Sen. Brimer v. Public Over TABC Report

Posted in Corruption, 80th Legislature, Had Enough Yet?, Commentary, Around The State at 12:44 pm by wcnews

A spat over the comments from a public member of the Sunset Commission, Howard Wolf, enabled Sen. Kim Brimer to delay releasing the commission’s report on the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) until after reauthorization of the TABC was complete. AAS has the story, Months late, Sunset report surfaces:

On the last day before he would have broken the law, Sen. Ken Brimer, R-Fort Worth, quietly released a report he withheld from the Legislature for months in a feud with a citizen member of the Sunset Advisory Commission.

In spite of several requests by the member, Howard Wolf, Brimer refused to include in the report comments written by Wolf criticizing legal protections given the wholesale distributors of alcohol that Wolf says are tantamount to corruption.

What is the point of involving someone from the public in this process if their comments won’t be allowed to be published? Not to worry, Lt. Gov. Davy Dewhurst (R - Can’t Control Senators) is trying to work out a deal, you know how that goes. More from the article, public member speaks for Texans and Brimer hides.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Thursday that he was attempting to broker an agreement between Wolf — his appointee to the Sunset Advisory Commission and a longtime legal adviser and friend — and Brimer, the chairman of the commission. The commission is charged with the periodic review of state agencies, to recommend reforms to or the abolishment of an agency.

“Both Chairman Brimer and Howard are good friends of mine,” Dewhurst said, “and while I support my chairman, I had expected both to agree to a noninflammatory report simply stating Howard’s policy concerns, which could have been published with the Sunset report.”

Wolf, whose letter to Brimer asking about the report was never answered, said he wasn’t surprised at being ignored.

“The system is so corrupt that it cannot tolerate someone saying that the emperor has no clothes,” Wolf said. “They have been allowed to perpetuate a system that has used government at the expense of consumers.”

Brimer did not return calls requesting that he answer questions about the report, which is required by state law to be published before the end of the legislative session. Calls to Alan Gray, a prominent lobbyist for the liquor industry, were also not returned.

Here’s the bill from the 80th (SB 904) and the Sunset report is here (scroll down until you see Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Texas). This report was still on the agenda because the review did not get done then, from the summary of the report (.PDF):

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) underwent Sunset review in 2004, and the Sunset Commission forwarded recommendations to improve the agency to the Legislature in 2005. However, the Sunset legislation did not pass. Instead, the Legislature, through separate legislation, continued TABC for two years and required a follow-up Sunset review to focus on the appropriateness of the Sunset Commission’s 2004 recommendations. The results of that special purpose review are contained in this material.

The 12 year reauthorization passed the House 144 - 0, the Senate and was signed by the governor. No member was allowed to see the report and only committee members were allowed to read the summary. In the end it was all about lobbying to change a law:

Weeks after Wolf first asked that his criticisms be added to the Sunset report, reporters discovered that political representatives for the wholesale liquor distributors had donated at least $1.38 million to more than 150 state legislators and Gov. Rick Perry. Liquor lobbyists gave Brimer $30,000.

The disclosure of the donations caused the wholesale distributors to drop their effort to change a law that requires restaurants and bars to buy their liquor from retail outlets, a change that would have channeled what amounts to billions of dollars in liquor revenue through the distributors.

The donation embarrassment, Wolf said, was proof of the corruption he had alleged. Wolf went public with his comments, essentially claiming that the Legislature was in the pocket of the liquor lobby.

“Poised like lions on a patch of high ground in the Serengeti, occasionally swishing their tails so their presence would be noted, the lions of the lobby watched at hearings to ensure that no Republican elephant or Democratic mule would dare stray from the prescribed path,” Wolf wrote.

Mr. Wolf challenged the status quo and therefore one state Senator decided his comments couldn’t be published. Ahh, Democracy. BTW I think Sen. Brimer was on on the Kuff’s post, Targeting 2008: State Senate.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.