Patrick Picks

For my readers, a few thoughts on Lieutenant Dan’s committee selections:

– Only time will tell if the predictable move of busting nearly all of the Ds was a smart one.

– Kolkhorst got snubbed big time. Patrick put rank amateurs Perry and Campbell at chairs, and totally ignored her. Ouch.

– I think the assignments show that Patrick lacks some confidence in his ability to control the senate.  Otherwise he would not have stacked the committees in such a blatant way that will allow him to get his divisive red meat issues to the floor without the necessity of moving them on the merits.

– If Abbott doesn’t think Patrick is running him in four years, he is poorly advised.  After looking at the what has happened on the rules and how he has structured the committees, I think the actions of the Lt. Gov are not sustainable for more than a session or two.  Patrick will try to ram through his agenda and move on in 2018, or risk trying to stay in the Lt. Gov seat and having the senators find their courage to take the senate back and run him over for the good of their constituents.

– 14 committees will make for overloaded and overworked senators. My guess is that Patrick will be able to run his small agenda through and everything else will logjam, leaving senators unable to pass the bills they need for the folks that hire them every 4 years.

– Why hasn’t Patrick released his “soon to be coming” grassroots committee to offset his insider/establishment private sector committee yet?

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Welcome to the Club

And so it begins…The House and Senate kicked off last week and today the Governor and Lieutenant Governor have been officially sworn in.

Last week, I think Mike Sullivan and his acolyte army were poised and ready for a Scott Turner victory that didn’t quite turn out the way they had hoped. All the intimidation, threats, and misrepresentation amounted to 19 votes (And maybe Dawna Dukes? There are weird rumors swirling around about why she walked out of the Speaker vote).  This was far short of the 50 or so supporters that his team had been promising the grassroots groups that had been following the race.

Tim Dunn spent in the millions to back candidates to fill House seats to help the Turner candidacy and it simply didn’t work. When you calculate the cost-per-vote, this Speaker election could go down as one of the most expensive in history. Just counting Turner’s ethics filings on his Speaker candidacy, he spent $389,343 for 19 votes. Look how his cost-per-vote ranks with other campaigns:

CANDIDATE OFFICE YEAR COST-PER-VOTE RESULT
Scott Turner House Speaker 2015 $20,491.74 LOST
Chart Westcott State Rep. 2014 (Primary) $322.93 LOST
Michael Bloomberg Mayor 2009 $185.10 WON
Mark Begich U.S. Senate 2014 $166.12 LOST
Harry Reid U.S. Senate 2010 $69.00 WON
Tony Sanchez Governor 2002 $36.82 LOST
Wendy Davis Governor 2014 $20.19 LOST

 

Ouch. I think that defeat left Tim Dunn reeling, and is perhaps the reason we might be seeing a bit of separation from his minions. What separation you ask? Read on…

In case you missed it, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has announced the formation of a new citizen board designed to help him with policy decisions for the state. A Houston news outlet said, “Dan Patrick Gives Rich People an Official Seat at the Table”. The Associated Press said, “Billionaire political donors and other special interest heavyweights who already spend lavishly on lobbying will begin formally advising Texas lawmakers on crafting bills…”

Guess who’s on that list? It’s none other than the newly minted ruling class, establishment insider, Mr. Tim Dunn.  After personally donating nearly $80,000 to Patrick and almost $2 million to Empower Texans, he’s finally bought himself a seat at the table.

For the most part, I applaud Governor Patrick’s efforts. Putting together a list of heavy-hitters like this really show’s his desire to listen to some of the best private sector leaders the state has to offer. And the others? Hey, if someone is going to throw tens of thousands of dollars to your campaign, there is a good chance you get to participate. And that looks like just what Dunn and some of his compatriots have done.

I do think Lieutenant Dan feared some backlash from all those non-millionaires that supported him, and quickly said that he was at some future date going to announce a “Grassroots” committee…sure, of course. Throw all those volunteers a bone already and make them feel like they’ve been heard. We all know who is really pulling the strings.

The fun part now is to watch the unraveling. The man who funds a bunch of folks claiming to want to get rid of the ruling class in politics has just joined the most elite group of establishment Republicans ever assembled. What do the boys at Empower Texans and AgendaWise think about their boss now? Do you they still really want to rid the Capitol of the corporate elitists who make back-room deals, or do they really just want to be part of the club?  Unless they quit, or call out their own boss, every word from here on out that comes out of their mouth is a farce.

With the price of oil sinking and his commitments to that giant building on Congress looming, I wonder if Tim Dunn has finally had enough of toying around with Mike Sullivan and his band of believers. It seems Dunn could be going the way of the Koch Brothers and abandoning the Tea Partiers they sought to co-opt so effectively to win state and federal races over the last few years.

One of  his AgendaWise employees said that Dunn,“…wanted Sullivan to put a grenade under the insiders table so that Texas politics can, for once, be a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of endeavor. “ Hmm…Looks like that move might now be suicide. Welcome to the club, Mr. Dunn.

Pre-Party

The circus is in town, and I don’t mean the band of representatives and senators who have descended on Austin to begin the next legislative session today.  I am talking about the spectacle of ill-advised Tim Dunn cronies and Mike Sullivan followers who decided to set up camp at the La Quinta Inn across from the Capitol yesterday and hold a pre-session ideologue party.

Resisting such an entertainment rich environment proved futile, and so I spent the day at the La Quinta to witness all of the glorious gabbling. The general idea is to show up and act churlish with a group of like-minded wanderers as they tell stories, threaten to un-elect elected officials, and sell t-shirts. Wait, t-shirts? Yes, it seems even these kooky clans are finding ways to commingle their entrepreneurial spirit with their conservative purity war. I guess your movement isn’t really official unless you have a t-shirt, right? 

I listened to Mike Sullivan, Ray Myers and JoAnn Fleming perform their typical routine of overgeneralized rants and painfully generic platitudes to the sheer amazement of a spellbound audience who seemed to really enjoy hearing live and in-person the misguided words they read on social media. More interesting to me was witnessing a few of the new state senators get in on the act and rile up the crowd.

Rep. Stickland was also there to display a classic example of what Kennedy and Clinton apologists like to call “compartmentalization” – preaching as if he was totally offended by the “special interests” in Austin, without acknowledging that he actually lived off their largesse for the entirety of last session. Reenacting a scene from his first campaign, when he tweeted that he was going to Austin to rid the House of the evil non-Christian speaker, he stated that he was supporting Rep. Scott Turner because he was an “unapologetically Christian conservative”. As I watched Turner watch Stickland and the others, I wondered what he thought these actions were doing for his chances.

There were murmurings all day that Turner had somewhere between 50 and 55 solid votes for speaker, and that several more could turn his way because of the threats of the attendees and the Tim Dunn money. There was even acquiescence that if Turner could get 7-10 democrats, that would be fine for the greater good. That still leaves Turner short of the votes needed to win today. I guess we will know in short order. 

It was a good show for a dreary Monday. Next time I’m skipping the t-shirts and bringing popcorn.

By the Numbers…

It’s usually fun and informative to attend Texas Public Policy Foundation events as they extol the virtues of fiscal responsibility and transparency. I guess they don’t mean to practice what they preach when it comes to their over budget and behind schedule monument to themselves on Congress. Go figure.

Anyway, as I was there this week listening to the various speakers and panelists discuss policy and debate issues, I also got reports of some very interesting conservations involving the numbers on the Speaker’s race.

Tim Dunn cronies from Empower Texans were overheard discussing the number of votes for their Speaker candidate, Scott Turner, next Tuesday. They apparently sounded encouraged as they agreed that Turner has a firm 53 votes. (This matches up with the prediction given a few weeks ago by Rep. Jonathan Stickland at a Tea Party legislative preview hosted by the Texas Tribune.)

These Dunn employees went on to explain the reasoning behind purchasing the expensive statewide robocalls from Glen Beck on behalf of Rep. Turner that hit the streets over the past few days. Why go out and spend tens of thousands of dollars for such a stellar celebrity caller?

According to Dunn’s men, they’re excited about holding firm with these 53 votes and they think the Speaker’s chair is well within reach for Turner. There was even talk that Turner may have been able to flip 7 Democrats into his camp after heavily courting them these past few weeks. The logic follows that if these robocalls can get candidate Turner the extra 15 or so votes that his team believes they need to close the deal, it’s money well spent by Team Dunn and Rep. Turner. Anything less, and they’ve lost ground on Tuesday.

We will have to wait a few days to see if the plan works, but suffice to say that the millions spent by Tim Dunn on his own, with nearly million reported on Turner’s speaker disclosure forms, have made this the most expensive effort in the history of Texas to depose a Speaker. The numbers on Tuesday will tell whether it was money well spent.