Summer session: On bathrooms, Boy Scouts, Trump, Abbott, Patrick, Straus and McRaven

Good day Austin:

Since he launched his candidacy for re-election on July 14, and the start of the special session four days later, Gov. Greg Abbott has been doing a lot of radio and TV interviews from Austin with stations across the state.

I’ve listened in to a number of them.

It’s a good way to hear what the governor has to say, what he’s messaging to audiences across the state and what kind of questions he gets.

It’s also like a vicarious little trip across Texas, all without leaving Austin.

Yesterday morning, one minute he was on with  Sergio Sanchez and Tim Sullivan on 710 AM KURV in the Rio Grande Valley, getting grilled on his initiatives  to countermand local control, and a few minutes later he was on Newstalk 550 KCRS, serving Midland-Odessa in the Permian Basin.

“This is Kris Moore in your driver’s seat.”

“And I’m Jeremy Jones riding shotgun.”

JJ:  As Kris said before we went to the break, we are waiting a phone call from the Honorable Greg Abbott, the great governor of our great state, going to give us a live update from Austin on their special session that started last week and they’ve already got some bills passed through.

KM: They have. They have.

JJ: We expect to have a good conversation with him about what we can expect from the special session.

KM: They’ve got twenty items on the agenda that they’re going to be addressing on the special session that did pick up July 18, and, as we said before the break, over the weekend they did pass the bathroom bill.

JJ: Now what does that mean for you and I?”

KM: What it means is, ah …

JJ: Or should we ask the governor?

KM: We will ask the governor for sure, But what the bill says is that you have to the bathroom of your birth.

JJ: Of the gender that is on your…

KM and JJ in unison: birth certificate.

KM: Right.

JJ: There is no intermingling.

KM: No.

JJ: There is no question.

KM: No.

JJ: You go.

KM: And here he is. He’s on the phone. Good morning.

(Exchange of pleasantries with the governor.)

KM: I know you guys have been very busy, been there since July 18 trying to get 20 different items taken care of and you just signed he bathroom bill. 

What else are you doing?

 

Putting aside the possibility that because of some special cosmic/geologic worm hole in the warp and woof of the time-space continuum in the Permiam Basin in which they are living say a week or two into the future, Kris Moore was speaking too soon.

But I am entirely sympathetic to her confusion.

Not to be too crude – but this is after all the bathroom bill  and there comes a point in the life of every political issue when it is  time to **** or get off the pot.

I think there are only so many times people can read stories about its to and fro without either assuming it’s been dealt with, or losing interest.

And Gov. Abbott’s 20-item agenda?

From University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus’ blog:

Governor Abbott has taken a more hands-on role in the special than he did in the bulk of the regular 85th Session but this isn’t a guarantee of success, especially with Speaker Straus’s cagey remark in Lawrence Wright’s New Yorker article that the House is under “no obligation to pass anything.”
 
Do the number of items on a governor’s call have an effect on the volume of legislation passed?  A little.  The graph below estimates the ratio of bills introduced to those passed graphed against the number of items on a special session call from 1991 to 2013.*  The effects are modest but show an interesting pattern:  more items on a call reduce the predicted pass rate of legislation in the special session. 
  
The passage of a bill doesn’t guarantee the bill is the “right” bill by a governor’s definition, but this gives us a flavor for how more items on a call reduces legislative productivity in a special.  Governor Abbott’s rather large menu of items may please the Republican base but could also hurt his chances of getting more legislation “signature ready.” 

 

And besides, it’s summer in Texas and very hot.

There is a reason, Rottinghaus said, why networks don’t roll out new shows in the summer.

And, the history of successful summer replacement shows is lean, Sonny & Cher being the notable exception.

And, I’m sure that Sonny & Cher weren’t up against anything like the Donald Trump Variety Hour.

I mean, seriously, how does one compete with what is going on in Washington?

Let’s face it, the man, our president, is a rating’s hog.

And each day, almost every hour, is more bizarre and gripping than the one that preceded it.

In true Emperor Has No Clothes fashion, I assume we are headed to the day when President Trump addresses the nation wearing nothing but a long, red tie.

For transfixing, stream-of-consciousness weirdness it would seem nohting could top yesterday’s speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia – with Eagle Scout Cabinet members Ryan Zinke, in Boy Scout uniform, and Rick Perry, in Trump Scout uniform (dark suit, white shirt, Trump red tie) – standing behind their man.

But, of course, something will, maybe before you read this.

 

Years from now, this speech may be the essential document of the Trump years.

Trump:

I’m waving to people back there so small I can’t even see them. Man, this is a lot of people. Turn those cameras back there, please. That is so incredible.

By the way, what do you think the chances are that this incredible massive crowd, record-setting, is going to be shown on television tonight? One percent or zero?

(APPLAUSE)

The fake media will say, “President Trump spoke” — you know what is — “President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.” That’s some — that is some crowd. Fake media. Fake news.

Thank you. And I’m honored by that. By the way, all of you people that can’t even see you, so thank you. I hope you can hear.

Through scouting you also learned to believe in yourself — so important — to have confidence in your ability and to take responsibility for your own life. When you face down new challenges — and you will have plenty of them — develop talents you never thought possible, and lead your teammates through daring trials, you discover that you can handle anything. And you learn it by being a Scout. It’s great.

(APPLAUSE)

You can do anything. You can be anything you want to be. But in order to succeed, you must find out what you love to do. You have to find your passion, no matter what they tell you. If you don’t — I love you too. I don’t know. Nice guy.

(APPLAUSE)

Hey, what am I going to do? He sounds like a nice person. He — he, he, he. I do. I do love you.

(CROWD CHANTING)

By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a Jamboree?

(APPLAUSE)

And we’ll be back. We’ll be back. The answer is no. But we’ll be back.

In life, in order to be successful — and you people are well on the road to success — you have to find out what makes you excited, what makes you want to get up each morning and go to work? You have to find it. If you love what you do and dedicate yourself to your work, then you will gain momentum? And look, you have to. You need the word “momentum.” You will gain that momentum. And each success will create another success. The word “momentum.”

I’ll tell you a story that’s very interesting for me. When I was young there was a man named William Levitt. You have some here. You have some in different states. Anybody ever hear of Levittown?

(APPLAUSE)

And he was a very successful man, became unbelievable — he was a home builder, became an unbelievable success, and got more and more successful. And he’d build homes, and at night he’d go to these major sites with teams of people, and he’d scour the sites for nails, and sawdust and small pieces of wood, and they cleaned the site, so when the workers came in the next morning, the sites would be spotless and clean, and he did it properly. And he did this for 20 years, and then he was offered a lot of money for his company, and he sold his company, for a tremendous amount of money, at the time especially. This is a long time ago. Sold his company for a tremendous amount of money.

And he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that, because you’re Boy Scouts so I’m not going to tell you what he did.

(CROWD CHANTING)

Should I tell you? Should I tell you?

(APPLAUSE)

You’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life.

So look at you. Who would think this is the Boy Scouts, right? So he had a very, very interesting life, and the company that bought his company was a big conglomerate, and they didn’t know anything about building homes, and they didn’t know anything about picking up the nails and the sawdust and selling it, and the scraps of wood. This was a big conglomerate based in New York City.

And after about a 10-year period, there were losing a lot with it. It didn’t mean anything to them. And they couldn’t sell it. So they called William Levitt up, and they said, would you like to buy back your company, and he said, yes, I would. He so badly wanted it. He got bored with this life of yachts, and sailing, and all of the things he did in the south of France and other places. You won’t get bored, right? You know, truthfully, you’re workers. You’ll get bored too, believe me.

Of course having a few good years like that isn’t so bad.

But what happened is he bought back his company, and he bought back a lot of empty land, and he worked hard at getting zoning, and he worked hard on starting to develop, and in the end he failed, and he failed badly, lost all of his money. He went personally bankrupt, and he was now much older. And I saw him at a cocktail party. And it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party. It was the party of Steve Ross — Steve Ross, who was one of the great people. He came up and discovered, really founded Time Warner, and he was a great guy. He had a lot of successful people at the party.

And I was doing well, so I got invited to the party. I was very young. And I go in, but I’m in the real estate business, and I see a hundred people, some of whom I recognize, and they’re big in the entertainment business.

And I see sitting in the corner was a little old man who was all by himself. Nobody was talking to him. I immediately recognized that that man was the once great William Levitt, of Levittown, and I immediately went over. I wanted to talk to him more than the Hollywood, show business, communications people.
So I went over and talked to him, and I said, “Mr. Levitt, I’m Donald Trump.” He said, “I know.” I said, “Mr. Levitt, how are you doing?” He goes, “Not well, not well at all.” And I knew that. But he said, “Not well at all.” And he explained what was happening and how bad it’s been and how hard it’s been. And I said, “What exactly happened? Why did this happen to you? You’re one of the greats ever in our industry. Why did this happen to you?”

And he said, “Donald, I lost my momentum. I lost my momentum.”

A word you never hear when you’re talking about success when some of these guys that never made 10 cents, they’re on television giving you things about how you’re going to be successful, and the only thing they ever did was a book and a tape. But I tell you — I’ll tell you, it was very sad, and I never forgot that moment.
And I thought about it, and it’s exactly true. He lost his momentum, meaning he took this period of time off, long, years, and then when he got back, he didn’t have that same momentum.

In life, I always tell this to people, you have to know whether or not you continue to have the momentum. And if you don’t have it, that’s OK. Because you’re going to go on, and you’re going to learn and you’re going to do things that are great. But you have to know about the word “momentum.”

But the big thing, never quit, never give up; do something you love. When you do something you love as a Scout, I see that you love it. But when you do something that you love, you’ll never fail. What you’re going to do is give it a shot again and again and again. You’re ultimately going to be successful.

And remember this, you’re not working. Because when you’re doing something that you love, like I do — of course I love my business, but this is a little bit different. Who thought this was going to happen. We’re, you know, having a good time. We’re doing a good job.

(APPLAUSE)

Doing a good job. But when you do something that you love, remember this, it’s not work. So you’ll work 24/7. You’re going to work all the time. And at the end of the year you’re not really working. You don’t think of it as work. When you’re not doing something that you like or when you’re forced into do something that you really don’t like, that’s called work, and it’s hard work, and tedious work.
So as much as you can do something that you love, work hard and never ever give up, and you’re going to be tremendously successful, tremendously successful.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, with that, I have to tell you our economy is doing great. Our stock market has picked up since the election, November 8th — do we remember that day? Was that a beautiful day?

(APPLAUSE)

What a day.

Do you remember that famous night on television, November 8th where they said, these dishonest people, where they said, there is no path to victory for Donald Trump. They forgot about the forgotten people.

By the way, they’re not forgetting about the forgotten people anymore. They’re going crazy trying to figure it out, but I told them, far too late; it’s far too late.

But you remember that incredible night with the maps, and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red it was unbelievable. And they didn’t know what to say.

(APPLAUSE)

And you know, we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College. Popular vote is much easier. We have — because New York, California, Illinois, you have to practically run the East Coast. And we did. We won Florida. We won South Carolina. We won North Carolina. We won Pennsylvania.

(APPLAUSE)

We won and won. So when they said, there is no way to victory; there is no way to 270. You know I went to Maine four times because it’s one vote, and we won. We won. One vote. I went there because I kept hearing we’re at 269. But then Wisconsin came in. Many, many years. Michigan came in.

(APPLAUSE)

So — and we worked hard there. You know, my opponent didn’t work hard there, because she was told…

(BOOING)

She was told she was going to win Michigan, and I said, well, wait a minute. The car industry is moving to Mexico. Why is she going to move — she’s there. Why are they allowing it to move? And by the way, do you see those car industry — do you see what’s happening? They’re coming back to Michigan. They’re coming back to Ohio. They’re starting to peel back in.

(APPLAUSE)

And we go to Wisconsin, now, Wisconsin hadn’t been won in many, many years by a Republican. But we go to Wisconsin, and we had tremendous crowds. And I’d leave these massive crowds, I’d say, why are we going to lose this state?

The polls, that’s also fake news. They’re fake polls. But the polls are saying — but we won Wisconsin.

(APPLAUSE)

So I have to tell you, what we did, in all fairness, is an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted for make America great again.

(APPLAUSE)

And I’ll tell you what, we are indeed making America great again.

CROWD: USA! USA! USA!

TRUMP: And I’ll tell you what, we are indeed making America great again. What’s going on is incredible.

(APPLAUSE)

We had the best jobs report in 16 years. The stock market on a daily basis is hitting an all-time high.
We’re going to be bringing back very soon trillions of dollars from companies that can’t get their money back into this country, and that money is going to be used to help rebuild America. We’re doing things that nobody ever thought was possible, and we’ve just started. It’s just the beginning, believe me.

(APPLAUSE)

You know, in the Boy Scouts you learn right from wrong, correct? You learn to contribute to your communities, to take pride in your nation, and to seek out opportunities to serve. You pledge to help other people at all times.

(APPLAUSE)

In the Scout oath, you pledge on your honor to do your best and to do your duty to God and your country.

(APPLAUSE)

And by the way, under the Trump administration you’ll be saying “Merry Christmas” again when you go shopping, believe me.

(APPLAUSE)

Merry Christmas.

They’ve been downplaying that little beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying “Merry Christmas” again, folks.

https://twitter.com/1pepsi924/status/888400381432270848

 

Statement from Cruz:

Jeff Sessions is a friend and a strong conservative.  I was proud to vote to confirm Jeff and to vigorously defend his confirmation, and I’m deeply gratified that we have a principled conservative like Jeff Sessions serving as Attorney General.  The stories being reported in the media tonight are false. My focus is and will remain on fighting every day to defend 28 million Texans in the U.S. Senate.

The Texas special session simply can’t compete.

And, it seems that maybe the momentum – to use Trump’s word of the day – may have shifted on the bathroom bill.

Coming out of the regular session Patrick seemed on fire and Straus on the ropes.

But something seems to have changed.

 

Straus now has the bearing of a man who thinks he can keep the bathroom bill off the floor without a wholesale mutiny from his members.

From an interview yesterday with NBC 5, DFW, political reporter Julie Fine

“I feel fine, you know, I feel good. I would rather not be in special session this summer,” Straus said.

It is not the special session he wanted, and Straus has become the Republican voice against a so-called “bathroom bill” that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and some others have touted. The legislation, Senate Bill 4, is likely to pass the Texas Senate, and Fine asked whether it will make it the House floor.

“Well, I hope it does not. My views on the so-called ‘bathroom bill’ are pretty well known, and I can’t see why we would want to walk right into the problems that North Carolina experienced,” Straus said.

Patrick maintains this bill is what Texans want, but Straus disagrees, saying he has heard from business leaders, law enforcement and educators who are concerned about this bill.

“I just believe it is not in the best interest of Texas to pass that bill,” Straus added.

The House just passed the routine sunset bill, so now lawmakers will address other issues. Straus says education is a priority.

“I think the number one priority of the House is what it normally is, and that is to address issues of public education, and funding public education, and the related issue of very high property taxes that people are paying for. They think they are paying for their schools,” Straus said.

Fine asked Straus if he would meet with the lieutenant governor.”Well, I am always willing to talk to anybody who wants to have a constructive conversation about the issues and challenges that really do face the state of Texas,” Straus said.

The Straus-Patrick faceoff, and the Straus-Patrick-Abbott dynamics, still make this special session very interesting for those who live and breathe the Capitol.

But it is still can’t compete with the Trump Show for broader public interest.

I think what is missing, what would put some click in the heels of Texas politics this summer, would be the prospect of a real live contest for governor and lieutenant governor in 2018, which, if it is going to happen, ought to be taking shape right now.

I think even Abbott, with his $41 million and state-of-the-art organization, is jonesing for a real race.

He loves politics and competition.

I mean otherwise, why this?

From Tim Alberta and Zack Stanton in Politico

As you’re reading this, odds are a Democratic operative in Michigan or Washington, D.C., is listening to Kid Rock’s gravelly voice—rapping, shrieking or crowing, depending on the song—and meticulously cataloguing every single offensive syllable. The renegade musician and prospective candidate for U.S. Senate is an opposition researcher’s dream come true: For more than two decades, Robert Ritchie—or Bobby, as he asks people to call him—has written and performed provocative records about, among other things, extravagant drug use, excessive drinking and sexual exploits with prostitutes, strippers and Hollywood starlets. These lyrics are far from hollow. Kid Rock’s hard-partying image is central to his popularity and has been exhaustively documented in media accounts over the years. Political opponents will be digging through more than just his albums, too: There’s the sex tape he starred in, the arrest following a Waffle House brawl, the no-contest plea to charges he assaulted a DJ at a Nashville strip club, the messy divorce from Pamela Anderson. If that weren’t enough, he has offered other forms of ammunition to potential foes in interviews over the years, such as when he told Rolling Stone of his distaste for Beyoncé (“I like skinny white chicks with big tits”) and gave the New Yorker his stance on same-sex marriage (“I don’t give a f*** if gay people get married. I don’t love anybody who acts like a f*****’ faggot”).

Because of his manifest rebelliousness—the offensive language, the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, the middle finger to polite company—Kid Rock’s tweet last week announcing that he is considering a campaign for U.S. Senate in Michigan was met with predictable contempt from the political class. How dare the foul-mouthed, long-haired, wifebeater-wearing, Jim Beam-swigging, self-described redneck suggest he belongs in the world’s greatest deliberative body? Moreover, critics had immediate cause to call his bluff: The website he tweeted out, http://www.kidrockforsenate.com, links to a merchandise store hosted by Warner Bros. Records, and Ritchie, who’s gearing up for a fall tour, also just happened to release two new singles from his forthcoming album. Consensus formed at warp speed in the Acela corridor that it’s a money-making publicity stunt, that Kid Rock for Senate should not be taken seriously.

 
That might be a huge miscalculation.

Yes, healthy skepticism is warranted: Not a single prominent Republican in Michigan told us they’d heard from Ritchie or his associates about a campaign. Good musicians are great marketers, and Kid Rock has been brilliant in terms of creating and selling a brand. His flirtation with electoral politics could be nothing more than a promotional ploy aimed at rekindling interest in his career—he’s had only one single reach any of Billboard’s charts in the past four years—and boosting his bottom line. And yet this theory doesn’t appear consistent with the man himself: Ritchie, who already boasts a huge and devoted following, has sold tens of millions of albums and amassed what he calls “f*** you money”—enough of it, in fact, that he has given seven-figure sums to charity and capped ticket prices to his concerts at $20 to make them accessible to working-class fans. Meanwhile, he’s earned a reputation in his native southeast Michigan as someone who is earnest when it comes to civic involvement, helping local businesses and headlining major philanthropic events. When Mitt Romney asked for his endorsement ahead of the pivotal Michigan primary in 2012, Ritchie invited him to his Metro Detroit home and peppered him with a list of policy questions, sleeping on the decision before informing Romney the next day he would support him. The two forged an unexpected bond: Romney adopted the patriotic rock anthem “Born Free” as his official campaign song, and Ritchie later praised the former Massachusetts governor as “the most decent motherfucker I’ve ever met in my life.”

None of this guarantees Ritchie will run, but it suggests he shouldn’t be mocked when he says he’s thinking about it—especially now that the media and the left have summarily and sneeringly popped his trial balloon. This same dismissiveness greeted (and motivated) Donald Trump throughout the 2016 campaign, and yes, given that Americans last fall elected a foul-mouthed political novice who was heard boasting on audiotape of grabbing women’s genitals without their permission, it’s worth noting that significant parallels exist between the rock star and the real estate mogul. So if you’re still not taking Kid Rock seriously, here’s why you should: His path to the U.S. Senate is far easier than Trump’s was to the White House.

So, is there a Democratic Kid Rock of Texas to give Abbott a run for his money?

No. Not that I know of.

But Erica Grieder has an idea.

 

Would McRaven do it?

Probably not.

But if he did, and he won, and was elected governor of Texas in 2018, quicker than you can say Ted Cruz, he would be the prohibitive favorite to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020.

When McRaven took the job as UT chancellor  there was scuttlebutt that he was preparing for a spot as Hillary Clinton’s running mate.

From a story by Howard Altman in the Tampa Bay Times  when McRaven  retired as commander of the  U.S. Special Forces Command:

Nan McRaven said she doesn’t know her brother’s future plans, though whatever they are “I am sure it will bring great things.”

The family, she said, is “so proud of his career and what he has done for the country.”

She also said she is looking forward to spending more time with her brother, as is his wife and children.

Like McRaven’s sister, retired Vice Adm. Maguire doesn’t know for sure what’s on the horizon for his old friend.

Maguire said he and McRaven have been close friends for nearly four decades. He was in SEAL training a year ahead of McRaven and now McRaven and his wife Georgeann serve as godparents to Maguire’s sons.

“I’ve heard all the rumors,” he said, ranging from being named the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to running for office as either governor of Texas or even Hillary Clinton’s veep.

He dodged that bullet. Or, who knows, maybe he might have changed the outcome.

Here from a speech he delivered to the Capitol Area Council, Boy Scouts of America Dinner on November 19, 2015

It dawned on me relatively late in life that along with the Scouts, the military is one of the only institutions that explicitly teaches the values and principles of leadership. 

When I finally left college and joined the Navy, I found an entire ecosystem dedicated to building character and changing lives.

Loyalty, courtesy, kindness, courage, reverence, optimism – these core values are not just inherent in the boy scouts—they are universal for organizations that make a difference.

While folks would never mistake Navy SEALs for Boy Scouts, you might be surprised by the similarities—the  understanding on our part that character matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why haven’t the Wilks brothers given Gov. Abbott so much as a straw of deer semen this election cycle?

FILE – In this Dec. 29, 2015, file photo, Farris Wilks watches Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speak in the community center named after his mother in Cisco, Texas. The “Reigniting the Promise Community Rally” was sponsored by the Keep the Promise Super PAC and held at the Myrtle Wilks Community Center in Cisco.  (Ronald W. Erdrich/Abilene Reporter-News via AP)

Good Monday Austin:

Today’s question:

Why haven’t the Wilks brothers given Gov. Greg Abbott so much as a straw of deer semen this election cycle?

I think this  is a question worth contemplating, not only because it is interesting in its own right, but because, when we find the answer, we may understand why it is that Greg Abbott, and not Ted Cruz, is more likely to be next (Republican) president after Donald Trump, assuming that we have another (Republican) president, after Donald Trump.

First some background.

If Tom and  Ray Magliozzi of Massachusetts were Car Talk’s Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, Farris and Don Wilks of Cisco are the frick and frack of  right-wing fracking money in Texas and nationally.

The Wilks bothers first burst on the national scene two summers ago.

From Teddy Schleiffer of CNN on July 27, 2015.

Washington (CNN) – Two low-profile Texas brothers have donated $15 million to support Sen. Ted Cruz, a record-setting contribution that amounts to the largest known donation so far in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Farris and Dan Wilks, billionaires who made their fortunes in the West Texas fracking boom, have given $15 million of the $38 million that the pro-Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise, will disclose in election filings next week, according to sources outside the super PAC with knowledge of the giving.

The siblings earned their riches with the sale of their company Frac Tech for $3.5 billion in 2011, and since then have shuffled large contributions to the leading social conservative nonprofit groups that aren’t required to reveal their donors. But they will no longer be able to avoid detection after giving a historically large and early donation that now make the brothers two of America’s most prominent political donors.

 “Our country was founded on the idea that our rights come from the Creator, not the government. I’m afraid we’re losing that,” Farris Wilks, a 63-year-old pastor in the small town of Cisco, said in a statement to CNN. “Unless we elect a principled conservative leader ready to stand up for our values, we’ll look back on what once was the land of opportunity and pass on a less prosperous nation to our children and grandchildren. That’s why we need Ted Cruz.”

Keep the Promise is technically four separate committees that give three families more control over their own super PAC. Most of the attention has focused on Robert Mercer, a New York hedge fund magnate who gave the second-most money to conservative groups in 2014 than any other Republican donor. Mercer has given $11 million of the $38 million raised, according to a leader of the super PACs. Another $10 million comes from Toby Neugebauer, a Houston investor and a personal friend of Cruz’s. The involvement of the Wilks brothers was \first reported by National Review.

Together, their donations give Cruz and his allies more money than any other Republican except Jeb Bush, a surprising achievement for a firebrand senator more embraced at a Tea Party rally than at a black-tie business gala.

Friends and associates of the Wilks brothers say they are unaffected and unassuming, depicting them as hometown-loving Texans who morphed into billionaires over the course of a decade. Intensely private, those close to the pair say they are nervous about the spotlight that will shine on their church and their family thanks to the donations.

“If Dan and Farris walk into a room, they don’t want ever to be known, to be announced. They just come in and sit in the back,” said Luke Macias, a Texas political strategist who has worked with the family. “They are normal people. They dress normal. They show up normal.”

The Wilks money went a long way toward establishing Cruz’s credibility as a candidate when he was a very long shot.

Here from Transparency Texas, formerly AgendaWise, part of Empower Texans’ Michael Quinn Sullivan’s operation, is a “closer look” at the political giving by Farris Wilks and his wife Jo Ann from Jan. 1, 2015 through March 22, 2017

Farris & Jo Ann Wilks live in Cisco, Texas, a small town between Abilene and Fort Worth. Farris and his brother Dan founded Frac Tech, an oil and gas fracking company which they sold in 2011. The Wilks brothers come from humble beginnings, as the sons of a small town bricklayer.

Farris and Jo Ann Wilks topped the list of individual political donors in Texas by giving $2,432,484.24 to various candidates and PACs.

Here’s an overview of Farris & Jo Ann Wilks’ giving from the last election cycle:

Farris & Jo Ann Wilks – A Closer Look
Total Donations $2,432,484.24
Total Number of Donations 45
Average Donation Amount $54,055.21
Donations to Republicans $795,234.24
Donations to Democrats $0
Donations to Texas House Candidates $615,234.24
Percentage of Donations to Texas House Candidates 25.29%
Donations to Texas Senate Candidates $25,000
Percentage of Donations to Texas Senate Candidates 1.03%
Donations to Statewide Candidates $155,000
Percentage of Donations to Statewide Candidates 6.37%
Donations to Advocacy Groups $1,637,250
Percentage of Donations to Advocacy Groups 67.31%
Donations Given Inside Home District $258,984.24
Percentage of Donations Inside Home District 10.65%
Donations Given Outside Home District $2,173,500
Percentage of Donations Outside Home District 89.35%

Key takeaways from Mr. & Mrs. Wilks’ giving:

  1. Support for Texas’ most conservative advocacy groups.
    Two-thirds of Mr. and Mrs. Wilks’ political giving is concentrated among three of the state’s most conservative advocacy organizations: Empower Texans, Texas Right to Life, and Texas Home School Coalition. In fact, the Wilks’ ranked as the top donors to each of these organizations’ PACs this past cycle. Such strong support indicates Mr. and Mrs. Wilks place a great value on the work and opinions of these groups and intend to help candidates in good standing with these respective organizations.
  2. Keeping an eye on their own backyardWhile Mr. & Mrs. Wilks’ influence runs statewide, they do not neglect local politics. The incoming State Representative representing the area where the Wilks’ reside, Mike Lang, received over a quarter of a million dollars from Mr. and Mrs. Wilks for his campaign. State Rep. Lang replaced longtime State Representative Jim Keffer who choose to retire rather than to seek reelection. Unsurprisingly, former State Rep. Keffer was opposed by Empower Texans, Texas Right to Life, and Texas Home School Coalition following the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature.
  3. Tidying up the House.
    The Wilks contributed a whopping $615,234.24 to various incumbents and challengers running for election to the Texas House. The incumbents they supported consistently rank among the most conservative members of Texas’ lower chamber, including State Reps. Matt Rinaldi, Jonathan Stickland, Tony Tinderholt, Bill Zedler, and Jeff Leach. Mr. & Mrs. Wilks’ focus on the Texas House, their preference for uncompromising conservatives, and their willingness to invest massive financial resources, mean the typical election playbook where moderate Republicans win by simply heavily outspending their conservative opponent might soon become a thing of the past.

Most interesting donation:

Mr. and Mrs. Wilks’ most interesting donation is unquestionably the one they never made. Virtually every other major political donor in Texas contributed to Governor Greg Abbott’s campaign war chest in the past two years, but not the Wilks. While supporting other statewide candidates, such as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, the lack of contributions to Gov. Abbott is distinguishable from other political donors of the Wilks’ level and sends the strong signal that they may not be impressed with the Governor’s performance thus far.

Remember, the above analysis comes from Michael Quinn Sullivan’s point of view. The Wilks giving closely tracks that point of view. If the Wilks’ giving “sends the strong signal that they may not be impressed with the Governor’s performance thus far,” that reflected Sullivan’s tentative view of the governor.

Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, speaks at the Tea Party Rally at the Capitol on Monday April 17, 2017. About 150 people from around Texas attended the rally on Texas Tea Party Day at the Capitol. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

On April 30, Michael Quinn Sullivan wrote a piece: Where’s the Governor? With the House slow-boating his agenda, It’s unclear when Greg Abbott will speak out. If he wants his record to include results as strong as his rhetoric, he should do so sooner than later.

Texans were spoiled by 14 years of a very active governor. For better or worse, one never wondered where former Gov. Rick Perry was or what his stance was on an issue.

And lawmakers knew that if they didn’t deliver on his marquee items, he’d call them into special sessions until they did.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has taken a decidedly different position. His advisors have quietly told lawmakers and the Capitol crowd he won’t call special sessions, seeing it as an admission of failure.

But an unspoken failure has been the Texas House essentially ignoring his priorities. While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate quickly passed Abbott’s emergency items within weeks of them being announced, they’ve mostly languished in the House.

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Conservative lawmakers are growing restless, wondering if Abbott intends to back up their efforts promoting his agenda. Some are grumbling privately that maybe he doesn’t believe the conservative rhetoric he espouses. A writer for the Austin American Statesman has gone so far as to note “Abbott tweets like Patrick but governs like Straus.”

It’s unclear when Abbott will speak out, but if he wants his legacy to include results as strong as his rhetoric, he should do so sooner than later.

Things have changed a lot since then.

Much to Sullivan’s delight, the governor did call a special session. These days, Abbott seems to be both tweeting and governing a lot more like Patrick than Straus.

But the new view of Abbott was not reflected in the Wilks’ giving for the last 12 days of June – the first reporting period since the regular session ended and Abbott’s calling a special session.

The Wilks’ giving in this most recent period was to the usual objects of their largesse – Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton,  the most conservative members of the Senate and the  members of House Freedom Caucus, constituting the dozen most conservative members of the House.

In the most recent filing period for the last 12 days of June, Farris Wilks (in some cases the donations were in both his name and that of his wife) gave $100,000 to Long, $50,000 each to Patrick and Paxton,  $50,000 to Rep. Briscoe Cain, $25,000 to Sen. Bob Hall, $5,000 each to Sens. Don Huffines and Paul Bettencourt, and $2,500 each to Reps. Matt Rinaldi, Tony Tinderholt, Jeff Leach, Bill Zedler, Kenneth Biedermann, Valoree Swanson, Matt Krause and Matt Shaheen.

He also gave $5,000 to David Middleton, a board member of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Empower Texans Foundation, who is challenging Rep. Wayne Faircloth.

(With all this giving, Farris Wilks offers a variety of occupational identities on the fundraising forms, I suppose just to keep it fresh: CEO, rancher, retiree, business executive, business owner, bishop of the Assembly of Yahweh 7th Day Church in Cisco, and, my favorite, “entrepreneur billionaire.”)

In the same reporting period, Dan Wilks gave $51,000 to Paxton, $50,000 to Patrick, $5,000 each to Sens. Konni Burton, Bettencourt and Hall, and $2,500 to state Reps. Matt Schaefer, Tinderholt, Leach, Rinaldi, Biederman, Shaheen, Lang, Swanson and Krause.

But nothing for Abbott.

Not that Abbott needs it. He raised more than $10 million in those 12 days, leaving his campaign with nearly $41 million in cash.

But still, my sense is that the failure to give Abbott a donation reflect that for Sullivan and the Wilkses, Abbott remains on probation.

I wondered. Was it possible that the Wilkses actually sat out the 2014 race between Abbott and Wendy Davis.

It turns out they didn’t.

In 2014, the Wilks made three in-kind donations to the Abbott campaign of the use of an airplane- two times in February, one time valued at 10,850 and the other at $4,627.50 – and a third time for $10,500 in August.

But what really caught my eye when I found those February contributions to Abbott, were the two other in-kind contributions to the Texas Deer Association Political Action Committee listed just below it. One, in March 2016, was of “one doe,” valued at $1,250. And the other, from March 2015, was of  “1 straw of deer semen,” valued at $1,500.

The Wilks are consistent.

Just as they supported Ted Cruz, who ran for president by going to war against the leadership of his party and his fellow Republicans in Washington, in Texas they support those candidates, particularly Patrick and the members of the House Freedom Caucus, determined to root out what they consider to be enemies within the GOP who are not down with their Christian conservative agenda.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks to the Texas Public Policy Foundation ahead of the opening of the special session Monday afternoon July 17, 2017.

Lest it be forgot, bathrooms were Cruz’s last-ditch issue in his attempt to derail Trump in the Indiana primary. Trump, who simply couldn’t figure out what the problem was, or why this was an issue.

“People go, they use the bathroom they think is appropriate,” Trump said.

 

For Michael Quinn Sullivan and Patrick and the House Freedom Caucus and, I presume, for the Wilks bothers, the special session offers a divine opportunity to smoke out and, if they can, force out House Speaker Joe Straus.

Abbott earned credit with them for calling the special, but if he does not join in the effort to oust Straus, he will again be found wanting.

From Sullivan last Monday: 10 Million New Reasons To Buck The Obstructionist Straus. Greg Abbott raised $10 million in 12 days without an opponent, but House Speaker Joe Straus wants GOP lawmakers to shut down his agenda.

Republican lawmakers heading into the special session called by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are facing what should be an easy choice: side with obstructionist House Speaker Joe Straus, or advance the agenda of the state GOP and their party’s governor.

Those same lawmakers should notice that even as Straus’ home county GOP was taking a vote of “no confidence” on his leadership and fidelity to the party platform, Gov. Abbott was raising more than $10 million pushing a conservative reform agenda.

That’s the reform agenda Straus compared to “horse manure” a few weeks ago.

Abbott now boasts a campaign war chest in excess of $40 million with no viable re-election opponent in sight. House members should be wondering how he might use some of that money should they decide to side with Straus.

If any are in a reflective mood, House Republicans might remember that Straus has spent extravagantly on campaigns… for himself. What he has not done is help even his own crony-lieutenants (just ask Doug Miller and Wayne Smith).

On public policy, the special session will give lawmakers plenty opportunities to buck Straus. And Abbott’s fundraising ups the ante.

UPDATE: At a policy event in Austin on Monday, Abbott said that he’ll be watching who opposes the conservative agenda. “No one gets to hide.”

On Thursday, the Central Texas Republican Assembly became the latest local Republican organization to vote no confidence in Straus.

But it is not evident to me why Abbott would  want to complicate his cruise to second term by presiding over a smoldering summer session that ends up revealing a party ever more at war with itself. Or how it would serve his presidential ambitions.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott addresses the Texas Public Policy Foundation Policy Orientation for the Special Session at their downtown offices Monday afternoon July 17, 2017.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

You didn’t know Abbott wants to be president?

From Holly Bailey of Yahoo News! Saturday:; Gov. Greg Abbott may be looking beyond Texas, as he runs even farther to the right

Abbott’s popularity in a fast-growing state that is as strongly identified with Republican politics as California is for Democrats has already sparked whispers among GOP insiders always on the lookout for who might be worthy White House material. Abbott’s aggressive reelection campaign has only added to the speculation about whether the governor, emboldened in part by the example of Donald Trump, has higher ambitions than another four years in the Texas statehouse.

“I wouldn’t put him in the category of he goes to bed at night dreaming of being in the White House because he clearly is a guy who enjoys being governor of Texas,” said Bill Miller, an Austin-based lobbyist and political consultant who has close ties to Abbott world. But after Trump’s victory last November, Miller noticed a change: “I felt at that time his national antenna had gone up. He’s the governor of Texas, and in the political field, the person who is governor from Texas, the most conservative state, it puts you in the profile [of White House hopefuls]. I think he started thinking about it.”

Another longtime GOP campaign hand was less circumspect — though he declined to be named to speak more freely. “Abbott is from the land of George W. Bush and Rick Perry, who both ran for president,” he said. “You don’t think he’s looking at the White House right now and thinking he can do so much better?”

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On some issues, Abbott is further to the right than Trump — though it’s unclear whether he is there out of personal conviction or the fear of being outflanked by other prominent Texas conservatives. That includes Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick, a fiery former talk radio host and tea party conservative from Houston who is the tonal opposite of the more restrained Abbott, who tends to operate with what a friend describes as a “judicial temperament.”

Their differences in style has led to criticism, even from Republicans, that Abbott has allowed Patrick too much control of the agenda in Austin. People close to governor insist he is leading, not following, but some also acknowledge the pressure Abbott has faced in keeping up with a party that has moved further and further to the right.

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“The biggest challenge for Abbott right now is the danger of getting flanked on the right, and he knows that,” a close ally of Abbott said. “And the atmosphere just keeps getting more and more conservative. You don’t think we can get anymore conservative, and then we do. And so he just has to keep going that way, to stay ahead of the needle.”

Abbott this week convened a special session of the state legislature to tackle unfinished business from last spring’s session, including the “bathroom bill” championed by Patrick that seeks to restrict which public restrooms transgendered Texans can use. The bill is modeled after a controversial law passed by North Carolina in 2016 and partially repealed by officials there earlier this year after widespread boycotts, including from the National Basketball Association, which pulled the All-Star Game out of Charlotte.

Abbott initially seemed to try to stay out of the fray as Patrick promoted the bill, which like the North Carolina law, has sparked threats of boycotts, including from the National Football League and dozens of corporations who have threatened to relocate jobs elsewhere. But he later signaled his support for the bill. When Patrick, who is head of the state Senate, failed to reach a deal with state Rep. Joe Straus, the moderate Republican speaker of the House, the governor called the state legislature back to work, with the bathroom bill as one of the leading agenda items.

Abbott has said the bill is necessary to clarify state law because of mixed signals from the federal government. But some in Texas have wondered if there are other political motivations at work. That includes persistent rumors that Patrick had considered a primary challenge against Abbott next year — something Patrick, who has announced his own bid for reelection, has repeatedly denied.

The Texas governor launched his reelection bid against the backdrop of the special session in what seemed to be a move to raise his public profile. In a shift, he’s threatened to publicly shame Republicans who break with his agenda, suggesting he might campaign against them next year — a move that was cheered by his most conservative supporters. He’s become more active on social media including Facebook and Twitter — where, like Trump, he seems to be trying directly engage and energize his base.

But I think that ultimately Abbott, as far right as he has traveled and is prepared to travel “to stay ahead of the needle,” isn’t really entirely politically or temperamentally in sync with Michael Quinn Sullivan and Dan Patrick and the House Freedom Caucus and the Wilks brothers, and they all know that.

He is the governor of Texas seeking a second term and he is better off with a Texas Republican party that is not tearing itself apart.

He depends on donors and support from people for whom Straus is not Satan and Patrick is scary.

Ted Cruz executed a remarkably strong race for president running from the furthest right, most disruptive reaches of the party.

But, that was pre-Trump.

Post-Trump, it seems likely the party and the country may be looking for a presidential candidate who is not all about endless conflict and, if Abbott is indeed interested in being that candidate, he may be better off without so much as a straw of deer semen from the Wilks brothers.

Who’s the far-rightest of them all? On acing the Mark Jones lib-con score.

Good Friday Austin:

Among the very first stories I wrote as political writer for the Statesman was a January 2013  piece under the headline, Texas House returns with largest contingent of new members in 40 years.

It began as follows:

State Rep.-elect Jonathan Stickland is 29. He left high school early and got a GED. He had never held or run for office before. His local elected officialdom was virtually unanimous in its preference for his Republican primary opponent. If he has a charisma it’s in his super-ordinariness. And he doesn’t even have the “r” in his last name that everyone assumes is supposed to be there.

And there, in brief, are the keys to Stickland’s stunning success. Every strike against him, he marvels, turned out to be an advantage in what turned out to be a crushing, 20-point primary victory. Each provided a way for people to remember and identify with him. He just had to own it, live it, be it.

CREDIT: Jonathan Tilove, American-Statesman.
Freshman legislator Jonathan Stickland of Tarrant County, December 2012.

Now, Stickland is one of the reasons why the new Texas House, when it convenes Tuesday for its biennial session, will be swollen with freshman – 43 in all. Together with 24 sophomores, the new and the near-new will make up close to half the 150 members of the House.

“It’s an incredible number,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.

Much of that has to do with places like Stickland’s home turf – Tarrant County – a tea party stronghold where voters gave one well-tenured Republican after another the boot.

Said Stickland, “Tarrant County lost a lot of seniority in this wave – Northeast Tarrant Tea Party. They won every single race they endorsed in.”

So, as Stickland proclaimed to huzzahs at a well-attended NE Tarrant Tea Party gathering in December, “Tarrant County just sent the most conservative group down to Austin that this state has ever seen.”

And Stickland said in an interview, “I plan on having the most conservative voting record in the entire House of Representatives.”

Well, like Babe Ruth in the 1932 World Series game at Wrigley Field, Stickland called his shot and hit it out of the park.

Here is the Texas House liberal-conservative index for Stickland’s first session (in this case just the Republican members are shown here), produced by Rice University political scientist Mark Jones and published each legislative session by the Texas Tribune.

The next session, Stickland was edged out for number one by rookie Rep. Matt Rinaldi of Irving. Here’s the 2015 index, including both Republicans and Democrats.

And here is the 2017 index, in which Stickland, Rinaldi and freshman Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, finished in a virtual tie.

 

 

 

“Cain was slightly more conservative than Rinaldi who was slightly more conservative than Stickland,” said Jones. But he said the distinctions were so slight as to be meaningless, and it is hard for the human eye to contend with so many decimal places.

Notably, the 12 most conservative members of the House are the 12 members of the House Freedom Caucus, a new entity this session, which is just how they would have it.

But that does not mean that the members of the Freedom Caucus vote in lockstep.

According to an analysis by Olivia Krauth, a data and online projects intern at the Statesman, of data provided by RecordVotes.com,a legislative analytics firm that tracks every vote in the Texas Legislature, there were 259 votes in the regular session  on which Cain, Stickland and Rinaldi all participated but they did not all vote the same way.

Of those votes, Cain voted differently than the other two in 66 cases, Stickland in 84 cases, and Rinaldi in 109 cases.

If you add in Rep. Tony Tinderholt, the fourth most conservative member on the scale, and Rep. Matt Schaefer, the firth most conservative, the top five conservatives did not vote in unison 483 times. Schaefer, at 161 votes, was the most likely to be in the minority among the five, followed by Stickland at 148, Cain at 111, Tinderholt at 105, and Rinaldi at 103.

“We’re independent thinkers, man,” Cain said.

Here from the Texas Tribune is the explanation by Jones that accompanies the publication of the index.

Political scientists have for decades used roll-call votes cast by members of the U.S. Congress to plot those officeholders on the Liberal-Conservative dimension along which most legislative politics now takes place. This ranking of the Texas House of Representatives does the same — by drawing on the 1,460 non-lopsided roll-call votes taken during the 2017 regular session. As with previous rankings conducted in 2015, 2013 and 2011, this one uses a Bayesian estimation procedure belonging to the family of methodological approaches that represent political science’s gold standard for roll-call vote analysis.

Methodology

In the chart, Republicans are indicated by red dots and Democrats by blue ones. Based on the roll-call vote analysis, it provides a mean ideal point for each representative, referred to as the Lib-Con Score, along with the 95 percent credible interval (CI) for that estimate. If two legislators’ CIs overlap, their positions on the ideological spectrum might be statistically equivalent, even if their Lib-Con Scores are different. Also included are vertical dashed black lines to indicate the location of the respective median Democratic and Republican representatives.

The table (attached) contains each representative’s Lib-Con Score and rank-ordered position on the Liberal-Conservative dimension, ranging from 1 (most liberal) to 149 (most conservative). House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio, who by custom doesn’t ordinarily vote, is not included here. The table also details the ideological location of each representative in relation to his or her co-partisans. In each party, every representative’s ideological location was compared with that of his or her party caucus colleagues and then placed into one of seven mutually exclusive, albeit arbitrary, ordinal ideological categories going from left to right:

  1. More liberal/less conservative than 2/3
  2. More liberal/less conservative than 1/2
  3. More liberal/less conservative than 1/3
  4. Democratic/Republican center
  5. More conservative than 1/3
  6. More conservative than 1/2
  7. More conservative than 2/3

It’s important to keep in mind that Republicans can register Lib-Con Scores that are noticeably lower than those of most of their fellow Republicans while remaining conservative. It simply signifies that they have voting records that are less conservative than those of most of their fellow Republicans. For example, in the 2017 session every Republican has a Lib-Con Score that is significantly more conservative than that of every Democrat.

 

Jones’ index looms pretty large, especially in Republican primary politics, where being the most conservative  or among the top conservative is like Olympic gold, silver or bronze. Rinaldi and Cain, like Stickland, aspire to lead the pack and they wear the distinction with pride.

“It generally tends to get used by movement conservatives in Republican primaries,” Jones said.

But during the session, Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, got in touch with Jones, who shared his methodology, and in the closing days of the session, Capriglione issued his own lib-con index, using the Rice methodology with much the same result, ahead of  Jones, by way of tweaking the index and its standing.

I thought this an interesting situation and have, since the regular session, talked with Capriglione, Jones, Stickland, Rinaldi and Cain about the index, its validity and what it takes to be the most conservative member of the Texas House.

Here are excerpts from those interviews.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, stands on the floor of the House Chamber moments after his amendment to change House rules was tabled at the Capitol on Wednesday January 11, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Jonathan Stickland:

On what cost him sole possession of first place this session. It happened, he said, when he voted with Democrats and only a handful of Republicans against HB 25 eliminating straight-ticket voting. The ultimately successful effort to end straight-ticket voting was inspired in part by the experience of  some down ballot Republican judges in Harris County, including District Judge Ryan Patrick, son of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who  lost re-election in 2016 because of straight-ticket voting by Democrats for a ticket led by Hillary Clinton, who carried Harris County by 12 points while Patrick losing by less than 3 points.

I took I think it was like 13 votes one night on the straight-ticket voting bill. I was against that. I got scored as being liberal on that because I sided with the Democrats and voted against getting rid of straight ticket voting. For me, in Tarrant County that was the most conservative option.

I would have leapfrogged both of them (Rinaldi and Cain) substantially had it not been for that one issue.

Why was his vote the most conservative option for Tarrant County?

 It’s a very red county and in my county we have a lot of minority judges at the bottom of our ticket, very diverse, lot of Hispanics, got some Asians, who are actually very conservative, but I think that may hurt them when an uneducated voter can’t go in there and pull a straight Republican ticket.

So I think that while getting rid of it may save the judges in Harris County, in Tarrant County the dynamics are it’s going to make people who are in safe Republican areas more vulnerable to Democrats.

We have been working for years in the general election to tell our voters to pull a straight Republican ticket and it has worked tremendously. So for me, the conservative movement would have been harmed by getting rid of that because of the region I’m in.

And I didn’t think that was a policy issue where liberty was at stake. That’s literally just a preference deal. No one’s liberty is going to be hurt. No one’s tax dollars are going to be spent. There were no principles at stake in that bill, it was just literally a preference. So once the Constitution wasn’t involved, and once no tax dollars were involved , I defaulted back to what’s the best thing for me district, which is vote against this.

That cost me 13 votes that night.

 I will tell you that originally every single Republican representative from Tarrant County was going to vote “no.” One of the reasons was that (Rep.) Stephanie Klick, from Tarrant County, chairman of the GOP for years, and is on the Elections Committee, and she pulled all the data for our county and said this is bad for us and then I think some of the Tarrant County folks got their votes whipped by the lieutenant governor and some other folks, and I think it ended up being me, Stephanie and Gio sticking with the original plan, which was we were going to vote “no.”

That was very purposeful for me.

 And to me, the whole motive  from the people who were pushing it was how can we get a leg up on our competition through procedure and not based on merit, and I don’t ever play that game, ever. I don’t like changing the rules in the middle of the game.

Stickland cited another occasion when he cast a vote that was out of sync with his party.

On the sanctuary cities bill I was the only Republican, the only one, who voted with all the Democrats to allow them to have debate on sanctuary cities. They were trying to limit the number of amendments and time and I voted against that rule. Now, I was for the sanctuary cities bill and I wanted it to pass but I think it’s bull to remove the Demorats’ ability as members to fight, so I stood up for the correct rules.

It was literally by one vote. They recounted it twice.  They thought I was going to break and go back with Republicans and I said, “screw y’all,” and I said, “I’m voting for what I think’s right.”  My vote was the decisive vote, yes sir.

Texas House of Representative Giovanni Capriglione strains to hear questions from fellow representatives at the read microphone as he is the author of HB 2962,an abortion bill brought up for second reading during session Thursday afternoon May 11, 2017.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

GIOVANNI CAPRIGLIONE

What’s wrong with the lib-con index?

It does not matter at all what the bill says, what the bill does. It doesn’t matter whether you voted for this because it’s for your district or what have you. All it says is who you are voting with and who you are voting with helps determine where you are on this index.

To me, and others, how is that a legitimate way to determine whether you are liberal or you are conservative when you are not really looking at whether the bill is liberal or conservative?

And what it sets up is, if 12 members decide they are going to vote “no” and they are the Freedom Caucus, then everybody else according to this program is more liberal. 

Does the index ever affect how members vote?

I think it does. I have heard a certain member saying,” I am going up on the Mark Jones index” because of how they are voting.

It’s not too hard if you want to game this. Because it doesn’t matter what the bill is, you just know that if you and at least three other people vote no on a bill, any bill, that no one else is voting on. You are going to do better on this index and in the world of political consulting, in the world of campaign mailers, some people absolutely would prefer a higher score than a lower score

And that’s just an unfortunate byproduct of this. So if you care about this to the point where you want to do better on it, you absolutely can change your votes and change the outcome

Hypothetically, there’s a bill that would help your district but, if you see that you are going to be voting only with Democrats, even if it’s not a liberal-conservative thing, even if it’s a district thin , by doing that, you are hurting your score. It’s one thing if you vote with a mixture of Democrats and Republicans but if you’re a Republican and you vote just with the Dems and you’re one of six or seven who votes just with Democrats, your score is going to get pummeled.

The problem with this particular way of doing things is there is no consistency, there is no analysis. And so no, I’m not saying get rid of it or it shojldn’t exist, I guess all I’m saying ist that the value is almost zero.

Capriglione said with an interest group scorecard he can go to a town hall and answer a question about why he voted the way he voted and scored what he scored.

But with the Rice index, he said, there is no way he can explain or defend your ranking, because it is not based on the merits of individual pieces of legislation.

Before he we elected to the Legislature, Capriglione said, “I didn’t care too much about it because I didn’t understand it. Now that I’ve really dug through the code I think it’s worthless.”

MARK JONES

One way to think about this, it looks at how everyone votes compared to how everyone else votes, compared to what the overall dynamics of the vote were. And it takes all that information to locate people on a dimensional plane going from the left to the right.

On Capriglione’s critique.

The thing he misses is that political science has been doing this for a long time.and all the issues he raised have been raised before. It’s part of he scientific process.

People have gone over this argument time and time again, and pretty much all of the evidence we have in political science is that this type of methodology, that effectively lets the legislators behavior define the dimension, is more accurate and more reliable than trying to do interest group scores because the difficulty you have when you try to move away from treating every bill equally, it gets incredibly subjective. What is a conservative vote? How do you weight different votes? Is this one more important or less important?

This is the established methodology that is used by everyone to study the Congress, U.S. legislatures across the states and legislatures around the world. It’s usd both in the academic setting but also people like Nate Silver and Rachel Maddow use it all the time.

This is effectively the gold standard for political science. All credible political scientists would agree that this is the methodology that is optimal for studying roll-call vote behavior and ideological dimensions within legislative bodies. It’s simply where we are. Theres no one that’s arguing otherwise.

That doesn’t’ mean that some of the critiques aren’t valid. It’s just that, like everything in science, it’s relative. Compared to the alternatives this has more merit. It’s the best we have.

And it’s pretty reliable. It has a lot of face validity. When people look at it and they look at their Legislature, that is pretty much what they see.

Jones said that by replicating his method with the same result, Capriglione is “actually showing a positive aspect of this methodology – it’s entirely transparent, there’s no cooking it.”

Can it be gamed?

There’s no way to really game it. You don’t know how any vote is going to weight compared to any other vote. You also need several other people doing it with you and any one vote in and of itself is going to really not have any effect when you have 1,600 votes.

Now I guess you could if you had a group of individuals who always voted he same way and only they were voting that way. But one thing you can’t know is who’s going to vote with you. Let’s say I’m trying to make this a conservative vote but then all of a sudden Sarah Davis, J.D. Sheffield and 20 Democrats vote the same way I do. Then a more conservative vote becomes a more moderate vote. There’s no real easy way to game it.

And one would hope that legislators are either voting on their principles or what their district wants and not based on some index that’s created every other year from a university.

It would be incredibly difficult to do and then you would have to contort your whole voting record, that would have to be your sole goal in voting and I don’t think anybody has that goal.

When Jones wrote up his findings for the 2015 session for TribTalk, he had this to say about Capriglione.

In 2013, Capriglione’s Lib-Con Score was significantly more conservative than that of more than two-thirds of the Republican caucus, with a mere four Republicans to his right and 89 to his left. In 2015, Capriglione’s Lib-Con Score located him two categories to the left in the Republican Center, with 43 representatives to his right and 53 to his left. Capriglione remained to the right of the GOP median in 2015, but he landed quite far from the rightward edge of the ideological spectrum where he was situated in 2013.

Jones elaborated for me:

When he came in his freshman year he was among the very most conservative and in his sophomore year he shifted dramatically to the center. What we find is that is very rare, that normally what we find is people’s ideological position based on their roll call voting behavior tends to be pretty stable. You tend not to see people move around too much.

It’s very rare when somebody goes dramatically from one part of the spectrum to another. That suggests they made a very conscious choice to change the way they were voting. That just doesn’t happen by happenstance. That involves a very conscious change that involves a conscious decision to change the way one votes and the way one relates to the leadership, that just doesn’t happen randomly.

Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, right, and Rep. Chris Turner listen to questions during a Texas House General Investigating & Ethics Committee hearing at the Capitol on Thursday, March 9, 2017. The committee took up a package of bills aimed at strengthening the state’s ethics laws that have already passed the Senate. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

CAPRIGLIONE

I’m a computer geek. I find this stuff extremely interesting and I spent a lot of my time in my physics classes doing statistics, in my business classes doing statistics. I’m a computer guy. I guess htat’s why. For what it;s worth, which I think is zero, I’ve improved since last time, according to Mark Jones. (On the 2017 scale, there are 38 Republicans to Capriglione’s right, and 55 Republicans to his left,) 

I graduated with a physics degree. I went into electrical engineering where I was software engineer. Then I designed semi-conductor chips for a telecom – high-speed mixed signal stuff.  I’ve been programming since I was ten – I got my first computer a TRS-80. I still know between five and six programming languages today.

To me this I fascinating. More than it is a political issue it’s something I spend a lot of time on as a kid, coming up with my own algorithms to help me with my statistics and my electrodynamics homework. So I’m just here doing a little project that happens to be political but at the same time its really about computers.

Now I’m in private equity. I was doing electrical engineering and design for Lucent Technologies, and then I got my MBA and worked at first in investing in technology companies, and now I just do all sorts of businesses investing.

In other words, Capriglione said of his public critiquing the lib-con index,  “People can say, “Oh he ‘s doing it because he’s sore.’ No, actually it’s because I’m a nerd.”

MATT RINALDI:

On Jones and his index:

He’s very well-known. He’s very well-respected.. I think he’s come up with a system that’s better than any other I’ve seen that takes into account thousand of vote on different topics without bringing into account human bias.

It’s even better than the interest group scorecards because it doesn’t pick and choose. The interest groups pick the votes that are most important to them. What this does is to give you a more complete picture by taking the hundreds of votes on little items that we do constantly.

What it does measure is partisanship, how often you correlate with members of your own party as opposed to the Democratic side, and if you start with the premise that Democrats are not voting for conservative policies, and then you make a correlation, you have a picture of who’s more conservative.

I think it’s generally accurate and it generally comes out the way you would expect it and it generally mirrors what the conservative interest groups do.

Like if you voted for continuing with straight ticket voting, that is something that would have been scored against you in the Jones rankings because most Democrats voted that way, but in reality that’s only a small proportion of the couple thousand votes we take so I think overall it paints a pretty good picture.

The fact that you’re taking every vote and putting it into the equation makes is so that those (individual votes) aren’t really determinative, which is why its good overall picture what people are doing.

A lot of the interest groups will take the big-ticket votes and it’s very easy to manipulate those. You know ahead of time they are a scoring it. But what this does, is we pass 800 bills and a lot of those bills incrementally increase he size of government, incrementally increase regulation, and it shows you who in vote after vote is just saying no. Even if it’s only a small issue, they hold the line on those little votes that will never make their way into a scorecard or a newspaper or anything else.

At the end of the session, I always hear about the five or six big-ticket conservative items hat we passed, and I’m thrilled that we passed those items. However, what I’m not thrilled about is the increase in regulation in bill after bill – the bills hat were worked out on tiny little issues between competing lobby groups that actually hurt consumers, and I see more of those bills come up, I see hundreds of those bills come up and it’s usually the bills, where you see ten to thirty people voting against – and those are just as important to Texas voters I think as the big-ticket items.

 

Case in point, said Rinaldi, was the bill Capriglione cited in the tweet above.

The Senfronia Thompson bill that required hairdresssers to get training in how to spot human trafficking, a bill that regulates hairdressers to say that you can’t practice your profession unless you take training in how to spot trafficking – well meaning, like most of these are, but in the end increases regulation.

For Gio it was a bill that was conservative but was scored negatively, I would say just the opposite of that. I don’t think turning hairdressers into sex trafficking vigilantes is really conservative. I think what’s conservative is, “I can provide a service and you have money. How about we trade your service for money?”

On surpassing Stickland last the most conservative representative in the 2015 session.

When I overtook Stickland last year, Jonathan, on some criminal justice issues is a criminal justice reformer more so than I am. I tend to be a little bit more retributive and harsher on penalties. So those votes put me over the top.

State Rep. Briscoe Cain holds his 13-month-old son, Crockett, who wore a dark suit to his father’s swearing in ceremony, at the Capitol on the opening day of the 85th Legislature on Tuesday January 10, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BRISCOE CAIN

It was a mission to be at the top of the list. I didn’t know if we could make number one, but it was a goal.

Why would this be such a point of pride?

This is Texas.

How did he end up desk mates on the floor Jonathan Stickland?

There was a vacant seat back there and heck, going in, I wanted to sit next to Jonathan Stickland. 

Stickland’s advice and mentorship came in understanding what was going on on the floor. Why people were at the microphone and the games and the theories that were really going on.

Not voting. I didn’t need somebody to tell me how to vote. For us (members of the Freedom Caucus) that’s really easy. There are really simple tests for us to decide whether or not they are going to support something..

Can the competition to be most conservative get up close and personal.

We just joke among ourselves, friendly banter but we’re not truly being insulting. We’re just kind of being fraternal brothers, joshing around.

Cain and his staff prepare meticulously for every vote.

I have a spread sheet on my desk – a few of us do – on who cares (about each bill), who testified in favor of it. who has a dog in the fight.

And then he applies a set of principles to each piece of legislation.

It’s based on whether or not I believe that vote is conservative or liberal. Does that vote grow government or spend money.

Everyone has their own little step paths and I don’t have mine written down but I know other members have it in their office, when they’re deciding something. Does it grow government, or is it a necessary function, is it good for a good people?

Even these things that might not seem to matter to everybody, it might be a district-specific thing. It might be a hotel tax in El Paso and I’m going to vote against it, and someone will be, “Why are you voting against it, it doesn’t effect you?” Well, it’s a tax. For me it’s just that simple so I am going to vote against it, even though it doesn’t affect my district.

He agrees with Rinaldi, it is the little votes that make the difference in becoming the most conservative member of the House.

They are completely innocuous I don’t’ know what they are. They are not going to be big-ticket items. They are things that have not been in the media. They’ll be just this thing that we ask ourselves., “Is this the proper role of government. Is the proper function of local government?”

STICKLAND

My staff and the people I hire and the people I have helping me, we spend countless hours of preparation on every single bill. 

A bill might be 90 percent good and 10 percent bad. Sometimes that’s OK. But if the 10 percent is violating one of our core liberty principles,then we vote against it.

So it just depends on what’s bad about it a lot of times.

Something can be more conservative but also violate a limited government ideal, and both may be correct. Big picture were talking conservative vs. liberal, but on these smaller details, you’re talking about limited government.

Prime example gay marriage. I personally think marriage should be between a man and woman, but I also think government should have nothing to do with marriage of anyone.

xxxxxxx

This generally happens on amendments, because on bills that are already filed we can do the research, but when amendments are flying on the floor you’ll see very often me jump up and say, “Hold on, give us time to read it,” or I’ll start to ask questions. If I get to the point where they’re forcing me to vote and I can’t slow it down and I can’t understand the implications of it, my default vote is always “no,” always, because I can always explain a “no” vote.

So it’s just being a stickler on stuff like that.

CAPRIGLIONE

Generally speaking, except for a few partisan votes, Democrats generally vote yes on everything.

Meanwhile, Capriglione’s interest in what accounts for how members vote goes beyond his analysis of the lib-con index.

Something that’s extremely fascinating for me are what are some of the things that do affect how legislators vote. It’s of course the bill. It’s their party. It’s their committees. If you’re on the Transportation Committee and you already voted on that bill you are likely to vote for it again.

There are groups of people who talk among themselves, and they will go, “I’m rural, he’s rural we should talk about this bill. We should probably vote the same if we have the same interests and it affects out area.”

And where you’re seated, where you’re located has a huge correlation to how you ultimately vote because a lot of times you have discussions with them as a bill coms up and if you’re leaning one way and you talk to the person next to you  – ‘No, it actually it does this or doesn’t do that,’ – proximity just lends itself obviously to how you vote. 

Capriglione said that like-minded members tend to sit near one another, and their proximity re-enforces their affinity. He created the graphic – a dendrogram – below, that shows the connected pairs and clusters of House members who vote most alike.

If you look at the dendrogram, you’ll see myself, Greg Bonnen, Craig Goldman, Drew Springer and Ron Simmons were the five closest when it comes to voting, we were the most similar and we sit right next to each other. I decided to sit next to them because I talk to them a lot and we agree a lot, and Goldman’s from Fort Wroth and Simmons from Lewisville an Drew is my roommate

I decided to sit next to them because I guess we agree on a lot and I guess that’s why we vote the same.

(The Giovanni Capriglione Dendrogram of the Texas House showing pairs and clusters of members who vote most alike.)

 

Case closed? Judge Naranjo issues final orders in Alex/Kelly Jones child custody case

 

Kelly Jones and attorney Robert Hoffman after Wednesday’s court hearing.

Good day Austin:

I am not quite prepared to credit state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo with the wisdom of Solomon.

But she did manage yesterday to orally render a permanent order in the child custody case of Alex Jones, his ex-wife Kelly Jones and their three children – a 14-year-old son and 9- and 12-year-old daughters – that it appears neither side is likely to challenge or appeal.

That’s quite an accomplishment, that even in the intensely hostile final hours yesterday of this high-conflict divorce, she seemed unlikely to be able to pull off.

The order in important ways falls short of what Kelly Jones and her attorneys thought she won with a favorable jury verdict after their two-week trial in April..

But it was more favorable than Jones and Robert Hoffman, the Houston attorney who was by her side in court yesterday, feared they were going to get from Naranjo – who Kelly Jones has long thought was in Alex Jones’ corner and who Kelly Jones has been very publicly criticizing in the months since the trial ended.

 

Kelly Jones had joint conservatorship – that is joint custody –  even before the trial but, for all practical purposes, had only very limited visitation with her children, who had been living with Alex Jones since their divorce in 2015. With Naranjo’s order, she will, come this fall, share custody of their daughters 50-50 with her ex-husband, but will have to earn greater visitation rights with her son, who she can only now see in intermittent eight-hour increments.

Texas is the only state in the nation that allows jury trials in child custody cases and Kelly Jones and her lawyers had chosen a jury trial because they didn’t want to leave the decision to Naranjo.

But, as Naranjo reminded Kelly Jones and Hoffman yesterday, she has wide discretion in implementing the jury’s verdict in her order establishing the possession and access rules and schedule – that is determining exactly how much time each child spends with each parent.

Yesterday, Naranjo orally issued her determinations, with a final written order to follow.

Leading up to yesterday’s hearing – the second since the verdict – Kelly Jones and her lawyers worried that Naranjo was determined to simply ignore the jury verdict, and they were prepared, if necessary, to appeal her final order to the Court of Appeals, claiming that Kelly had been denied her right as a Texan to that jury verdict.

But Naranjo’s decision to grant her 50-50 access to her daughters in short order was better than they had feared, and Hoffman said afterward that there was no longer reason to appeal.

Kelly also said in court yesterday that the case had already cost her – from soup to nuts – between $500,00 and 800,000, and she was broke and in debt to her lawyers.

Meanwhile, it seemed that Alex Jones’ lawyers had less incentive to seek a new trial, though Randall Wilhite said today they are reserving a final decision on that.

But, he said, Alex Jones has indicated that he would like to see if they can make Naranjo’s order work.

Alex Jones has a new wife and a new baby and he has said in the past – their hammer-and-tong legal battle aside – that he would like to have his wife more evenly share custody of their children – as she was able.

But, there were other elements of Naranjo’s order that will be a particularly bitter pill for Kelly Jones to swallow.

Kelly Jones built her case against Alex on the argument she was a victim of parental alienation – that is  that Alex Jones had  effectively brainwashed their three child to hate her. Wilhite says that parental alienation is a self-exculpatory “fantasy” intended to excuse her from the consequences of her own actions.

I think most people observing the two-week trial thought Kelly Jones was on her way to losing the case until the end of the trail when Hoffman – “the closer” – systematically and quite effectively trashed all the expert testimony about the psychology of the relationship between the Joneses and their children, and presented a the case that what was really going on here was parental alienation, a phenomenon that Hoffman argued most all the court-appointed experts had been willfully blind to or ignorant of.

It appeared that Hoffman turned the jury because, if one bought Hoffman’s arguments about parental alienation, all the seemingly compelling evidence of the children’s devotion to their father and fear and loathing of their mother was really evidence of its opposite, evidence that, as Hoffman described it, Alex Jones was a kind of cult leader and his children were members of his cult.

From my story at the time:

In his closing argument Thursday, Kelly Jones’ attorney Robert Hoffman argued that she was the victim of parental alienation with Alex Jones brainwashing their children to align with him and turn against her.

“Mr. Jones is like a cult leader; the children appear to be cult followers, doing what Daddy wants them to do,” said Hoffman.

“Nobody knows how to stop this man,” Hoffman told the jury, and that, he said, included Judge Orlinda Naranjo, who throughout the trial repeatedly told Alex Jones to stop making faces and nodding and shaking his head in reaction to testimony.

“Nobody can stop this man except the 12 of you,” Hoffman said. “You have an unbelievable amount of power.”

When the jury returned its verdict it appeared that Hoffman’s argument had carried the day.

While both parents would retain joint conservatorship of the children, the jury designated Kelly – who had scarcely any visitation time going into the trial – as the primary parent, meaning she got to decide where their primary residence would be.

From my story on the verdict:

Alex Jones will share joint custody, which means that he will have visitation rights. But Kelly Jones and her lawyers want to begin the new arrangement with a period of time in which the children will live exclusively with her while they adjust to the new situation, followed by increased visitation with their father.

She also wants the family involved in a program for undoing parental alienation, the phenomenon in which one parent turns the children against another parent, which she and her lawyers argued was what happened to her when the children began living with Alex Jones. She said during the trial she is thinking of writing a book about it.

“I am so grateful to God that he has kept me and my family strong through this,” Kelly Jones said after the verdict. “I just pray that from what’s happend with my family, people can really understand what parental alienation syndrome is and get an awareness of it and we can stop this from happening in the future.”

But, while to Kelly Jones and her attorneys and to observers like myself, it appeared the parental alienation argument had made the difference, the jury doesn’t explain its reasoning in reaching its judgment.

After the trial, Alex Jones’ lawyers sought to reach all 12 jurors, and succeeded in talking with seven of them. All seven, Wilhite said, told them that jury had thoroughly reviewed the signs of parental alienation described by an expert witness called by Kelly Jones’ lawyers, and determined that in this case, “there was no parental alienation.”

Wilhite got unsworn declarations from the seven jurors to that effect, and informed Naranjo, but she said she did not want to see them.

Yeterday, Wilhite asked Naranjo to include in her order explicit language saying that there was no finding of parental alienation on his client’s part.

Naranjo did not respond to that request, but it was evident yesterday if it wasn’t before, that Naranjo simply did not buy parental alienation as a theory.

In the meantime, though, Kelly Jones has made parental alienation her life’s cause and built a web site  – SplitCity.com – dedicated to using her story as an inspiration for other divorced mothers suffering from the phenomenon.

But Naranjo said that in her final order, she would enjoin Kelly Jones from pressing her claims of parental alienation with her children or on social media. She can, the judge said, no longer refer to Alex Jones as an “alienator,” and she said her order will also include some other words and phrases that Kelly Jones must now eschew. Naranjo also said that Kelly Jones can’t tell the children that “Judge Naranjo had undone the jury verdict,” something Kelly Jones denied having told them.

Naranjo said she looked into Family Bridges,which provides the deprogramming from parental alienation that Kelly Jones wanted her and her kids to take advantage of.

It describes itself as “an innovative educational and experiential program that helps unreasonably alienated children and adolescents adjust to living with a parent they claim to hate or fear.”

“I attempted to read up on it, and found “different perceptions about if it’s good or bad,” Naranjo said,

Ultimately she wasn’t sold on it.

Naranjo yesterday also expressed her anger and disappointment with Kelly Jones for, in her estimation, sabotaging the judge’s post-trial order that she engage in reconciliation therapy with her son and a therapist who had worked with her son and who the judge said she had pleaded to stay on the case to help bring mother and son together, even though Kelly Jones during the trial had said that, along with most of the other     court-appointed counselors and therapists involved in the case, she did not trust him.

Kelly Jones said she had showed up for the reconciliation therapy as required, but Naranjo said she arrived with such a bad and confrontational attitude that the therapist recused himself.

On Wednesday, Naranjo gave Kelly Jones a week to come up with a short list of other reconciliation therapists in the Austin area that the judge could choose from. And the judge’s order will require that Kelly Jones successfully complete three months of reconciliation therapy with her son and that chosen therapist, or risk not getting any more than eight-hour visits with him until he turns 18.

More broadly, Naranjo said that the Joneses can no longer disparage one another to their children or in a media, social media or public setting that could get back to their children.

They both, Naranjo said, had to put aside their selfish anger with one another for the children’s sake.

I get it. Of course. But still.

My wife and I have long agreed we would never get divorced.

First, I don’t see how anyone can afford to get divorced. It’s a rich man and woman’s game.

But second, what’s the point of going through the most embittering experience one can contemplate and not vent to your children and play the blame game? If you want to pretend not to hate each other, why not just stay married?

But, I digress.

The Jones child custody saga – or this chapter of it – drew to a close with first Kelly Jones and then Alex Jones taking the stand yesterday afternoon at the Travis County Courthouse.

Most of the examination of Kelly Jones by Alex Jones’ lawyers was intended to show the judge all the terrible things Kelly Jones has said very publicly about Alex Jones – and not incidentally about Judge Naranjo – on Twitter and on videos posted to her website.

Like, most recently, this, which they played for the judge.

Kelly Jones was asked if she had called Alex Jones a “moron” on Inside Edition.

“No,” she said. “I might have said he looks like a moron. Looks moronic. Like a liar. I might have said that.”

 

His lawyers flashed some of Kelly Jones’ tweets on a screen had her read some of them aloud.

And, indeed, her post-trial Twitter feed is all about parental alienation and Alex Jones as unhinged nut job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“This is called sandbagging,” complained Hoffman, who said that it was utterly unfair for Naranjo to have precluded him and his co-counsel from playing choice excerpts from Alex Jones on Infowars to the jury during the trial while now making all of Kelly Jones’ public utterances fair game.

“What’s good for the goose has got to be good for the gander,” he said.

Indeed, just about the only Infowars tidbit that made it before the jury was, as I wrote at  First Reading: In midst of custody battle, Alex Jones reveals that at 16, ‘I’d already had over 150 women.’

There was also Alex Jones’ wild press conference on the courthouse steps the day after the verdict

For a blow-by-blow of this press conference see First Reading: Alex Jones ungagged: Post-trial, the Infowarrior tells the `little vampires’ of the MSM how much they suck.

But, Hoffman complained, the court did not express the same concern about Alex Jones’ very public behavior as it did about his ex-wife’s.

Indeed, throughout the proceeding there was, as I wrote First Reading, a Role reversal: In custody trial, Kelly Jones is the Infowarrior and Alex Jones the status quo

Here again yesterday was America’s greatest purveyor of conspiracy theories, on the stand proclaiming, “I trust the judiciary and especially this judge. She’s very judicious.”

During his testimony yesterday, Jones psychoanalyzed his ex-wife.

“It’s all about her personal struggle … the kids become pawns … I’m the alienator so she’s the hero, the movie star.”

“This is Infowars,” Hoffman objected. “This is Infowars.”

Naranjo refused to reconsider her ruling not to require Alex Jones to pay attorney’s fees for the case, even though Hoffman said it would have been customary to do so in a case with this outcome.

Naranjo has yet to decide what child support to include in the final order, though has agreed to pay some $100,000 for school tuition, tutoring, extra-curricular activities and medical expense

Hoffman made a dogged and almost comical stab at finding out how much Alex Jones is worth to establish the context for child support.

Jones said he really didn’t know how much he makes each year.

Couldn’t even make a guess at it.

“I’m kind of like JFK, not heavy on the accounting side,” he said, or at least those are the words I heard and wrote down though I have no idea what they mean.

“More than $10 million?” Hoffman asked.

“I don’t believe so,” Jones said.

How about an “annual income of $250 million a year,” Hoffman said.

“I wish I did,” Jones said.

David Minton, the Austin attorney who worked with Wilhite on the case, said this financial information was part of the court record for the trial – which like everything else in this case is and continues to be sealed – though Hoffman said he had no idea what Minton was talking about.

During their respective  time on the witness stand during the trail, Kelly Jones managed to come across as more poised and balanced than her ex-husband.

 

From my story on Alex Jones’ time on the stand during the trial:

Kelly Jones’ legal team is attempting to show that Jones has been responsible for the children’s alienation from their mother. Jones has insisted that he bent over backwards to make the children visit and get along with their mother, to no avail.

“I should not have pushed as hard as I did,” he said.

But when Newman asked Alex Jones to describe Kelly Jones’ good qualities as a mother, Jones, staring at his ex-wife, said, “I cannot perjure myself. She doesn’t have any good qualities.”

Later, he qualified that, saying she has some good qualities, but “any good is sandwiched with bad.”

“There’s a term, `no good,’” he said. “It doesn’t mean there’s no good in it. It means no good comes out of it.”

When Kelly Jones was asked the same question, she allowed that Alex Jones had some good qualities – that he was funny and that he could be great taking the kids on outdoor adventures.

The months since the giddy moments after the jury verdict have taken their toll on Kelly Jones, on the composure she mustered during the trial.

Hoffman assured her afterward that they had made great progress in restoring her relationship with her children.

But ordering her to stop talking about parental alienation is like ordering Alex Jones to quit talking about  globalism, false flags, the deep state conspiracy to take out Donald Trump, or, well, on and on.

Or worse, if you believe that what she is talking about is real and what he is talking about is not.

But yesterday, it seemed, despite the jury verdict, Kelly Jones was still the one on trial, and the Jones who had to curb her tongue.

For Texas GOP, the special session may be The Most Dangerous Game

 

Good day Austin:

It turns out that the Texas Disposal System’s Exotic Game Ranch in Creedmoor is really quite lovely and very cool.

Not at all what I expected at a landfill on the outskirts of Travis County.

But, as I drove out to the Travis County Republican Party’s Summer Bash, I had an uneasy feeling.

https://twitter.com/hoffberger/status/885511845259464708

It’s not just that Texas Republicans like their guns, like to shoot and kill things, like to eat the things they kill and probably have a taste for forbidden meats.

And, I mean, would anyone really notice if there were one or two fewer aoudads or barasignhas roaming the landfill after the Republicans came and went?

(From an inventory of animals at the TDS Exotic Game Ranch in Creedmoor)

What really unsettled me was the mounting Republican-on-Republican acrimony leading up to the opening of today’s special session.

After witnessing Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick going after House Speaker Joe Straus last week and again yesterday, I worried things were headed in an ominous direction.

From my story today with Chuck Lindell:

In back-to-back appearances Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick held what amounted to a pep rally for the special session that begins Tuesday, with the governor calling for a running public count of who is with or against his 20-item agenda, and Patrick warning House Speaker Joe Straus not to get in the way.

“I’m going to be establishing a list,” Abbott said in a midday question-and-answer event on the session at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the conservative think tank where many of the governor’s priorities are born and raised.

“We all need to establish lists that we publish on a daily basis to call people out,” Abbott said. “Who is for this. Who is against this. Who has not taken a position yet. No one gets to hide.”

Patrick was more direct and personal, identifying Straus as the odd man out in a special session that he portrayed as a kind of ideological buddy movie in which he and the governor were entirely in tune, and Straus was discordantly out of sync.

At one point, Patrick warned of Straus, “If he personally attacks the governor, I will be his wingman.”

There was a time — before the regular session — when it seemed that Abbott might have more reason to be wary of Patrick, who competes with Abbott for the hearts of the party’s conservative base, than Straus, who doesn’t.

But Patrick began the year with a news conference saying he would never run against Abbott, and he has been torquing up for the special session by presenting himself as the governor’s ally and alter ego — Robin to his Batman, Starsky to his Hutch — with Straus as a threat to Texas Republicans’ conservative agenda.

“I’m a 20-for-20 guy,” Patrick told a receptive audience at the Texas Public Policy Foundation policy orientation blocks from the Capitol, where the House and Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“The speaker’s a nice guy, good guy, but he’s opposite on the issues than Gov. Abbott and I,” Patrick said.

“I don’t think it’s helpful or professional for the speaker, especially since he’s in the same party, to call the governor’s special session manure,” Patrick said.

“He is a Republican the last time I checked,” Patrick said, to some loud coughing from his conservative audience, “and so I don’t want this to be a battle among us. But I don’t want to let anyone take on Greg Abbott when he’s trying to do the will of the people and say it’s a bunch of horse manure. Greg Abbott’s priorities are my priorities, are the Senate’s priorities, are the people’s priorities.”

The “manure” reference comes from a joke Straus told to open his remarks in June before the Texas Association of School Boards in San Antonio. In the anecdote, a boy is all excited by a room full of manure.

Why? “The boy said, ‘With all this manure, there must be a pony in here somewhere.’” Straus said. “So, I’m going to take the optimistic approach to the special session and keep looking for that pony.”

Pony manure?

What about some blue wildebeest pies?

My mind turned to the classic short story and film, The Most Dangerous Game.

 

Evil Russian game hunter, Count Zoroff traps unsuspecting shipwreck survivors on his remote island. Bored with hunting animals, the bloodthirsty count decides his new sport is hunting humans. Upon meeting shipwreck survivors Robert Rainsford and Eve Trowbridge, he decides they shall be the next prey.

 

 

 

 

What if, say, Empower Texans’ Michael Quinn Sullivan and a few of his boys caught Straus on his way out of the Capitol to his car, threw him in a sack and hauled him out to Creedmoor only to be revealed to the BBQ-sated (280 plates, $30,000 net for the county party), cash-bar crowd at the TCRP event just as they had been driven to a frenzy by Patrick’s anti-Straus rhetoric, and then given Straus a half hour head start before hunting him on the grounds of the Exotic Game Ranch like a fennec fox?

I arrived about two hours into the event, so I missed Patrick’s remarks. But from what I was told, they were a passionate call to principle but eschewed any direct Straus-bashing.

In fact, when I arrived, James Dickey, the former TCRP chair and recently elected new chairman of the Texas Republican Party was speaking, and offering some words of GOP reconciliation vis a vis the speaker.

Dickey was talking about the challenge of maintaining party unity, and what holds Texas Republicans together.

We already have a shared common goal.

We have a platform.

Some people give us grief because it has 260 items.

So, first of all, there are over 6,000 bills filed so 260 is not that big a deal. It’s not.

If there are 260, there are five or ten that any single elected official should have no problem going to the matt for, and they get to pick those. We believe in that. That’s the kind of party we are.

I met with the speaker of the House a couple of weeks ago. he referred to the letter I’d sent to him and to the lieutenant governor.

 

Dickey:

(James Dickey with his spirit animal, the blackbuck antelope. “He sticks his neck out,” explains Dickey’s wife of the choice.)

The governor has said that of the 20 items he asked for, ten are going to be right out of our  platform, and the majority of those items are mom and apple pie: Don’t let people get annexed without a vote. Don’t spend taxpayer money, taxpayer money, Republican taxpayer money to collect union dues that then get spent 99 percent for Democrats.

Property tax relief.

Giving special needs students choice.

These are plain things.

And the speaker said, “There are a couple of things here that the House may not be able to give any more on,” and my response was, “Give us any seven or eight of those and we will cheer you for those seven or eight. Let other people scold you for what you wouldn’t do. We in the party. We are not putting our thumb on the scale. Our platform is our platform. If it’s out of there and you pass it, I will thank you for doing so.”

Next year, our convention, the largest political convention in  he free world will take place during the 300th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio, during the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Republican Party of Texas, a block from the Alamo, and the theme of that convention is a line in the sand, and my comment to the speaker was, “Lets show the line in the sand, let me make your intro video so that when you walk up there, our delegates cheer for what you have done for us. That’s what we want.’

That prompted a single whoop and some tepid applause.

But Dickey had said some kind words about Joe Straus, and no one had booed or coughed.

Dickey then turned to the Texas GOP’s Line in the Sand Initiative for the special session.

Let’s fill the House & Senate galleries with Republican activists to show support for our Party and our Platform.

Extreme far-left groups  are planning to bus in paid protestors to create chaos in the chambers in an attempt to disrupt the important proceedings on the floor.  But we are drawing a line in the sand to say… “Not on our watch!”

Would you be willing to pledge just one day of your time during these next 30 days to come to the Capitol with a friend and wear red to send a positive message to our legislature, and to show the news media that conservatives really do care about the issues affecting our state?

Dickey:

We need friendly faces in those galleries. The other side is fired up and they want to make it look like they are much bigger than they are and we need to fight them and that is our Line in the Sand Initiative, Texas GOP.org.

Let our elected offical s know there are people supporting them to do the right thing and we will leave this special session with as many of those ten things as we can get. We will be celebrating into a great primary, into a great convention, into a midterm that flips on its head all of the  history that says the party that controls the White House loses in the midterm.

We don’t have to do it, especially in Texas.

The eyes not just of Texas but the nation will be on this special session.

Patrick is the heavy and Straus the hero in  Austin writer Lawrence Wright’s epic recent piece in the New Yorker, The Future is Texas: The state is increasingly diverse, but right-wing zealots are taking over.

Since Patrick became lieutenant governor, one of his signature accomplishments has been the passage of the open-carry gun law; he also successfully pushed to legalize the carrying of concealed weapons on public-college campuses. During the 2016 Presidential race, he deftly pivoted from supporting Ted Cruz to becoming Donald Trump’s campaign chair in Texas. Evan Smith, the co-founder of the Texas Tribune, an online journal dedicated to state politics, told me, “Dan Patrick is the most conservative person ever elected to statewide office in the history of Texas.” (Patrick himself declined to speak to The New Yorker.)

Patrick has driven his chamber in a far more radical direction. Even Democratic senators are loath to cross him. In this year’s session, Patrick worked on lowering property taxes and addressing some obscure matters, such as hailstorm-lawsuit reform. But the heart of his agenda was legislation that spoke to the religious right, such as a bill that would provide vouchers for homeschooling and private-school tuition, and a “sermon safeguard” bill, which would prevent state and local officials from issuing subpoenas to members of the clergy or compelling them to testify. He also worked to toughen the state’s voter-I.D. law. Patrick’s legislative agenda, if passed in its entirety, would bend Texas farther in the direction of the affluent and, above all, would fortify the political strength of white evangelicals who feel threatened by the increasing number of minorities and by changing social mores.

Patrick’s extremism is often countered by Joe Straus, the speaker of the House, a centrist, business-oriented conservative from San Antonio. Whereas the lieutenant governor is elected by the voters of the state, the speaker is chosen by the members. That makes a crucial difference in the way that Patrick and Straus govern. “Dan Patrick rules by fear,” Representative Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat, told me. “Joe Straus rules by consensus.”

The 2017 session in Austin proved to be a bruising example of raw politics waged by two talented people, Straus and Patrick, who fervently believe in their causes. The story in Texas both reflects and influences the national scene. At a time when Democratic voices have been sidelined—“We’re lost in the wilderness,” Wu told me—the key struggle is within the increasingly conservative Republican Party, between those who primarily align with business interests and those who are preoccupied with abortion, gay marriage, immigration, religion, and gun rights.

The Straus-Patrick tension has only mounted since Wright’s story hit the newsstands.

With Patrick’s taunting of Straus last week and this, I thought, I’ve seen this movie before.

In fact, I saw it again Sunday night.

It’s Shane, and the scene in which Jack Palance, as the rancher’s hired gun, Jack Wilson, baits the hapless sodbuster into reaching for his gun so he can blow him away.

Straus hasn’t gone for his gun, but he has baited back.

From Fikac’s story:

The San Antonio Republican, who has stood firm against a far-reaching bathroom bill, said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News that his chamber will look at all the issues put forth by Gov. Greg Abbott for lawmakers’ consideration, which are championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

But he said his focus, and that of other House members, remains on core issues such as school finance.

“My position is very well known. And let me say this very clearly: I know how to govern without being an extremist,” Straus said. “I know how to govern, trying to bring people together to focus on issues that really matter to all Texans, and I think that’s where our focus ought to be in the special session. It’s where our focus should be in any regular session as well.”

From Fikac’s Monday story:

AUSTIN – House Speaker Joe Straus could hardly sound less worried about a cadre of tea-party Republicans who have threatened to mount a rare leadership challenge in the middle of his term.

“When don’t I?” the San Antonio Republican told the San Antonio Express-News when asked about the possibility of having a potential challenger. “When haven’t I? It’s a competitive business.”

Straus said he’s confident that his focus on core issues is what the House overall wants, avowing that he’s not interested in being the No. 1 choice of “a handful of the most extreme members.”

Unanimously elected to a record-tying fifth term as speaker by the House in January, Straus has policy differences with Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that have won him criticism from some tea-party-aligned Republicans and movement conservatives.

The speaker eschews incendiary social issues such as the bill targeting transgender people’s use of public, multi-occupancy restrooms, a key item on the agenda of the special session that begins Tuesday.

xxxxxxx

“I have absolute confidence that focusing on core issues that are truly important to most Texans, and to our constituents in the 150 districts, is where the House members want me to help them to be,” Straus said.

“Will I be the No. 1 choice of a handful of the most extreme members? No. Never have been. Don’t want to be,” Straus said. “But I’m really comfortable being right in the sweet spot of the Texas House and helping the members go home with a credible story to tell their constituents about the good things they did for their communities.”

And then this, from Express-News columnist and editorial writer Josh Brodesky.

From Brodesky’s piece:

Politicos, particularly those of the tea party persuasion, like to note that House Speaker Joe Straus is not elected statewide.

The implication being that Republican primary voters across the Lone Star State would never elect a moderate such as Straus, making the good speaker a RINO obstructionist to the true conservative agenda. To Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland and other tea party darlings, Straus hasn’t earned his place at the Republican table even though he is a lifelong R who was sitting at the table when Stickland was potty training.

That’s why I say, Joe Straus for president!

Let’s face it, 2020 is fast approaching and the country sure could use his steady and thoughtful leadership that unifies people and serves the public with dignity, grace, pragmatism and compassion.

xxxxx

Yep, the politicos are right. In a statewide Texas GOP primary, Straus is doomed. But nationally, he just might be what we need. Joe Straus, 2020.

Well, let’s not get carried away. Not gonna happen.

But, not that he’d do it, but Joe Straus could conceivably run for governor or lieutenant governor in 2018, and win.

He just can’t do it as a Republican, because he would never survive a Republican primary. But he could do it as an independent in which the Democrats, who really have no prospects of winning for either governor or lieutenant governor next year, simply stand down.

Straus would  run as an independent – in the name of saving Texas and his Grand Old Party from the extremists – pick up most of the Democratic vote, and win just enough of the independent and Republican vote to defeat Abbott or Patrick who would be in the unnatural position of having to pivot to the center.

Ridiculous? Maybe. But as Michael Quinn Sullivan never tires of pointing out, Straus has done it before.

From a  2013 profile of Michael Quinn Sullivan by Nate Blakeslee in Texas Monthly: Primary Targets

Sullivan’s favorite target by far is House Speaker Joe Straus. The San Antonio Republican wrested control of the 150-member chamber from Tom Craddick in 2009 by lining up support from all of the House’s 65 Democrats plus 11 Republicans chafing against Craddick’s autocratic rule. Afterward, Straus gave coveted committee chairmanships to all of the Republicans in the gang of 11, along with a number of Democrats. This was not unusual—the Speaker typically gives the minority party at least some leadership role. But Straus’s new Republican chairs were more independent than their predecessors, and his reliance on Democratic votes made his path to power seem illegitimate to Sullivan and other conservative hard-liners. Despite their efforts, Straus managed to hold on to the gavel after the 2010 elections, even though the Republican landslide that year gave the House a supermajority of 101 Republicans and rendered the Democrats all but powerless. In both the 2010 and 2012 primaries, TFR funded candidates to run against many of Straus’s Republican lieutenants and managed to knock off several of them. In 2012 TFR underwrote a challenger in Straus’s own district, all the while keeping up a steady drumbeat of criticism online and on the conservative speaking circuit. Straus survived, but Sullivan had so poisoned the well against the Speaker that by the time the state Republican convention rolled around, his address to the delegates had to be carefully stage-managed to minimize heckling and booing.  

And, I suppose, coughing.

As unlikely as Straus running for statewide office is, it doesn’t strike me as much more fanciful than Dickey’s rosy scenario of Straus being given a hero’s welcome at the 2018 Texas Republican Convention.

And, as those of who recall The Most Dangerous Game from junior high (aka middle school), in the end, the hunted becomes the hunter.