This should be read by every Christian in the state of Texas! Liberals are going on attack mode. Conservatives beware, keep informed and be ready to defend your positions on March 2nd - the Primary Election!
From: Donna Garner
Sent: Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Subject: LAWYER-LOBBYISTS RUNNING FOR TX. STATE BD. OF ED.
-- THE LONE STAR REPORT -- WILL LUTZ, 12.16.09
[Obviously, Texans need to be concerned when high-powered lawyer-lobbyists start having fundraisers to see how much money they can raise to help them defeat the seven conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education.
Lawyer-lobbyists are much too cozy with the education establishment, and William Ratliff (running against present SBOE member Don McLeroy) and Tim Tuggey (running against present SBOE member Ken Mercer) are not conservatives; at best they are RINO’s. At worst, they are money-grubbing lobbyists who have their own vested interests in mind.
Had Ratliff and Tuggey been on the SBOE these last two years, the new-and-improved English standards and the world-class Science standards never would have been adopted. Neither would the new Social Standards have a chance of reflecting the rich intellectual and spiritual inheritance upon which our founding fathers built our nation.
When the Republican primary comes along in March 2010, all of us need to make sure that we re-elect the courageous members of the SBOE who have fought so hard to improve the academic excellence of our public schools.
Texas children certainly do not need their educational future built upon the vested interests of lawyer-lobbyists.
Below is Will Lutz’s update on the SBOE, an article by Abby Rapoport, and an explanation of Texas ’ lobbying regulations. -- Donna Garner]
12.16.09 -- The Lone Star Report
SBOE update: Playing with fire or circling the wagons?
Written by: William Lutz
12/16/2009 5:42 PM
Last week, I observed a development that raises ethical concerns in the race for State Board of Education District 9 between incumbent Don McLeroy and Thomas Ratliff.
The lobby held a fundraiser for Ratliff. (I've been forwarded several copies of the lobby invitation, one of which can be viewed here.) Several of the lobbyists listed as fundraiser sponsors represent companies that could have business before the State Board of Education. Some represent computer companies that pushed for legislation watering down state textbook quality control efforts and making it easier for computer companies to get state textbook money – bills that passed over the objection of several State Board of Education members. Others represent firms that have provided or could provide investment services to the Permanent School Fund. Still others have no direct connection to board business, but are simply Ratliff family friends.
Normally, this would not be news. I don’t regularly report on who’s doing fundraisers for whom. But the State Board of Education is governed by a rather weird statute on who can give money – a statute written by Ratliff’s father, former Sen. Bill Ratliff (R-Mt. Pleasant). (In 1992, Ratliff narrowly survived a challenge from former State Board of Education member Bob Aikin (D-Paris) ).
The statute can be found at Education Code, Section 7.108 and reads as follows:
(a) A person interested in selling bonds of any type or a person engaged in manufacturing, shipping, selling, or advertising textbooks or otherwise connected with the textbook business commits an offense if the person makes or authorizes a political contribution to or takes part in, directly or indirectly, the campaign of any person seeking election to or serving on the board.
Here’s the issue with this statute and why this matters – the board’s responsibilities affect more interests with lobbyists than it did in the mid-1990s when this statute was written. Back then, textbook publishers and education groups were the main outside lobby groups that cared about the board. Most of the permanent school fund assets were managed by state staff and not outsourced. So bond buyers and textbook publishers were the main interests with business in front of the board.
Now, that’s not the case. The board lets several very lucrative consulting contracts relating to the Permanent School Fund. Computer companies now want to raid textbook funds to buy laptops and other computer hardware, something they couldn’t do in 1995. And those computer companies sought – and got – from the Legislature an exemption from the state’s quality control standards. Computerized textbooks no longer have to cover even half the state’s curriculum and don’t go though the same rigorous public review and comment process that State Board of Education-adopted books do.
Several members of the State Board of Education fought this change, and it’s not much of a stretch to think there are some in the computer industry who won’t be happy about that. Ratliff himself is a lobbyist who lists Microsoft as a client.
While textbook publishers are expressly prohibited from giving money to a state board member, others with interests before the board are not.This may include lobbyists for independent school districts, school organizations, Permanent School Fund money managers and computer hardware manufacturers, among others.
I’m not naming names and connecting dots in this post. I would note, however, that Ratliff is required to report any contribution given at this fundraiser to the Ethics Commission on the contribution and expenditure report due Jan. 15.
When that report is filed, I will examine it carefully. I want to see which of these lobbyists gave money to Ratliff and in what amounts. And I want to see which of these contributions Ratliff chose to accept.
In all fairness, not all the people on this lobby invitation have business before the board. Some are personal friends of the Ratliff family.
But there’s a legitimate policy issue here for the Legislature – should all lobbyists with business before the State Board of Education be subject to a ban on contributing? I could understand a situation similar to the Legislature, where all have to disclose but there are no limits on contributions. And I could understand a blanket ban on all contributions from those with a financial interest. But current law has set up a system where some lobbyists with business before the board can’t contribute but others can. That’s not a fair or level playing field.
Additionally, this fundraiser invites careful scrutiny of upcoming ethics reports. I’ll keep our readers posted as more information comes to light.
2010: McLeroy vs. the World
State Board of Education races aren't normally known for drawing a spotlight, but candidate Thomas Ratliff is doing his best to raise the profile of his primary race against former SBOE chair Don McLeroy. Next week the lobbyist-turned-candidate will hold a fundraiser at the Austin Club and the Republican establishment is coming out in support. It could spell a shift for McLeroy, an incumbent Republican who Perry once appointed chair of the board.
The event's host committee (see attached) is a who's-who of paid conservative lobbyists.There's Mike Toomey, who served as chief-of-staff to Governor Rick Perry between his stints as a power-broker and had 29 clients last session including AT&T and Liberty Mutual. And former senator David Sibley, who, along with Teel Bivins and Bill Ratliff (the candidate's father), were the powerful voices of the state senate during their tenure. He had 35 clients last session and is well known for his influence.
Then there are some education advocates in the mix: David Thompson has long been a fixture at education meetings and lobbies on behalf of several school districts.
Opponent Don McLeroy has been slow coming out of the gate and is already behind Ratliff in endorsements and fundraising. Last week, Ratliff garnered support from House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, and House Calendars Chair Brian McCall, R-Plano, and next week's fundraiser will likely push Ratliff further ahead financially.
Of course the race isn't over yet. These endeavors highlight Ratliff's primary weakness — that he lobbies in Austin. McLeroy and his colleague Ken Mercer both face lobbyist primary challengers, and Mercer has argued repeatedly that lobbyists have no business running for office. McLeroy may be able to leverage his opponent's occupation if he energizes enough Christian conservatives to come out in support. But he may need to make those calls fast.
Lobby and lobbyists
Lobbying is the practice of direct communication with legislative or executive branch officials to influence their decisions about public policy. In Texas , where lawmakers work part time, lobbyists play a significant role in influencing legislation and shaping administrative action.
Many businesses and other groups pay lobbyists to represent their interests before the Texas Legislature and state agencies. A lobbyist generally is a salaried company employee or a professional, freelance lobbyist working alone or at a firm. Some lobbyists are lawyers, though legal training isn't required. Others are former state employees and officials whose experience can be valuable to clients.
Lobbyists who spend more than $500 in a calendar quarter or are compensated more than $1,000 in a calendar quarter must register.
They are then required to report periodically their aggregate spending totals in six categories:
- transportation and lodging;
- food and beverages;
- awards and mementos; and
- the attendance of a state officer or employee at a political fundraiser or charity event.
They also categorize their expenditures by recipient type:
- state senators;
- state representatives;
- elected or appointed state officers, other than state senators or state representatives;
- legislative agency employees;
- executive agency employees;
- immediate family (spouse and dependent children) of a state officer or employee;
- expenditures for guests (when invited by a state senator, a state representative, other elected or appointed state officers, a legislative agency employee, or an executive agency employee);
- expenditures for events to which all legislators are invited
Lobbyists must file detailed, or itemized, reports listing the names of recipients if they spend:
- more than $100.80 (60% of the per diem for lawmakers) in one day for food and beverages, transportation, or lodging for a state officer or employee;
- more than $100.80 (60% of the per diem for lawmakers) in one day for entertainment for a state officer or employee or for the spouse or dependent child of a state officer or employee;
- more than $50 for a gift, award, or memento for a state officer or employee;
- any amount for a state officer or employee to attend a political fundraiser or charity event.
Lobbyists' reports are available on the commission's Web site and at its office, 201 East 14th St., 10th Floor, Austin, Texas, 78701. The commission made the reports available in a searchable format in April 2009.
The ethics commissions also provides a guide that explains Chapter 305 of the Texas Government Code, the statute governing lobbyists, which includes a complicated set of restrictions on their activity.