would have come to me directly, I would have turned over anything they wanted and would not have had to close down the district clerk's office, disrupt county business and cause inconvenience to the employees and citizens of Collin County," the statement read.

Kunkle couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Moses said he hadn't talked to Crigger since she was indicted. "We want to let the legal system take its course," he said.

Moses said he would talk to state Republican Party officials and the Texas secretary of state's office to determine how to pick Crigger's replacement if she doesn't take office.

"We need to see what our options are," Moses said. "We want to do what's in the best interests of the party."

Six supervisors in the Collin County district clerk's office each face two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity in identical indictments handed down Thursday.

Indicted: Patricia Crigger, Sherry Bell, Rebecca Littrell, Amy Mathis, Lorrie Robertson and Marcia Simpson

Count 1: Tampering with a governmental record by making false entries in time and attendance records

Count 2: Theft by obtaining money between $1,500 and $20,000 from Collin County by falsifying time and attendance records

Punishment if convicted: Two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mother Jones: Serial Butt-Biting GOP Operative Sinks Teeth Into Texas Race

Mother Jones: Charles Hurth has a history of biting women's behinds. Now it's Texas Democrats who have to watch their asses.  (Republican Scheme To Divert Votes From Democrats In November?)
By Suzy Khimm - Mother Jones

Meet Charles Hurth III. The Missouri lawyer has a long history of setting up under-the-radar groups to help Republican operatives game elections.

But the most sordid thing about Hurth's past is not his political scheming. He's also what you might call a serial butt-biter, with a well-publicized track record of sinking his teeth into the rumps of college coeds.

He recently struck again in Texas—not by biting derrieres, but by spearheading an apparent GOP dirty trick to derail a Democrat's gubernatorial bid.

Last month, Hurth and two other GOP operatives—one a former top aide to Texas Gov. Rick Perry—were implicated in a scheme to bankroll a petition drive to put the Green Party on the ballot. It is an apparent ploy to siphon votes away from Perry's Democratic challenger, former Houston Mayor Bill White. He's an appealing target: Tied with Perry in the latest poll, White's the strongest gubernatorial contender that Texas Democrats have seen in years.

But Hurth's first claim to fame was being sued in 1987 for approaching a fellow law student in a bar and biting her on the buttocks so hard that she required medical attention. During the trial, Hurth admitted that he'd used the same toothy overture to approach two other women at fraternity parties—and he said that his latest victim should have taken the gesture as a compliment. The jurors didn't buy it, and Hurth was successfully sued for $27,500. Since then, he has dedicated himself to being a persistent pain in the butt for Democrats, setting up shop in a tiny Missouri town to create a clearinghouse for Republican electoral schemes. The latest came this spring, when Hurth and his allies succeeded in getting the Greens on the 2010 ballot.
In response, the Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in early June against a Hurth-run nonprofit called Take Initiative America, as well as Arizona-based GOP consultant Tim Mooney and "unknown conspirators" for their role in the effort. Mooney has admitted that he funneled money through Hurth's organization to pay Free and Equal Inc., a Chicago-based petition-gathering company that ended up amassing 92,000 signatures for the Texas Green Party's ballot drive. According to a court document, Hurth's group spent $532,500 on the effort.
Mooney has repeatedly refused to say where the money came from—and denies that it was a GOP plot to bring down White. "Take Initiative America is a nonpartisan organization," he told the Dallas Morning News, which first broke the news of his involvement. "They'd like to see everybody have a chance to get on the ballot—the more choices the better."

Especially if those choices draw votes away from Democratic candidates. This isn't the first time that Mooney and Hurth have resorted to such schemes to help Republicans at the polls. In 2004, Hurth set up an organization called Choices for America that furtively solicited help from Republicans to get then-presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot in New Hampshire, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, among other states. Mooney assisted with Hurth's 2004 effort, along with Dave Carney, George H.W. Bush's former political director who's now one of Rick Perry's top consultants. At the time, Carney acknowledged to the Dallas Morning News that he was trying to gather signatures for Nader in order to help George W. Bush get reelected. According to the script for the petition drive, canvassers were instructed to tell Bush supporters, "Without Nader, Bush would not be president."

Three years later, Hurth undertook yet another effort to manipulate electoral politics to the Republicans' advantage. In 2007, Take Initiative America funded a California ballot initiative that would have distributed the state's 55 electoral votes by congressional district instead of winner-takes-all. Had it succeeded, the effort would have greatly benefited Republican presidential contenders in the state. Hurth similarly refused to reveal the donor behind the effort, who finally came forward after Democrats accused the group of money-laundering and California officials vowed to investigate. Paul Singer, a hedge-fund manager and major Giuliani fundraiser, admitted that he gave $175,000 to the effort. (Hurth himself contributed $2,000 to Giuliani's presidential bid.) Then-Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean decried the initiative and pointed the finger at the Giuliani campaign, which denied any involvement. The Perry campaign has similarly denied any role in this year's Green Party ploy. But the tentacles of the scandal reach dangerously close to his camp.

It was allegedly Perry's former chief of staff, Mike Toomey, who approached a 22-year-old college student, Garrett Mize, to talk to the Green Party about accepting the outside help, according to Mize's court testimony. (Toomey, who's now a lobbyist, also helped mastermind former Rep. Tom DeLay's scheme to funnel secret corporate money to help the GOP's redistricting effort in 2003.) The Texas Green Party eagerly accepted the offer—even though a court-released email between Green Party officials reveals that party officials were acutely aware the money could be coming from Republican sources. The email also mentions Perry's top political consultant Anthony Holm as being interested in paying for 40 percent of the party's petitioning costs, though he's since denied any role in the schme.

The Texas Green Party has refused to withdraw from the ballot, saying it was "misled" about the kind of money that was used to fund GOP's scheme. "It's not like we intentionally did this," said Kat Swift, statewide coordinator for the Texas Green Party, at a press conference in early July. According to her account, the Texas Greens never knew what Take Initiative America really stood for or who might be involved. But Swift has since embraced the GOP help as a form of realpolitik, arguing that Texas has some of the most stringent requirements for getting on the ballot in the country. "Wherever the money came from doesn't bother me," she told the Dallas Morning News. "People are trying to open the ballot to increase democracy and so, who cares how they vote?"

It's unclear, though whether the Green Party's presence on the ticket will actually hurt White's chances, as the recent controversy has divided Green Party supporters. Some of its closest allies have turned against the party for knowingly accepting the GOP assistance—and refusing to back out even after discovering it was paid for by Hurth's nonprofit corporation (which qualifies, for the purposes of campaign-finance law, as corporate money). The Texas League of Conservation Voters, which has often backed Green Party candidates, said the party's "use of corporate, out-of-state money directed from partisan operatives for a petition drive corrupts and manipulates the electoral process." One local Green Party candidate for Travis County Clerk has already withdrawn his candidacy, citing his opposition to the Green Party's acceptance of corporate-funded help—even though the party itself has called for the end of corporate funding in all elections.

Texas Democrats, for their part, have given up their push to keep the Green Party off the ballot: they dropped part of their lawsuit last week after the (all-Republican) Texas Supreme Court decided to let the Green Party remain on the ballot while it reviewed the case. But the state's Democratic party says it will continue with a legal challenge in a lower court to discover who was funding the GOP-backed petition drive, contending that the source and use of Hurth's funds might have been illegal. If even more incriminating evidence surfaces, the Green Party scheme could really end up biting the Texas GOP in the butt.