Fraudulent Fraud Allegations Behind Voter ID Bill

Posted in Elections, Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Around The State at 12:43 am by dembones

Sen. Mario Gallegos’ (D-Houston) heroic return to the Senate chamber kept Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst from bringing HB 218 (”Voter ID”) up in the Senate Monday. Reports have surfaced that Gallegos’ physician will insist on taking the Senator back to Houston by noon Tuesday. That leaves a twelve hour window of opportunity until the deadline for legislation to pass the regular session. Expect nothing less than the worst from Dewhurst. He will bring up HB 218 the minute Gallegos leaves Austin.

The fact that Voter ID is a solution to a problem that does not exist should be enough to prevent this voter suppression bill from becoming law; however, it should surprise no one that the Texas Republican Party is taking its marching orders from the Bush Administration.

Richard L. Hasen’s article in Slate (hat tip: TPM) lays out the case of this completely fabricated crisis.

Presidential adviser Karl Rove and his allies, who have been ghostbusting illusory dead and fictional voters since the contested 2000 election, apparently mounted a two-pronged attack. One part of that attack, at the heart of the current Justice Department scandals, involved getting the DoJ and various U.S. attorneys in battleground states to vigorously prosecute cases of voter fraud. That prong has failed. …

But the second prong of this attack may have proven more successful. This involved using ACVR to give “think tank” academic cachet to the unproven idea that voter fraud is a major problem in elections. That cachet would be used to support the passage of onerous voter-identification laws that depress turnout among the poor, minorities, and the elderly—groups more likely to vote Democratic.

We hope for Sen. Gallegos’ health to sustain him for a little while longer, and Democrats to follow through on their promise to shut down the Senate if a motion is made to bring this bill to the floor. The entire Republican strategy nationwide is to take the two or three percentage points’ boost in 2008 in a vain attempt to remain in power a little while longer.

Act now! Let the remaining 10 Democrats in the Senate know you’re praying for Gallegos and for continued solidarity against a sustained, nationwide Republican assault on Democracy itself.


Craddick Clinging To The Gavel

Posted in 80th Legislature, The Lege at 11:23 pm by wcnews

Speaker Tom Craddick is in a fight for his political life and EVERYTHING else be damned. Budget bribery, bankrolling opponents, and plain ‘ol threats.

For all the details on the personal privalege speech of Rep. Bryron Cook(R-Corsicana) see Capitol Annex, Capitol Letters, Postcards, and QR.

This isn’t about Texas or even what’s best for his party. He’s willing to let this drag on, put members through “18 months of hell”, and sacrifice any Republican in the House to keep his apartment. His spokesman had this to say after session:

Upon adjournment,spokesman Alexis DeLee reiterated that Speaker Craddick had not participated in recruiting opponents for incumbents nor did he condone such actions.

Of course he wouldn’t be directly involved, plausible deniability.

Texas GOP In Disarray As Session Comes To A Close

Posted in 80th Legislature, Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Around The State at 5:03 pm by wcnews

Add this up:

With a three way Speakers race, and session isn’t even over yet.

The possibility of a, not since 1871, vacation of the Speakers Chair - the last time it happened was when those damned carpetbagging Republicans were in charge.

A stalled budget process and the special session to follow if it’s doesn’t get done.

The “do-nothing” legislative session so far.

It becomes obvious that the GOP doesn’t know how to govern. Haven’t even mentioned toll roads yet. Maybe this is what they had in mind when the session started but it’s doubtful.

David Dewhurst Could Stop This - UPDATED

Posted in Elections, 80th Legislature, Had Enough Yet?, Around The State at 12:02 pm by wcnews

Sen. Gallegos is back to stop the Voter IDiocy bill from passing. Thank you Senator!!Mario is back.

Ailing state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, has a hospital bed set up in the sergeant’s office — about a 100 feet from Gallegos’ Senate chamber desk, Monday so that he could help block a contentious voter ID bill from debate.

“I’m hurting. I’m hurting,” Gallegos said a few minutes ago as the Senate went into session.

Gallegos went through a liver transplant surgery earlier this year and had a follow-up procedure on Friday.

Doctors wanted Gallegos to stay in Houston. But doing so would have given Republicans enough votes to pass a voter identification bill.

Just say the bill is dead, take it off the calendar Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, and it’s over.

[UPDATE]: Capitol Letters is reporting he’ll stay through Noon tomorrow:

“It’s very important to me,” Mr. Gallegos told reporters, saying the issue was critical enough to cause him to risk some medical setbacks by traveling to Austin after undergoing medical tests in Houston on Friday. He also said he believes Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Senate Republicans would bring the voter ID bill to the floor “in a New York second” if he were not present. Mr. Gallegos plans to remain until at least noon on Wedesday, 12 hours before the deadline for all bills to be passed out of the Senate. “They should be able to filibuster it for 12 hours,” he said, referring to other Democratic opponents of the measure. All 11 Democrats are against the bill, just enough to block action on the proposal under the Senate’s so-called two-thirds rule.

Kolkhorst Amendments Are Sticking Points On Toll Moratorium

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Had Enough Yet?, Road Issues, Around The State at 11:52 am by wcnews

Two amendments added to SB 792 by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R - Brenham), during last week’s debate on the house floor, appear to be the sticking points that will be discussed during the conference committee. One is about whether the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC-35) is part of the moratorium, and the other is about whether corporations will be allowed to “rig the system” and steer contracts to themselves. The biggie is “Amendment 13″ - which corresponds to the number it was given in the house - which was Rep. Kolkhorst’s first amendment introduced during the debate last week. This amendment is the “clarifying language” that makes sure that TTC-35 is included in the moratorium. CorridorWatch has all the information you need to know on Amendment 13:

It is clear and well understood that the legislative intent of SB792 is to create a moratorium that applies to TTC-35 (except Loop 9). However, upon close examination of existing statues, the bill language, and TxDOT contract documents it can be determined that SB792, as passed in the Senate, would not create a moratorium that applies to TTC-35.

This conclusion is supported by an analysis of SB792 amendments reportedly prepared by the Governor’s office and circulated in opposition to amendment 13 (shown below). The objection to amendment 13 is based on a finding that, “No segment of TTC-35 can be built during the moratorium, except Loop 9, which is exempted from the moratorium.” Of course that is exactly what the intent was in introducing a moratorium bill.

What would be the need for a moratorium bill if it doesn’t stop the building of corporate toll roads and especially TTC-35?

The other amendment that Gov. Perry has an issue with is the one that won’t allow the same company that does the Traffic and Revenue (T&R) study to be involved with building and financing the road. Via Ben Wear.

As for the other point, legislative sources said Friday that Perry’s office has a problem with another Kolkhorst amendment. This one would prevent a company from serving as the market evaluator of a potential toll road, then coming back later and participating in the actual project. The idea is that the company might set an abnormally high value for the toll road, thus scaring off a local government toll road agency and leaving the way open for the private sector.

But opponents of the amendment argue that the only people with the expertise to make a market evaluation are the same folks out there playing the game in the private toll road market.

It’s not like there’s any evidence of that ever happening.

The two objections that the governor has about the moratorium on corporate toll roads is, 1) that there be an actual moratorium on the biggest corporate toll road in the state and 2) That if corporations are not allowed to “rig the system” and bilk tax payers then it’s not profitable for them to be involved in building toll roads. How enlightening.

There’s much left to go in this process and for more on that check out this post from EOW, Moratorium Veto - The Road Ahead, from over the weekend. Including whether Perry will line-item veto the parts of the bill he doesn’t like.

Ghost Voting Video

Posted in 80th Legislature, The Lege at 10:22 am by wcnews

From earlier in the session, in case you forgot, the Postcards had this post about Rep. Mike Krusee voting on the House floor while he was in London, England visiting Prince Charles - a physical impossibility.

It’s not clear when Krusee left Texas. He was shown recording votes on the House floor into Wednesday evening. Just before 7 p.m., after a verification of votes on a proposal, House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, announced Krusee was excused on account of business.

Krusee was recorded as present in the House’s roll call today and then was shown recording votes about 25 times as members gave final approvals to measures. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who sits at the desk in front of Krusee, could be seen punching the vote button on Krusee’s desk, not an uncommon practice in the chamber.

Today I had a reader email me about this report from KEYE-TV in Austin, Lawmakers Vote Multiple Times For Others, about members voting for other members on the House floor. It’s not ghost voting, it’s swivel voting.

There’s so much going on during the vote on the HPV vaccine mandate, you really have to pay attention.

First, State Rep. Mike Hamilton is at his desk. He leans over to vote a second time for his deskmate Dan Branch. Hamilton reaches back to vote for Charlie Howard, then casts a fourth vote for Wayne Smith.

He’s not the only one scrambling to vote. State Rep. G.E. West and State Rep. Larry Phillips both lean over to vote for themselves and their deskmates.

Phillips votes a third time for State Rep. Wayne Christian. Donna Howard votes for State Rep. Hubert Vo.

State Rep. Jim Dunnam didn’t have to leave his chair to cast four votes-one for himself then for Garnet Coleman, Trey Martinez Fischer and Marc Veasey.

Sometimes the voting is across party lines.

Will Hartnett, a Republican, reaches back to vote for Democrat Rene Oliveira.

Democrat Jim McReynolds votes for Republican Kirk England, and Republican John Davis votes for Democrat Rick Noriega.

Most voters have no way of knowing if their lawmakers are actually casting their own votes. Even though the legislature is broadcast on cable TV, the cameras change when it’s time to vote.

The words don’t do it justice click the link above and watch the video.

Not Much There There For Perry, Dewhurst & Craddick

Posted in 80th Legislature, Commentary, Around The State, The Lege at 9:19 am by wcnews

A good story by R.G. Ratcliffe, Leaders in Austin take it on the chin, on the lack of accomplishments this session and the failure of the big three Republican “leaders” - Perry, Dewhurst, and Craddick - to get anything serious done this session. That’s what happens when we have a governor that got 39% of the vote, an ineffective Lt. Gov trying to plow the ground for a run at the governor’s office, a neutered Speaker, and a House gone mad.

This legislative session has dished out repeated helpings of defeat and disgruntlement to Texas’ top political leaders — along with a fine dessert of humble pie.

The legislative agendas of Gov. Rick Perry, House Speaker Tom Craddick and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, all Republicans, have been swept away or reduced by recalcitrant lawmakers and explosive, unexpected issues such as the scandals of the Texas Youth Commission.

Promised accomplishments such as property tax appraisal reform apparently won’t happen before the session ends May 28.


Perry received a legislative rebuff on building toll roads and selling the state lottery. He also saw his mandate that girls receive the HPV vaccine overturned.

Little has come of the governor’s higher education reforms. And if Perry gets his cancer research fund, it will be paid for with $3 billion in debt interest that Texas taxpayers will cover for the next 20 years.


“On May 29th, we’re going to see the governor’s agenda has been successful in many different venues,” [ Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody] said. “He laid out a wide array of health care initiatives, and many of them, if not all of them, have gained momentum in both chambers: Medicaid reform and a funding pool for the uninsured and nursing initiatives.”

With all his initiatives from his SOS speech dead (lottery sale, cancer research, etc..), unable to get anything serious passed, the HPV debacle, and being forced to play defense on corporate toll roads, all in all it’s been a bad session for Rick Perry.


Dewhurst had greater success pushing his priorities through, but critics say his agenda was small and geared toward an expected 2010 run for governor. And then last week, he created bipartisan anger among senators with a ham-handed power play that failed to pass a voter identification bill.


Dewhurst said he believes complaints about the session are misplaced: “From where I sit, the Senate and Legislature is having a good session.”

In an attempt to tack to the right for the 2010 gubernatorial primary, he has instead come off looking like a panderer, not to mention weak and ineffective. Not a good combination. Especially with Texas Rush breathing down his neck.


The biggest ongoing leadership story of the session has been Craddick’s struggle to hold onto power.

He became a nicer Tom Craddick after fending off January’s re-election challenge. This emboldened opponents, allowing bills carried by his lieutenants to die or get stuck with major amendments.


Craddick declined an interview request. One of his closest allies, Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, said Craddick has tried to be a “kinder and gentler” leader this session.

But handling a $10 billion budget shortfall in 2003 without raising taxes and then reforming school finance and cutting property taxes required a strong leader, Swinford said.

“Do you think he could have been soft and sweet and cuddly and gotten that done?” he asked.

It’s not 2003 anymore Rep. Swinford, and many in the House have moved on. Well what’s left to say about Tom? All he can hope for is that a “weak” Presidential candidate won’t keep the base home in ‘08 and cause a further dwindling of the GOP House majority. (Although Clay Robison thinks Hillary could be a boon for Craddick). How many seats does the GOP have to lose for Craddick to be sent packing? And effect will primary fights in many GOP House districts, as the Speakers race plays out through the GOP primary, have on the House and the Speakers Race in ‘09?

Off The Kuff has commentary too, As the session winds down, especially on the Dewhurst v. Texas Rush battle.

While that is certainly true, it’s also true that the 2010 GOP primary candidate that Dewhurst has (supposedly, at least) been preparing for is none other than Sen. Dan Patrick himself. As such, letting him have his say here without at least acknowledging that is rather like having James Carville pontificate on the state of the Democratic Presidential primary without disclosing who he supports.

I should note that while the common wisdom is that Patrick wants to run for Governor in 2010, Paul Burka thinks he’s positioning himself to run for Dewhurst’s spot instead. There’s a lot of sense in that, though I think Danno is the type who’d rather be in the top spot. Still, worth keeping in mind. Democrats better be prepared for that possibility.

There will be much, much more pre-post and post session analysis to come.


Voter IDiocy - A GOP Scam Plain And Simple

Posted in Elections, Corruption, 80th Legislature, Around The Nation, Around The State at 10:46 pm by wcnews

Voter suppression, minority voter suppression to be specific, is the only reason they’re attempting this. Efforts to stop `voter fraud’ may have curbed legitimate voting.

During four years as a Justice Department civil rights lawyer, Hans von Spakovsky went so far in a crusade against voter fraud as to warn of its dangers under a pseudonym in a law journal article.

Writing as “Publius,” von Spakovsky contended that every voter should be required to produce a photo-identification card and that there was “no evidence” that such restrictions burden minority voters disproportionately.

Now, amid a scandal over politicization of the Justice Department, Congress is beginning to examine allegations that von Spakovsky was a key player in a Republican campaign to hang onto power in Washington by suppressing the votes of minority voters.

“Mr. von Spakovsky was central to the administration’s pursuit of strategies that had the effect of suppressing the minority vote,” charged Joseph Rich, a former Justice Department voting rights chief who worked under him.


Von Spakovsky wrote that Daniel Tokaji, the associate director of Moritz’ election program, was “an outspoken opponent of voter identification requirements” and that those “pre-existing notions” should disqualify him from federal funding for impartial research.

The criticism was ironic coming from von Spakovsky, who a few months earlier had written the anonymous article for the Texas Review of Law and Politics, in which he called voter fraud a problem of importance equal to racial discrimination at the polls. Von Spakovsky acknowledged writing the article after joining the FEC.

Months after its publication, he participated in the department’s review of Georgia’s photo ID law, as required under the 1965 Voting Rights Act for election laws passed in 16 Southern states. After the department approved it, a federal judge struck it down as akin to a Jim Crow-era poll tax on minority voters.


Moratorium Veto - The Road Ahead

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 11:52 am by wcnews

There are at least a couple of sticking points on the current toll road moratorium. From Ben Wear.

The House added 18 amendments Thursday to the version passed by the Senate on Monday, and some of those changes were unacceptable to at least some senators. Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, for instance, did not like several amendments by his fellow El Paso Democrat, Rep. Joe Pickett.

And Perry was said to be unhappy with an amendment by state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, meant to address a potential conflict of interest for investment banks participating in private toll road deals.

The Senate named its conference committee members Friday afternoon, but the House left town before approving its list.

Nonetheless, key House and Senate members began to negotiate Friday. Senate Bill 792 sponsor Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, said quick action next week is possible.

“This is not a days-long process,” Williams said. “This is a few hours.”

The Legislature still has the option, should SB 792 run aground, of voting to override Perry’s veto of HB 1892. That would require approval of at least two-thirds of the members in both the Senate and House.

There are several issues that come to mind.

  • If Kolkhorsts amendment stays in, is that an excuse for Perry to veto the bill?
  • What happens if Perry holds the bill, starts playing games, or, God forbid, someone at the governor’s office calls in sick?
  • Perry does have the power of a line item veto and he could just veto any parts he doesn’t like, including Rep. Kolkhorsts amendment. Along that line he could also veto the parts that include a moratorium on the TTC, or any other project.
  • Does Perry just run out the clock and veto it once session is over
  • When in the process does the Lege start to look at a veto override, if Perry slow plays this. And are there still the votes in the Senate for an override if it’s needed.
  • And when do those opposed to corporate tolls in the Lege figure out that they’ve given all the power back to the governor on this issue?

Those are just a few issues that come to mind.

Maybe this thing will sail through the conference committee, and both chambers, be signed by the governor soon thereafter, and everything written above can just be forgotten. I sure hope so.


Perry Vetoes HB 1892

Posted in Privatization, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 5:37 pm by wcnews

AAS and QR reporting. Statement from Perry’s web site.

Gov. Rick Perry today vetoed House Bill 1892, a transportation bill that is being reworked as Senate Bill 792. The following is the governor’s veto message delivered to the Texas House:

“House Bill No. 1892 jeopardizes billions of dollars of infrastructure investment and invites a potentially significant reduction in federal transportation funding. Projects important to fast-growth communities would be placed on hold without alternative financing mechanisms to get them constructed. Even more egregiously, the bill serves to break up the state highway system by permitting local control over state assets.

“While I support greater local decision-making authority over transportation planning, I do not support turning over state assets to local entities. By allowing local entities to seize state right-of-way at any moment, H.B. No. 1892 prohibits the Texas Department of Transportation’s ability to issue any road-based debt instrument, such as toll revenue bonds, comprehensive development agreements, and pass through financing deals. As a state that grows by 1,200 people each and every day, we must consider every viable option that will allow Texas to build a strong transportation infrastructure to support present and future growth.

“I am grateful that legislators are working with me in subsequent legislation to address these concerns I have expressed about H.B. No. 1892 and look forward to receiving Senate Bill No. 792 without delay.”

Notice he says “receiving” not “signing”. This is no surprise, we knew this was coming.

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