08.29.14

John Carter’s Strategy On Student Loans – Too Bad, So Sad

Posted in District 31, Had Enough Yet? at 11:27 am by wcnews

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While being tossed softballs by the local GOP in Saldo GOP Congressman John Carter (R-Round Rock) said this.

Pat Noonan mentioned the difficulty many younger, college-educated people face trying to find work and wondered, short of mass forgiveness of student loans, what the Republican Party can do to attract them to the party.

“I don’t think the government should forgive student loans,” Carter said. “They got themselves into it, they can get themselves out of it.”

He added that his four adult children all paid back their student loans. Carter segued into the need to attract 25- to 40-year-olds into the Republican Party and ways to get their attention.

“The Republican Party has to get youth back into politics,” he said. “I’m launching a campaign through alternative media to let the youth know who I am.”

That’s a great message for young people. You went and screwed up your life by getting an education now deal with it. And if the children of a millionaire congressman can payback their student loans so can you.

Elizabeth Warren’s plan is much better, Elizabeth Warren: Let’s Tax Millionaires To Allow Students To Refinance Their Debt.

02.21.14

Texas Democrats Hitting John Carter For Stalling On Immigration Reform

Posted in District 31, Immigration at 11:23 am by wcnews

Last month at the temporary site EOW posted about GOP Rep. John Carter’s flip-flop on passing immigration reform, John Carter & The GOP’s Misplaced Priorities.

The only thing that’s different from when Carter made that statement is the calendar. It’s now an election year and immigration cannot be allowed to, “capture the media cycle”. Economics aside, the immigration issue, is about people, families and most important human dignity. Keeping immigrants in the shadows, because it’s not good politics for the GOP in an election year, shows exactly what the GOP’s priorities are.

Not long after that House Speaker John Boehner’s plan was tossed aside, GOP Leaders: Immigration Won’t Happen Because Obama Is Too Lawless.

House Republican leaders are sending their immigration-weary base a message: We hear you, loud and clear.

After one week of fierce conservative attacks on their pro-reform blueprint, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) signaled on Thursday that the effort was going nowhere fast in the House and preemptively blamed its demise on President Barack Obama.

Their message: Reform is in peril because we can’t trust him to enforce the law.

[...]

The Speaker went on: “Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. It’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

The remarks echo a common conservative argument for ditching immigration reform. It’s is a sign that the right’s demand to jettison the issue of immigration this year is having an effect on Boehner, despite his support for reform and recognition of its importance to his party’s electoral survival in the future.

Here’s a press release from the Texas Democratic Party on John Carter’s position, (Tip to BOR), Texas Democrats Take on U.S. Representative John Carter on Immigration Reform.

The Republican Party continues to stall on immigration reform because of politics, not policy. In January, U.S. Rep. John Carter told Roll Call, “I personally think this is the wrong time from our standpoint to go forward on immigration. It’s an election year. I mean Texas is in the middle of primaries right now.”

The Texas Democratic Party launched automated calls into Rep. Carter’s district, contacting a universe of 15,000 constituents. Hundreds of recipients responded to demand Rep. Carter support comprehensive immigration reform now.

Texas Democratic Party Communications Director Emmanuel Garcia issued the following statement:

“Texans know that comprehensive immigration reform is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and would lift 11 million undocumented workers out of the underground economy. Moreover, it will advance wages for every American and generate billions in additional tax revenue. Comprehensive immigration reform is good for Texas’ future and good for America’s economy. It keep families together, and give hope to so many in legal limbo. We urge the entire congressional delegation, to listen to their constituents and put the needs of Texas before election year politics.”

Of course Carter’s Democratic opponent in November, Louie Minor, is for comprehensive immigration reform.

08.21.13

Tea party Blowback in Salado

Posted in District 31, Williamson County at 10:27 pm by wcnews

This is a fun read which starts with words like squish and portly, with insight into Asian family dynamics.  Tea party blowback was liable to happen sooner or later.  And once the tea party wing nuts get wound up it’s hard to get them under control.  From the Texas Observer, In Salado, the Tea Party Contemplates the Nation’s Future — and Rep. John Carter’s Not in It.

John Carter’s no squish. The portly 72-year old congressman cuts a figure straight out of Republican central casting. The first Republican elected in Williamson County since Reconstruction, Carter’s been slowly entrenching himself in the GOP establishment for three decades. Last year, the National Journal rated Carter the 11th most conservative member of the House.

But since Carter started indicating an openness to work on some kind of immigration legislation, he’s been getting pushback from his district. Pushback might be too gentle a term for what happened at a town hall meeting last night in Salado. Organized by the Central Texas & Williamson County tea parties, it was one of the congressman’s only publicized town halls of the August recess.Carter ate dinner with more than a hundred tea partiers, and sat with them to watch the quasi-documentary They Come to America II: The Cost of Amnesty.

But during the public town hall that followed, Carter faced a barrage of criticism for his willingness to consider immigration legislation.

In a microcosm of a political dynamic across the country, the conservative grassroots of his district don’t just oppose moving forward with immigration reform: They want the country to move fast in the opposite direction. The end of birthright citizenship. Mass deportations. More walls. Time and again, Carter told the room that he couldn’t get them what they wanted.

“This is a human issue, it involves human beings,” he said in his opening remarks. “It’s an economic issue, and it involves the economy of the United States. And it’s a legal issue.”

Carter presented the tenets of his own plan, which gives undocumented migrants a limited pathway to legalization in return for strengthened border security.

“You want a post hole dug? I can almost guarantee you won’t find anybody to do that job” who is legal, he said. Carter also emphasized that his plan would limit the pathways that legal migrants can use to bring family members to the U.S.

And that’s when things started to go off the rails. Audience members objected to the fact that Carter’s plan would continue to allow the parents of adult migrants here legally to obtain legal status themselves.

“The only reason we have mothers and fathers [in his plan] is because of Asians,” Carter said, to more shouts. “Asians have this mother and father thing.”

Carter deferred on birthright citizenship, saying that he only way to change the policy would be to amend the Constitution. That brought shouts from around the room — including, notably, Lynn Woolley, a local conservative radio host.

“That amendment was meant to prevent the Southern states from denying citizenship to former slaves,” Woolley shouted, to raucous applause. “That’s what it was! We need better judges. I’ve read what the framers wanted that amendment to be!”

Carter accused Woolley of demagoguing, and offered to debate Woolley on his radio show, but otherwise left the issue alone — which left Woolley miffed when he took to the airwaves today.

“Look, I like Congressman Carter a lot,” he said Wednesday morning. “I don’t like having a fallout with someone over one issue. But it’s an awfully big issue.”

The rest of the town hall question session found Carter on the defensive. A mustachioed rancher compared the U.S. to the Titanic, and said letting more people “who are feeding off our welfare system” gain legal status would sink the boat. A woman from Belton charged ICE with technological negligence.

“We can track a cow from birth to slaughter,” he said. “Why can’t we track someone who’s overstayed their visa?”

Another man seized on the consensus of the crowd: citizenship is the problem, not the solution.

There’s much more, so go read it all. Carter, bless his heart, has tried as best he can to be rational on the immigration debate. But, as the article highlights, the base of the GOP is irrational on this issue. But the picture with the article is worth a thousand words.

08.16.13

John Carter warns of consequences of government shutdown

Posted in District 31, The Budget at 9:28 am by wcnews

The local Chamber of Commerce news informs us that U.S. Rep. Carter updates Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce on national issues.

Carter used the opportunity to discuss the national budget, his role on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations and his ongoing efforts to enact bipartisan immigration reform. All three, he said, are uphill battles. The U.S. House and Senate budgets are drastically different, Carter said, and unlikely to align. The congressman also criticized sequestration, which resulted in across-the-board spending cuts earlier this year. Perhaps more of a concern, he said, is the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. The U.S. House has successfully voted 40 times to repeal the health care law, yet the Democratic-controlled Senate has not taken up the issue. The Committee on Appropriations has threatened to withhold passing a continuing resolution before the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, possibly resulting in a government shutdown—prompting Carter to ask the 150 people in attendance if they supported such a scenario, which drew varying levels of response. “It’s a very popular notion,” he said. “[A government shutdown] sounds good. … But it has consequences.” Those consequences include first and foremost closing all national parks, he said. Then Social Security checks would stop being issued, followed by the closure of the Federal Aviation Administration—resulting in the loss of air-traffic controllers—as well as the potential closure of the FBI and the failure to pay members of various military branches, he said. Congress would also stop being paid, Carter said, although his concern rests more on the families of soldiers. [Emphasis added] “Just remember: I told you what was going to happen,” he said.

That sounds like, but it’s hard to be sure, Carter trying to talk those pushing for a government shutdown to kill Obamacare off the ledge. It also seems clear that it’s a vote Carter, and many in his party, don’t want to take. Even though he has repeatedly voted to kill Obamacare, it’s not clear how Carter would vote on that. It was reported he said anything regarding issues like this.

The Chamber of Commerce didn’t likely want to hear about that.

03.15.13

The sky is not going to fall

Posted in Commentary, District 31, Had Enough Yet? at 3:22 pm by wcnews

From the Round Rock Leader we learn that a local Nonprofit [is] facing $400K cut in federal funding.

The local nonprofit WBC Opportunities – headquartered in Round Rock – is being forced to cut nearly $400,000 from its senior Meals on Wheels and Head Start programs due to federal spending cuts spurred by sequestration.

Scott Ferguson, WBCO director of development, said the nonprofit will have to adjust its $14.2 million overall annual budget to reflect the cuts. The agency serves Williamson and Burnet counties. In addition to Meals on Wheels and Head Start, it also offers emergency assistance to clients and is involved with affordable housing programs.

“As we were developing the budget, some of our federal funders were already saying, ‘we are going to have less funding than expected and you need to shorten your budgets,'” Ferguson said, “because this was coming down the pipeline.”

The cuts have led WBCO to lay off two part-time workers, reduce hours for two others and pursue additional ways to reduce its budget.

[...]

Ferguson said through the program, WBCO served about 161,000 meals to 1,400 senior citizens in 2012.

The Head Start program provides education to children 5-years-old and younger, to help them become successful school students. A WBCO facility on Bagdad Road in Leander houses the Head Start and Senior Activity Centers programs.

Ferguson said the cuts have created a waiting list for Meals on Wheels – a first for the nonprofit. But he added that current services for seniors and children will not be changed.

“No, we’re not closing any of the programs, but we won’t be able to meet the need fully of everyone that requested and qualifies for it,” he said.

Ferguson said the best way for helping WBCO is donations.

“We can use the donations to buy food and milk for our seniors so that they can continue to age with dignity and have a healthy nutritious meal each day,” he said.

Needed items for Head Start are diapers, unscented baby wipes, construction paper, manila paper, copy paper, crayons and new age-appropriate puzzles for children age 5 and younger.

For more information, visit wbco.net.

Congressman John Carter says not to worry, Carter calls for border security, fiscal prudence.

Tackling issue ranging from fiscal responsibility to party unity, District 31 U.S. Rep. John Carter addressed a group of about 100 people Monday, during the Williamson County Republican Women’s monthly luncheon.

Carter spoke about the ongoing budget sequestration battles, as well as his clashes with prominent Obama administration members such as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

But the former Williamson County district court judge – while known for being fiercely partisan – advised the GOP faithful they’re wasting time if they focus their efforts on trying to impeach the president.

The Round Rock Republican said he frequently gets asked about impeachment – and said it’s a hot topic among GOP bloggers – but emphasized it is not a realistic legal option.

Carter said he thinks Obama is wrong on many issues, but that doesn’t equate to treason or the other impeachment standard outlined in the U.S. Constitution – the commission of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“Is he doing a lot of stuff I don’t like?” Carter said at the Williamson Conference Center gathering. “You’re damn right he’s doing a lot of things I don’t like. But if ever there was a theme that we as Republicans ought to hold to, it’s the rule of law that holds people together.”

Carter downplayed the negative effects of ongoing sequestration – the automatic spending cuts that took effect March 1, when Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C. could not reach agreement on taxing and spending issues.

“The sky is not going to fall,” Carter said, noting the mandatory cuts will affect U.S. armed forces, but military leaders are prepared to deal with them.

[...]

Yet Carter said he is no fan of sequestration, stating: “Sequestration is the stupid man’s way to cut the budget. What’s wrong with sequestration is every program gets cut equally.”

That’s right if you’re elderly the sky’s not falling, but your food may not be coming either.   That  is definitely stupid and cruel as well.  And we all know what a waste early childhood education is.

These are learned skills which allow children to practice self control, pay attention, control their emotions, wait their turn, follow directions and listen to teachers. These are school-readiness skills that Grunewald and other child development experts say research shows remain with children into adulthood.

These are skills essential to life success, they argue.

Ask Grunewald to demonstrate his claims and he points to re-assessment or ongoing analysis of well-known early childhood education efforts — the Perry Preschool Project in Michigan, Chicago Child-Parent Centers and the Elmira Prenatal/Early Infancy Project — by respected academics, among them James Heckman of the University of Chicago and Arthur Reynolds, now at the University of Minnesota.

Their research “substantiated the long-term effects with high rates of returns,’’ Grunewald said.

By that he means the early scholars graduate from high school and college in greater numbers than those who didn’t have early childhood education. They are less likely to have problems with the law as juveniles. As adults, they are more likely to be employed and paying taxes, healthier, homeowners and financially solvent..

As for dollars-spent benefits?

For every $1 spent on early childhood programming, the return is from $4 to $16, Grunewald says, depending on the program.

Cutting programs indiscriminately is stupid, but compromising on a solution that cuts in a sane manner is even dumber we’re supposed to believe.  That Carter has to first tell the crowd that impeachment is not realistic goes to show just how far out many of Carter’s most vociferous supports are.

Whether or not the “sky is falling” or not has everything to do with where one is on the economic scale.  For Carter and his supporters, things may be alright.  But if you’re in need of help from the government the sky is definitely closing in.

08.21.12

Politifact calls out Congressman Carter

Posted in District 31, Health Care, Right Wing Lies at 11:17 am by wcnews

Via Twitter:

PolitiFact TexasPolitiFact Texas ?@PolitiFactTexas

False before, False now: John Carter says board could come between “you and your doctor” in determining treatmentshttp://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2012/aug/21/john-carter/john-cornyn-says-board-comes-you-treatment-options/ …

The one thing about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare, is if the law is as bad as the regressives make it out to be, then why to they and their shills in the media have to keep making stuff up and lying about it?  It’s because the law is proving the GOP lies about it false.  And the more people begin to understand it – free well checks, near universal coverage, no more “pre-existing” conditions, and coverage for children until 26 – the more they realized it includes very good things, and they’re warming to it.

But Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) is lying about the ACA as well.

Saying he’s committed to repealing Obamacare, U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, told constituents: “You may not be aware of one of the most frightening provisions in the president’s healthcare plan — the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board.”

Carter’s July 31, 2012, letter continues: “This board, comprised of 15 unelected, unaccountable people hand-picked by the president, will have the ability to come between you and your doctor in determining the best treatment options for you!”

After readers asked us to look into Carter’s claim about the board’s intrusive powers, we emailed Carter’s office for backup information — and didn’t hear back.

[...]

With Carter’s wording in mind, we read the relevant portion of the law.

Section 3403 indeed states that the board is to include 15 members appointed by the president. Each appointee also would face Senate confirmation.

As far as we can tell, the law does not give the board the power, or permission, to regulate any individual’s treatment options.

For an August 2011 Truth-O-Meter article, PolitiFact Georgia asked four health experts about a congressman’s claim that “a bunch of bureaucrats” would “decide whether you get care.” All four said that’s incorrect.

A scholar at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank usually at odds with Democratic positions, said the assertion that the board would be controlling patients’ health-care decisions is “not even close to correct.” Cato scholar Michael Tanne said the board “has nothing to do with individual care at all. It’s not making decisions on individuals.”

Our ruling

Carter’s claim has no factual foundation. We rate it False.

Dude, even Cato says you’re lying, that’s bad.

06.18.12

“Dreamers” won’t be deported

Posted in Around The Nation, District 31, Election 2012, Good Stuff, Immigration at 11:35 am by wcnews

Here’s how President Barack Obama laid out a new immigration policy last week.

Good afternoon, everybody. This morning, Secretary Napolitano announced new actions my administration will take to mend our nation’s immigration policy, to make it more fair, more efficient, and more just — specifically for certain young people sometimes called “Dreamers.”

These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents — sometimes even as infants — and often have no idea that they’re undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver’s license, or a college scholarship.

Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life — studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class — only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak.

That’s what gave rise to the DREAM Act. It says that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here for five years, and you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, you can one day earn your citizenship. And I have said time and time and time again to Congress that, send me the DREAM Act, put it on my desk, and I will sign it right away.

Now, both parties wrote this legislation. And a year and a half ago, Democrats passed the DREAM Act in the House, but Republicans walked away from it. It got 55 votes in the Senate, but Republicans blocked it. The bill hasn’t really changed. The need hasn’t changed. It’s still the right thing to do. The only thing that has changed, apparently, was the politics.

This humane policy makes sense. And hopefully President Obama will start doing this in other areas. Especially in economic policy where the American people need it most.

Of course the right wing GOP has overreacted to this, Obama Amnesty Plan Not Legally Valid.

President Barak Obama’s plan to unilaterally grant amnesty to an estimated 800,000 illegal immigrants is in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers and is not legally valid, according to House Republican Conference Secretary John Carter (TX31).

Of course it’s the obstructionism of GOP members like Carter that has forced Obama’s hand. And Carter is unlikely to ever want to pass a law that punishes employers. That was the main focus of the Texas GOP’s platform change on immigration.

This new policy led Latino Lista to ask, Has Obama sewn up the Latino vote?

As expected, and what the White House hoped for, there was euphoric reaction to the news from the young people the new policy impacts to their supporters and sympathizers. There has also been cynicism from some in the Latino community, who remembered the same kind of wide-spread celebration when it was announced last year that a policy of prosecutorial discretion would be implemented in deportation cases by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, that lead to disappointment with ICE Director John Morton admitting earlier this year to the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security that only 1% of pending deportation cases had been tabled under the new guidelines.

Some in the Latino community fear that the same will happen this time. I doubt it.

There’s too much at stake, namely the Latino vote.

At this stage of the game, no one is naive enough to think there wasn’t political motivation behind this action. Clearly, the Obama campaign was feeling the heat from Latino voters on two distinct fronts — the sit-ins at his state campaign headquarters by DREAMer students demanding that Obama do something to stop the deportations of undocumented youth and the growing indifference among Latino voters about this election.

Knowing the importance we place on our children and families and that the DREAM Act is an issue that the majority of Americans support, Obama and his campaign made a smart strategic move.

In fact, the new policy resembles an alternative plan proposed by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio in that it doesn’t grant a path to citizenship for these students nor provides for amnesty.

Of course, it wasn’t long before some GOP members issued critical statements about the new policy and the President and some have even threatened a lawsuit against Obama.

Yet this move by the President, without a doubt, stirred a majority of the Latino electorate into start thinking about the election. If this deferment is enacted — immediately, as the President said in his remarks — and the greater community sees that young people are not being deported and are, in fact, being granted work permits, then it’s a safe bet that a portion of the Latino community will show their appreciation with their votes in November.

This is definitely a step in the right direction. And President Obama’s likely challenger in November won’t answer questions about whether or not he’d keep this policy, among others, in place if elected.

01.27.12

What’s not the matter with Congress?

Posted in Around The Nation, Commentary, Corruption, District 31, Money In Politics at 10:57 am by wcnews

This report from Legistorm, on the record amounts private interests spent last year on trips for members of Congress and their staffs in 2011, is a microcosm of what’s wrong with Congress and our government(s).  This is one area of Congress, it seems, where there is broad bipartisan agreement.

Private interests spent a record amount to send members of Congress and their staff on trips on 2011, and the individual trips were longer and costlier than ever before.

There were 1,600 privately funded congressional trips in 2011, worth a total of more than $5.8 million, the largest amount since ethics reforms were enacted in 2007 in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. The total amount is the highest since 2005, when a record 4,917 trips were taken totaling $9.9 million. The record for money spent came in 2004, when 4,780 trips cost nearly $10.4 million.

And Congressman John Carter (R-Round Rock) is stands out in the report.

The most expensive trip in 2011 was sponsored by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, which paid $30,708 to send Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) and his wife to South Africa and Botswana for meetings on conservation and natural resource management.

One of the keys to understanding how this works is that this is not outright bribery, but more subtle.  This from CBS on the report, Are jet-setting Congressmen bending the rules?

Jock Friedly, president of Legistorm, the public interest group that compiled the report, says that all told, those trips cost $5.8 million last year. “When these private interests are taking members of Congress and their staff on these trips, they are definitely showing only one side of the story.”

Friedly says it violates the spirit of reforms made in 2007, after Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff got caught bribing officials with lavish trips. Now, lobbyists are banned from paying for extended travel. But groups that don’t lobby can still fund trips.

“Whether that’s overseas in Afghanistan, or if that’s overseas seeing some new technology that’s going to help us, they should be involved in it,” said Jim Clarke, senior vice president of public policy at the Center for Association Leadership. Clarke represents many groups that pay for congressional travel.

The Aspen Institute – which sponsored the Puerto Rico forum, and has spent half a million dollars on congressional trips to Vienna, Canada, and Barcelona – told CBS News it educates members of Congress, helps build relationships and civil discourse, and accepts no corporate or special interest funding. But unlike the Aspen Institute, foundations and other groups that do have corporate and lobbyist ties are paying for some trips.

“Lobbyists founded the foundation. They sit on the board of the foundation. But because the foundation itself does not lobby,” Friedly said, “it’s allowed.”

Is that a distinction without a difference?

“It could be to some people, yes.” Friedly said

As an example, Friedly points to the group that broke the all-time record for spending in a single year: The American Israel Education Foundation, which paid $2 million for 145 trips to Israel. They don’t lobby, but they share offices, a phone number and public relations person with a giant lobby called The American Israel Public Affairs Committee. When CBS News asked them about all those trips, the foundation said no government money funds the congressional trips, and diverse views are presents.

When confronted with the fact that groups that lobby and corporations are setting up foundations that in turn pay for congressional travel — a situation critics say skirts the intent of the rules — Clarke said, “I’m not going to defend that practice.”

“I would say that’s up to, it seems like it is what the law allows. If that’s not what Congress’ intent is they should review their processes.”

And that’s the thing, it’s perfectly legal. Here’s the video of the CBS report on this today.This can be fixed and the way is not easy. Here’s a great discussion about this topic between Chris Hedges and Lawrence Lessig: Getting Money Out of Politics. Especially when Lessig compares current members of Congress to vassals of the Super PACs/corporations.

It’s an enthralling discussion. And they fully realize that this isn’t about Republican and Democrat, as both parties are knee-deep in this corruption. And there are no easy answers to this. (For a darker take on the future read this). But we must have a fundamental change in the power structure in our country.

Further Viewing/Reading:
Rep. John Carter (Texas, 31st) – Privately Financed Travel.
GOP Hates Citizens United, Too.

re:Public Goods from lessig on Vimeo.

Talk given at for the Humanity Center at UCSB, January 18, 2011. WhatsNew: A clearer articulation of the nature of the alliance that is necessary for outsider politics to work.

11.23.11

The interim Congressional map is out, splits Williamson County

Posted in Around The State, District 31, Redistricting, Williamson County at 12:32 pm by wcnews

It looks like the new House district 106 is drawn out of Williamson County, District 31 represented by John Carter, and into District 10, represented by Mike McCaul.

Check it out, Interim congressional map released.

10.19.11

Carter went on all expenses paid, $30,000 junket in August

Posted in Congress, District 31, Money In Politics at 3:32 pm by wcnews

Via Roll Call, Africa Trip Blurs Lines on Travel Propriety.

In mid-August, four Members of Congress took an ecotourism trip to South Africa and Botswana to learn about conservation, anti-poaching efforts and agriculture.

The 10-day excursion taken by Reps. John Carter (R-Texas), Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), Ander Crenshaw(R-Fla.) and Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) — all but Chandler brought their wives — ran about $30,000 per couple.

The whole trip — including game-reserve visits, biodiversity tours and expert briefings — was paid for by a nonprofit group called the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, which is closely linked to four lobbying organizations and a roster of corporate interests.

[...]

The caucus grew to become the second-largest in Congress and now counts about a third of the House and a fourth of the Senate among its members.

The four founding organizations stayed on as the “Advisory Council” to the ICCF, which hosts Congressional briefings, an annual gala and a yearly oyster roast “prepared by legendary South Carolina game wardens” that was attended by more than 40 Members of Congress, according to the group’s website. Its “Conservation Council” includes corporate heavyweights such as Volkswagen, Walmart, Unilever, Exxon Mobil Corp. and the American Petroleum Institute. [Emphasis added]

“Our partners play an essential role in supporting true American values in conservation by providing technical expertise, policy innovations, financial resources, information technology and general leadership and encouragement to conservation programs in other countries,” according to the foundation’s website.

[...]

A representative from Crenshaw’s office said the trip was a valuable opportunity for the Appropriations Committee member to learn about how foreign assistance is being used overseas.

“This House-Ethics-Committee-approved trip, taken at no expense to the taxpayer, provided that opportunity for programs in the regions of Botswana and South Africa. Participants gained knowledge of economic and political conditions, the education and health situation, natural resource management plans and conservation solutions that can be utilized in future decision making on Capitol Hill,” said Crenshaw’s communications director, Barbara Riley, in an email.

The offices of Carter, Chandler and Gingrey did not respond to requests for comment. [Emphasis added]

Ethics experts involved in the 2007 reform effort say trips paid for by nonprofits that maintain close links to lobbying entities were not what they had in mind when the revised rules were drafted. The proliferation of such trips has contributed to a rise in the amount spent on privately financed Congressional travel. As Roll Call has previously reported, the $1.5 million spent sending lawmakers and their family members abroad in August shattered previous monthly records, in large part due to trips paid for by the ICCF and a charitable arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee known as the American Israel Education Foundation.

“This is something that is very troubling when it comes to our travel restrictions,” Holman said. “Once you start carving out any exceptions [for nonprofits], these lobbying entities will push the envelope as hard as they can.”

Must be nice.  Congressman John Carter (R-Round Rock) holds a considerable amount of stock in one of the conservation council members, Exxon Mobil Corp.  As Lawrence Lessig says, “money erodes trust”.

Here’s a particular vote, House GOP votes unanimously to protect big oil subsidies.

Check out this excerpt from the introduction to his new book, Lawrence Lessig on How We Lost Our Democracy.

The clue that something is very wrong is the endless list of troubles that sit on our collective plate but that never get resolved: bloated and inefficient bureaucracies; an invisible climate policy; a tax code that would embarrass Dickens; health care policies that have little to do with health; regulations designed to protect inefficiency; environmental policies that exempt the producers of the greatest environmental harms; food that is too expensive (since protected); food that is unsafe (since unregulated); a financial system that has already caused great harm, has been left unreformed, and is primed and certain to cause great harm again.

The problems are many. Too many. Our eyes get fixed upon one among them, and our passions get devoted to fixing that one. In that focus, however, we fail to see the thread that ties them all together.

We are, to steal from Thoreau, the “thousand[s] hacking at the branches of evil,” with “[n]one striking at the root.”

This book names that root. It aims to inspire “rootstrikers.” The root—?not the single cause of everything that ails us, not the one reform that would make democracy hum, but instead, the root, the thing that feeds the other ills, and the thing that we must kill first. The cure that would be generative—?the single, if impossibly difficult, intervention that would give us the chance to repair the rest.

[...]

This corruption has two elements, each of which feeds the other. The first element is bad governance, which means simply that our government doesn’t track the expressed will of the people, whether on the Left or on the Right. Instead, the government tracks a different interest, one not directly affected by votes or voters. Democracy, on this account, seems a show or a ruse; power rests elsewhere.

The second element is lost trust: when democracy seems a charade, we lose faith in its process. That doesn’t matter to some of us—?we will vote and participate regardless. But to more rational souls, the charade is a signal: spend your time elsewhere, because this game is not for real. Participation thus declines, especially among the sensible middle. Policy gets driven by the extremists at both ends.

What happened with this junket is not illegal. But it is another thing that’s making it more difficult to fix what’s wrong.

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