From Watch Dog to Lap Dog

UPDATE:

It seems the Lap Dog just made my case rather clear in their latest article.

Jon Cassidy, the Texas Bureau chief, finally broke his streak of seven straight articles defending Wallace Hall to declare that, “Empower Texans is a bona fide news medium”. Really?

Cassidy (a self-described libertarian on his Twitter profile), says:

At Watchdog.org, we are all committed to the democratic proposition that journalism is not a matter of who your employer is. It should be understood as a practice, as something you or anybody else can do.

Boy, that would be convenient if no one ever had to think about who was paying the salary of the people delivering the message, wouldn’t it? Back in the real world, that quote  telegraphs how desperately this faux news organization would like you to believe they aren’t just a propaganda tool for Tim Dunn.

I’m not familiar with Mr. Cassidy’s work before he jumped onto the Watchdog money wagon, but his brand of journalism, particularly since Tim Dunn obviously directed him to devote most all of his time to defending his friend Wallace Hall, is a rather bad shade of yellow.

Cassidy’s bio page claims that he has real credentials as a journalist. I wonder how he feels being told what to write all the time?

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Texas has experienced a void in coverage about what is really happening in our state. Like the rest of the country, we now must get information from more ideological outlets than from networks delivering new information— even new information from a liberal or conservative tilt.

What we are seeing happen now, however, is the manipulation of this void by moneyed interests trying to control the message. One of my readers brought to my attention a perfect example: the story of Texas Watchdog and its transition into Watchdog Texas. What is the difference?

In 2009, current Houston KTRK-13 investigative reporter, Trent Seibert (@texaswatchdog, @trentseibert) founded Texas Watchdog.  They seemed to be on point in their explanation for creating the site:

“…the owners of newspapers and television news teams have, in too many cases, cut back on investigating government and chipped away at their ability to be a watchdog for the voter and the taxpayer.”

TexasWatchdog.org for several years wrote thoughtful and probing pieces on a variety of topics—covering everything from corporate cronyism to municipal mismanagement. They were recognized and awarded for their work. They had legitimate staffers and board members who were committed to reporting on our out of control government and shining a light on waste and corruption. Former writer Jennifer Peebles is now the Managing Editor/Digital of the Washington Examiner. Michael Berryhill runs the journalism department at Texas Southern University.  So what happened? Why did the site stop putting out reports?

According to the message from Seibert in June of 2013:

“Regular readers to Texas Watchdog may have noticed there hasn’t been much posted to the site over the past several months. The reason is simple: We’ve run out of money to keep delivering our award-winning local journalism.

We’ve had many generous donors since we launched in the summer of 2008, but a key donor for our operation in 2012, the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, announced last year they would not be supporting independent journalism operations in 2013. We remain grateful for their support.

We were unable to secure the funds we would need to continue operating as an independent journalism site on a meaningful level.”

From 2008-2012, TexasWatchdog.org received over $2.2 million in gifts, grants and contributions, primarily from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. They received $322,500 in 2012 alone from the organization.   So what happened with the funding? Why did it dry up?

Now, this is where you have to follow the money trail.   I’ll give you one guess where it leads…

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity was founded primarily from funding from the Sam Adams Alliance. The director of the Sam Adams Alliance is/was Eric O’Keefe. Eric O’Keefe is also on the board of directors of an outfit formed in Washington D.C. called the John Hancock Committee for the States.  Who were the other original directors listed on that board? Our old friends Mike Sullivan and Tim Dunn:

hancock-board

In 2010, the Sam Adams Alliance gave $615,975.00 to the John Hancock Committee.

sam-adams

Also in 2010, that same John Hancock Committee gave the Texas Public Policy Foundation: $124,000.

hancock-to-tppf

The key part of the quote from Seibert at TexasWatchdog.com is that they said the Franklin Center would no longer support “independent journalism”. That is because Tim Dunn wants to control the message.

Watchdog.org launched their “Texas Bureau” in April of 2013. Since then, it’s been all about one particular focus.

A scrub of the Watchdog.org/Texas site shows there have been roughly 200 articles written since the beginning of 2013. Of those 200 articles, almost 75% have been about one topic: Wallace Hall Jr. and the University of Texas. 15 of the last 20 stories released by the  Watchdog.org/Texas site have been focused on defending Wallace Hall.   Is that commitment to finding facts or staying or message?

You see, Tim Dunn’s world stretches far and wide and he is working hard to hide his movements. Thanks to my readers we are able to keep tabs on him. This group was just another asset waiting to be deployed by Tim Dunn’s machine. Another weapon in the arsenal in case something came up. This time,  he pulled strings to add another communications channel to protect Wallace Hall and drive the message the way he wants it to go. (I wonder what strings he pulled to get Mike Sullivan a gig as a columnist for Breitbart News)

I hope that Mr. Seibert will remain a true to his investigative reporting roots and continue to be a good source of news that we can trust. I also wonder if he understands how badly he was used.

The only thing worse than a lack of journalism is lackey journalism.  As we can see, dark money is the tail wagging the Watch Dog…

You Have the Right to Remain Silent?

Yesterday’s Ethics hearing was entertaining, sad, predictable and ironic.

The coverage was interesting. San Antonio Express-News had a decent piece. Even the liberals had a pretty good synopsis of how it played out.

Mike Sullivan, of course, declared victory over the whole ordeal.

I was told that Mike was going to pull this maneuver – to refuse to participate in the hearing, but I wasn’t sure what reasoning he would have. Well, his bully of an attorney, Joe Nixon, proudly proclaimed that it was because he was invoking his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Okay? Then he proceeded to tell the commissioners that he didn’t have to tell them exactly why those constitutional rights allowed him to do so. Then he said he was NOT invoking the Fifth Amendment right to protecting himself from self-incrimination. Huh? Interesting tactics, but it sure made it look like Mike had something to hide. I mean, why else would you not testify?

The Chairman of the Commission, Jim Clancy, really said it well when he asked Mike what his agenda truly was about. He clearly pointed out that, in the past, Mike had registered to lobby as he received compensation for advocating positions to elected officials, and that he had stopped registering while continuing on with the same actions while being compensated. It was pretty cut and dried: Mike failed to register, so he was being fined. Clancy wanted to know (and I think we all do) how that has now turned into some kind of crusade. Of course, Mike just sat there refusing to say anything.

Texas Ethics Commission agendas are chalked full of circumstances where someone failed to correctly fill out (or forgot to fill out) the paperwork and the commission issues an order with a fine and proceeds to give a much smaller fine if the party agrees to correct the filing/mistake. Joe Nixon, himself a former state representative, has received a hefty fine from the TEC: http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/sworncomp/2006/2612261.pdf

Nixon also represented other clients who had to pay fines, like Judge Sharon Keller, who had to pay $25,000 to settle an ethics violation. Regarding this, Nixon proclaimed:

“Let me be very clear, there is no finding at any time of any kind of unethical behavior — none. The question is: Did you fill out the form right?”

So, what is different here? Someone busted Mike for failing to register as a lobbyist and all of the sudden it’s a jihad against a body made up of staunch, credible conservatives designed to make sure that people are playing by the rules? What is Mike Sullivan hiding? How is refusing to testify at a hearing doing anything except avoiding self-incrimination? And why is Joe Nixon and his firm leading Mike Sullivan down this path. Is Nixon hiding something? Is he just still peeved about receiving an ethics violation? Maybe he’s just still upset that Dan Patrick beat him so badly…who knows?

One of the most telling moments was when commissioner Bob Long, a pastor and stalwart of the Republican party (He was the state party Chaplain for years), finally just called Mike out for his antics. He basically said that he even agreed with a lot of Mike’s ideas and political philosophy, but that this “venom” was too much and that he did not understand the reasoning behind all of his actions.

This hearing, and everything surrounding it, should once again be a clarion call to all Republicans: these guys are not your friends. They are only out to push their own agenda. (I can’t wait to see what happens when Tim Dunn turns on Dan Patrick, or any of the other minions they helped get elected.)

It’s easy to run your mouth about generalities and ideology, but when the time comes to govern, the people will be watching and the people the elected will have to work. This is inevitably when Tim Dunn’s disappointment will set in because he will be reminded he doesn’t live in an utopian state. Dunn is no better than the Communist who pines for the perfect world so that their set of morals and ideas will fit perfectly into society and all will be well. This is the real world. We have real important issues to address, and leadership means taking them head on. Most of the time it won’t be perfect, but, by God, we have to come together and get something done for this great state. If Dunn was so good, he should crawl out of his bed of money and run for office.

Mike thinks he’s so righteous, but he’s really just blindly following orders and convincing himself it’s in the name of whatever cause Tim Dunn told him. Mike Sullivan looked like a changed man today. He wasn’t the typical emboldened, ideological warrior he prefers to portray. Today, he was more like a robot who had been programmed — a manchurian talking head. Mike: you’re more formidable when you run your mouth and think for yourself. Your employer and legal counsel may be leading you down the wrong path, and you are blindly obeying them. Next time, you should think about it when Tim Dunn and Joe Nixon tell you that you have “the right to remain silent”.

Category 5 Temper Tantrum Warning

Most of you who follow me are tuned in to the rantings of Tim Dunn and his lackeys, so I won’t bore you with a repost here.  Suffice it to say that as the date for Dunn and his operations to be called to defend their illegal lobbying activities, and their imminent conviction on these ethics charges (some of which carry criminal penalties), they have cranked up their petulant whining to exceed that of my 3 year old on her worst day. 

They also drag in their campaign and lobby buddies over at Texas Right to Life (who register to lobby by the way) to try to get someone, anyone in the public to agree with them, other than the folks they pay on the side through their dark money operations.

Why?

– to get attention (see 3 year old reference above)

– try to raise money to dilute the 99.9% single source funding from Tim Dunn

-inaccurately invoke the name of Ted Cruz (who has yet to utter one word supporting their illegal actions)

-distract his followers from the fact that he spent untold millions of dollars in races this spring to defeat Republicans, with very little (less than 10%) success

-to play the pitiful, picked upon grassroots gadfly that shouldn’t have to comply with the law they used to comply with for years and years

What is it that Tim Dunn and his cronies are hiding? What are they afraid of? No one in their right mind would argue that Tim Dunn’s employees aren’t lobbying. It’s right there in the emails received by members, telling the legislators how Dunn and company want them to vote.  Along with the ever present empty threat to bring the weight of their vast 5 person (all male by the way) operation down on any member daring to represent their constituents. Dunn and Sandefer and their employees even tell members NOT to vote their district, and tell them what staffers to hire. 

What’s that all about? What is it about newly rich, paternally propped up oil guys that make them think they own the entire state and all legislators in the Capitol building?

Obviously all these guys: Dunn, Sandefer, Sullivan, Hall, and their band of merry men were all raised in a spoiled, privileged environment where they were allowed to do as they wished, adhere to no rules, and if forced to act as normal members of society, threw major category 5 temper tantrums that worked. Welcome to the grown up world kids. Strap on your big boy pants and bring it to the state. Got news for you: the Texas Ethics Commission isn’t your parents and holding your breath, name calling,\and throwing yourself on the floor won’t work with these serious public servants. As no one in the gang of Dunn has ever lowered themselves to actually sacrifice and serve in public office, lacking the guts to enter the arena, they have no idea what I am talking about.

Soon the Texas Ethics Commission will give them the discipline apparently lacking in their upbringing and ignore their ongoing tantrum, secure in the knowledge they are doing what is best for these spoiled brats.

Insanity

Albert Einstein stated, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Now I bet you think you can tell where I’m going on this topic, but bear with me.

The last election cycle let us witness this maxim repeatedly. In 22 races, the Tim Dunn/Jeff Sandefer campaign teams used name-calling and distortions (OK, they were outright lies, but I’ll use distortions) to try to get their puppet candidates elected. In 20 of those races the voters ignored them. This is about the same win rate Luke Macias and his campaign partner, Mike Sullivan have had the last 3 election cycles. I’ve already written plenty about the validity of this versus the version Dunn and Sandefer put out. Their methods do not work where voters are closest to knowing their candidate. But Dunn and Sandefer keep trying with no measurable results.

Expect to see the same thing in the Speaker race, probably starting during the GOP convention. There will be the campaign kickoff, not of Rep. Turner (who has been campaigning since January) but of the Dunn/Sandefer and new Wallace Hall campaign.

Here’s how I predict they will proceed:

Phase 1: Start off with a bogus scorecard or similar Luke Macias-drafted attack piece. Begin haranguing and threatening voters will false attacks.

Phase 2: Publicly roll out support from members and primary winners who are already secretly aligned with Turner, but make it look like a surprise. I’m thinking Representatives like: David Simpson; Matt Schaefer; Matt Krause; Bill Zedler; Jonathan Stickland; Gio Capriglione; Bryan Hughes; Jeff Leach, and a few other unsurprising surprises like Lois Kolkhorst and John Smithee. Republican primary winners like Tony Tinderholt, Matt Rinaldi and Matt Shaheen will probably make announcements too.

Phase 3: Dark money funded “third party” groups (Texas Right to Life, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Eagle Forum, Young Conservatives of Texas, etc.) will lament the miserable condition of the State of Texas, laying the blame for this at the fee of the House leadership team. Throw in some dark money attack mail, TV, and radio.

Phase 4: Continue the haranguing and threatening by predicting that pestilence of biblical proportions will befall the voters and the state if the Dunn/Sandefer/Hall mandate is not followed. Throw in some more dark money attack mail, TV and radio.

Phase 5: Repeat phases 1-4, but bring in pay-to-publish organizations such as Breitbart, Red State, TPPF (again), Wall Street Jounral, etc. to help bring “credibility” to the message.

The result: The same. The voters will reject the personal attack machinery and re-elect the incumbent because he is doing the job well and deserves it. It’s that simple.

See? Insanity.

Odds and Ends

Chairman Kolkhorst has sent out her invite for her Austin Club fundraiser for June 23rd.  Ethics reports show she has over $500,000 on hand and no opponent this election cycle.  She must be fundraising for her run for the seat soon to be vacated by Senator Hegar.  Her recent hiring of Luke Macias (who won 2 of 22 races this primary season and has no senate or statewide campaign victories) shows that her transition to the Dunn and Sandefer team is complete. Where is the Austin “establishment” money going to go?  Watch for as many as 6 well-funded candidates in this race, including several from the actual population areas of the district.

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Capitol staffers report to me the receipt of a Tim Dunn drafted letter sent out by Rep. Simpson with his musings on the hearings and findings of the House Transparency Committee.  For the Dunn-ites and the Sanderians that crow about transparency, they sure are putting a lot of the Wallace Hall dark money to use trying to convince everyone that House impeachment proceedings (which would theoretically be a perfectly “transparent” public venue for Regent Hall to expose all the supposed “corruption” he’s found at UT) should be avoided at all costs.  In his letter to members, Rep. Simpson conveniently neglected to mention that, according to Watchdog.org, he was part of the abuse of power allegations made by Hall.  Yes, Rep. Simpson wrote to UT attempting to influence the admission decision on an incoming student. What’s that about stones and glass houses?  It actually makes sense that Rep. Simpson wouldn’t want that brought out in impeachment hearings.  Maybe he did draft the letter.

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Hope none of my followers missed the priceless video and comments by candidate TJ Fabby denouncing Muslims and Governor Perry.  If you did, I urge you to check it out.  In the video, you’ll get to enjoy the remarks of failed candidate Fabby.  This candidate of questionable background has been heavily supported for several cycles by Dunn/Sandefer operation.  Oh, and let’s not forget the multiple endorsements made of him by the Dr. Steve Hotze and Allen Blakemore pay-for-play endorsement operation.   Do any of those guys ever even meet these candidates?  And if you want more fun,  search YouTube for the stunning speeches given on the campaign trail by Dunn/Sandefer campaign operative Jonathan Stickland.  His rousing commentary and heartfelt embracing of this Fabby character is a memorable performance.