AUSTIN—What would electoral politics be without the fresh smell of lawsuits in the morning? Not very exciting, most likely. At any rate the Democrats 2006 gubernatorial nominee Chris Bell has filed a lawsuit against Texas Governor Rick Perry and the Republican Governor’s Association alleging violations of Texas’ campaign finance laws. And, wouldn’t you know it, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry (no relation to Rick) is involved. At issue in the lawsuit is a $1 million contribution Bob Perry made to the Republican Governor’s Association PAC. The PAC turned around and, on October 26 and November 1 of last year, gave Governor Perry two $500,000 contributions. However, the PAC and the campaign missed a step, it would seem, and a required filing listing contributors to the governors association PAC was never made with the Texas Ethics Commission. That, and Bell’s camp alleges that the PAC didn’t file with the ethics agency as an out-of-state PAC as required by law. Of course, Governor Perry’s office is out quick with the spin, claiming it is sour grapes because Bell didn’t get a state lobbying contract he wanted.
AUSTIN—Governor Rick Perry elevated Barry T. Smitherman, a controversial investment banker and the author of If Jesus Were An Investment Banker (no, we’re not kidding) to the Chairmanship of the Public Utility Commission of Texas. He replaces Paul Hudson. Of course, Smitherman is a Perry contributor, having given the Governor’s campaigns more than $11,000 since 2002. Smitherman was fired from Banc One in 2002 after he co-wrote an editorial critical of the finances of the city of Houston. Reports published in the Houston Press in 2002 also indicate that Smitherman tried to influence a number of city officials to help steer some city bond business to Banc One after a $400 million bond transaction was all but signed, sealed, and delivered.
EAGLE LAKE—State Rep. Robby Cook (D-Eagle Lake) has announced he won’t seek another term representing House District 17 in Austin. While Republicans immediately salivated over the idea of picking up a seat in rural Texas in 2008, Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald has emerged as a potential replacement for Cook. The nine-year judge has reportedly given the GOP establishment pause about whether a race here would be a good investment, given they must work to protect seats they already hold, according to Austin sources.
WEATHERFORD—Texas Parent PAC, the news-making political action committee from the 2006 election cycle, is working hard to recruit an opponent for State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford), a chief lieutenant to Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick. Former Weatherford ISD Superintendent and current Weatherford Mayor Joe Tison, a Republican, is the PAC’s choice to oppose King. Carolyn Boyle, the head of Parent PAC, told the Weatherford Democrat Tison had “terrific experience and abilities” to bring to the seat. With filing starting in about a week, we will soon find out if Boyle has been able to convince Tison to make the race.
BROWNSVILLE—As if politics in the Rio Grande Valley wasn’t strange enough, Cameron County Commissioners have voted to sue the Texas Attorney General’s Office, and the state comptroller challenging an attorney general’s opinion allowing Governor Rick Perry to appoint two judges to new state district courts created by the 80th Texas Legislature. At issue is that the opinion doesn’t specify how the courts should be funded. Typically, counties must bear the burden of staffing the courts although the salaries of the district judges are paid by the state. The county maintains they don’t have the funds to establish the 444th and 445th Judicial District Courts—or any place to house the courts. Commissioners previously approved a resolution supporting an additional court for the county, but were under the impression only one would be created.
EL PASO—County Commissioners in El Paso were set to investigate allegations Monday that the county medical examiner may have falsified his resume and not met their requirements for his position. Dr. Paul Shrode, who was hired in 2005, has reportedly falsly stated on his resume that he received a law degree from Southwest Texas State University in 1979, and allegedly fails to meet state-mandated anatomic and forensic pathology requirements.