The Mark McCaig Show for 7/29/12: Runoff Elections and Property Rights

This week on the Mark McCaig Show, Mark talked about the special interests and megadonors that were paying for much of the advertising in the runoff elections. Later in the show, Mark was joined by Debra Medina of We Texans. Mark and Debra discussed private property rights in Texas and the use of eminent domain by pipeline operators.

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TLR vs. The TEA Party

The battle royale in the Republican runoff between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz has provided the clearest example of the rift between the Texas political establishment and the conservative grassroots since the emergence of the “TEA Party” movement nearly four years ago. The U.S. Senate primary runoff has implications far beyond how Texas will be represented in the halls of Washington for potentially the next several decades. This election has drawn a line in the sand between the most powerful political donors in Texas and their primary vehicle for political influence, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, and the “TEA Party” grassroots that comprises the current base of the Texas Republican Party.

Two super PACs have been established to support the election of Dewhurst to the U.S. Senate – the Texas Conservatives Fund and Conservative Renewal PAC. The vast majority of the major individual donors that have bankrolled these super PACs have close ties to Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who has donated over $2 million to TLR over the years, has donated $1 million to the Texas Conservatives Fund and another $500,000 to Conservative Renewal PAC.

Houston homebuilder Bob Perry has also made significant contributions in support of Dewhurst. Perry, who has also contributed more than $2 million to TLR, has contributed $400,000 to the Texas Conservatives Fund. Many “TEA Party” activists remember the role Perry played in killing the “sanctuary cities” bill that was one of their top legislative priorities during the last legislative session. These conservative activists resent Perry for actively working against them and some have even used Perry’s support of Dewhurst, coupled with the ultimate death of the “sanctuary cities” bill, as a talking point in support of Cruz.

Simmons and Perry are just the most significant examples of the financial nexus between TLR and Dewhurst. Other major TLR donors who have also supported pro-Dewhurst super PACs include James Pitcock, Nancy Kinder, Kenny Troutt, Bob McNair, Woody Hunt, Red McCombs, Peter Holt, Paul Foster, Tucker Bridwell, Peter O’Donnell, Robert Rowling, Kelcy Warren, Charles Tate, Drayton McLane, Erle Nye, Forrest Hoglund, Ned Holmes and Charles Lawrence. The connection between TLR and the Dewhurst campaign goes beyond major donors – TLR’s top leadership has also contributed directly to Dewhurst campaign. TLR President Dick Trabulsi, TLR Chairman and CEO Dick Weekley, TLR co-founder Leo Linbeck, Jr. and TLR uber-lobbyist Mike Toomey have each written checks to Dewhurst.

There are also implications in this race involving attacks on lawyers and the civil justice system. The Dewhurst campaign has used much of its advertising attempting to make an issue out of Cruz and his work as a lawyer as well as some of his clients in his private law practice. These attacks have fallen flat. Likewise, Dewhurst has frequently touted his record on “tort reform” and his support of federal legislation to impose Texas-style medical malpractice damage caps nationwide.

However, Dewhurst’s support of this federal legislation only goes to further demonstrate the rift between him and the “TEA Party” movement. While Cruz has not taken a position on legislation to impose medical malpractice caps nationwide, one of the key tenets of the “TEA Party” movement is a vigorous defense of the 10th Amendment and state sovereignty. For these reasons, some “TEA Party” favorites in the U.S. Senate such as Tom Coburn and Mike Lee (both of whom have endorsed Cruz) have opposed such an unprecedented federal intervention into state tort law. It goes without saying that TLR and its supporters would certainly be in a fiery uproar if federal legislation was proposed that would preempt the state tort laws they supported.

Should Cruz pull off an upset and defeat Dewhurst, it will send a strong message to other elected officials and potential candidates that support from the largest established political donors in Texas not only doesn’t guarantee victory, but that it very well can be a fatal albatross around the neck of a campaign. It would also send the message that elected officials who promote the agendas of special interest groups like TLR and its major donors are doing so at their own political peril.

Author’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Quorum Report

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The Mark McCaig Show for 7/22/12: The Texas Political Establishment and the Texas Supreme Court

This week on the Mark McCaig Show, Mark discussed who comprises the Texas political “establishment” and how they will work at all costs to prevent losing their power to grassroots conservatives. Mark also talked about the Texas Supreme Court and the upcoming Supreme Court runoff election.

The Mark McCaig Show airs live every Sunday from 4-5pm on NewsTalk 1070 KNTH in Houston. The show can be streamed live on the station’s website,1070knth.com and via KNTH on the TuneIn Radio app for your smartphone.

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TLR Hates Grassroots Conservatives

Erick Erickson recently wrote a post over at his popular conservative blog, RedState, entitled “The Establishment Hates Ted Cruz, You and Me” where he discusses the role of the “establishment” in the US Senate race. We hear a lot about how the “establishment” and “special interests” are actively fighting conservatives across Texas (and the country), but very rarely does anybody name names and say who these “establishment” or “special interest” enemies of conservatism actually are.

But I will.

In Texas, the “establishment” is a group that calls itself Texans For Lawsuit Reform (TLR). It is the most powerful special interest lobby group in Texas. TLR hates grassroots conservatives and views them as nothing more than pawns they can manipulate in a political power game they play to benefit the interests of its major financial backers. TLR hates the grassroots because it currently wields tremendous influence over our elections and public policymaking. When the grassroots exercises power and influence in elections and policymaking, it comes directly at the expense of TLR.

As of the most recent campaign finance filings with the Texas Ethics Commission, TLR’s political action committee reported having $4,283,981.70 in the bank. This is more than any PAC not affiliated with a candidate or elected official, and that doesn’t include the approximately $4 million that it has already spent in the past year.

TLR’s leadership and major donors have been involved in the US Senate race to an extraordinary degree in support of the candidacy of David Dewhurst. The President of TLR, Dick Trabulsi, has donated to the David Dewhurst campaign. Trabulsi is a longtime Democrat who served as Texas campaign coordinator for Jimmy Carter, helped raise money for Bill Clinton, and even donated to Walter Mondale’s campaign against Ronald Reagan. TLR’s top lobbyist, Mike Toomey, has also donated to the Dewhurst campaign. Toomey, who also lobbies for the drug giant Merck, played a key role in the attempt to force Merck’s HPV vaccine on young Texas girls. TLR’s Chairman and CEO, Dick Weekley, has also donated to the Dewhurst campaign, as has TLR co-founder Leo Linbeck, Jr.

TLR is primarily financed by a small group of very wealthy businessmen. Unlike Federal campaign finance laws, Texas campaign finance laws to not place limits on donations to candidates or PACs. However, there has been a recent emergence of Federal “SuperPACs” which operate independently of candidates and are not subject to the caps on campaign contributions. Two “SuperPACs” have been formed to support David Dewhurst’s campaign for the US Senate- the “Texas Conservatives Fund” and “Conservative Renewal Political Action Committee.” Both of these SuperPACs are largely funded by the same small group that funds Texans For Lawsuit Reform.

Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons is the largest single contributor to pro-Dewhurst SuperPACs, contributing $1.5 million to these efforts thus far. Simmons is also one of the largest donors to Texans For Lawsuit Reform, having donated over $2 million to it. These contributions have bought Simmons considerable influence at the Texas Capitol. WCS, a company owned by Simmons, has been granted a state approved monopoly for a controversial radioactive waste dump in West Texas. Additionally, a recent investigation by Texans For Individual Rights uncovered contributions by Simmons, through his Harold Simmons Foundation, to a number of left wing extremist organizations. The liberal activist groups supported by Simmons include Planned Parenthood, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and even ACORN.

Houston homebuilder Bob Perry comes in second place in giving to pro-Dewhurst SuperPACs, having contributed $400,000 to the Texas Conservatives Fund thus far. Like Simmons, Perry has also contributed over $2 million to TLR. During the last legislative session, Perry personally lobbied against the “sanctuary cities” immigration bill that was supported by conservative activists across Texas. Many credit Bob Perry, who is also a supporter of affirmative action, with the death of the “sanctuary cities” bill.

Perry was also the driving force behind a bill passed by the Texas Legislature in 2003 creating a new state agency, called the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC), that proponents said would work to resolve disputes between homebuilders and homebuyers. Criticized as a “homebuilder protection agency”, the legislature later abolished the TRCC amid widespread complaints that the TRCC bureaucracy made it more difficult for consumers to seek redress against homebuilders and settle disputes.

James Pitcock comes in third place in giving to pro-Dewhurst SuperPACs. Pitcock is the CEO of highway contractor Williams Brothers Construction, the largest highway contractor in Texas. Pitcock has contributed $300,000 to pro-Dewhurst SuperPACs and is also a major supporter of Texans For Lawsuit Reform. In 2005, Pitcock’s company, Williams Brothers Construction, paid $3 million to settle claims with the United States Department of Justice under the Federal False Claims Act that it cheated taxpayers. Texans For Lawsuit Reform has vigorously opposed attempts by Texas legislators to pass a state whistleblower law similar to the Federal False Claims Act that would prevent and punish fraud committed against Texas taxpayers.

In 2009, an investigation by a Dallas television station found that foreign workers were illegally working on a bridge project in the Dallas area where Pitcock’s company was the general contractor. In a letter to a United States Congressman, Federal authorities acknowledged that the workers were in the country illegally and were sent back to their home countries.

Texans For Lawsuit Reform will do anything in its power to fight the grassroots conservative movement in Texas in order to maintain its control over Texas government. TLR has a history of trashing conservatives who they view as a threat to their power. Several years ago, they funded a front group to send offensive mailers to Texas conservatives that attacked some of the most highly regarded conservative members of the Texas legislature. TLR attacked these legislators because they refused to blindly carry out TLR’s self-interested agenda. When TLR got caught doing this, they lied and denied any responsibility. The person in charge of the front group even admitted that TLR was behind these shameful attacks.

In order to be truly successful in taking control of Texas government back from special interests, Texas conservatives must realize that TLR and its donors have no interest in advancing ideological conservatism. They are only concerned with power and profit, regardless of the cost to average Texans. It is time for Texans to stand up against the establishment and special interests, it is time to stop TLR.

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The Mark McCaig Show for 7/15/12: TLR Megadonor Harold Simmons and his ACORN contributions

This past week on the Mark McCaig Show, Mark broke the story of how TLR Megadonor Harold Simmons (who has also been the biggest donor to the David Dewhurst Senate campaign) has given money to ACORN and other far-left activist groups. Later in the show, Mark is joined by Dallas tea party leader Katrina Pierson to discuss the US Senate race and the influence of special interests in Texas politics. You can listen to the show below.

The Mark McCaig Show airs live every Sunday from 4-5pm on NewsTalk 1070 KNTH in Houston. The show can be streamed live on the station’s website,1070knth.com and via KNTH on the TuneIn Radio app for your smartphone.

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Major TLR and Dewhurst Donor Harold Simmons Gave to ACORN

Harold Simmons is one of the largest political donors in Texas, having given over $2 million to Texans For Lawsuit Reform over the years. In the US Senate race between David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz, Simmons has donated $1.5 million to SuperPACs supporting Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. These contributions are a drop in the bucket compared to the millions he stands to make off of his state-approved monopoly to operate a nuclear waste dump in West Texas.

However, Simmons has also seen fit to contribute to some of the most liberal activist groups in America. A review of financial documents by Texans For Individual Rights shows that Simmons, through his Harold Simmons Foundation, contributed thousands of dollars to ACORN. In 2003, the Harold Simmons Foundation gave a grant to an ACORN affiliate called the “American Institute For Social Justice” that was earmarked for the “salary of financial outreach and education staff person at Dallas ACORN.” In 2004, the Harold Simmons gave another grant to the American Institute For Social Justice, this time earmarked for the ”sponsorship of low-income community activists to attend a leadership school.”

ACORN was the subject of numerous scandals in recent years. Perhaps the most famous was the undercover video from James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles where they posed as a pimp and prostitute at ACORN offices and received advice on how to launder money. ACORN has also been involved in voter registration fraud, resulting in criminal convictions.

In addition to ACORN, the Harold Simmons Foundation has funded other far-left organizations reviled by conservatives. The Simmons Foundation has consistently given grants to Planned Parenthood of North Texas, totaling in the tens of thousands of dollars. In 2006, the Harold Simmons Foundation gave a grant to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the most notorious gun control groups in the country. These contributions provide yet more evidence that Simmons and other megadonors to Texans For Lawsuit Reform are no friends of Texas conservatives and are only concerned with promoting a self-interested agenda at the legislature.

Simmons’ contributions to these liberal organizations were first brought to light by Mark McCaig, President of Texans For Individual Rights, on his weekly radio talk show. The Mark McCaig Show airs every Sunday afternoon at 4pm on NewsTalk 1070 KNTH in Houston, online at 1070knth.com, and via KNTH on the TuneIn Radio app.

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The Mark McCaig Show for 7/8/12: Tea Parties, Money in the US Senate Race, and More

Texans For Individual Rights President Mark McCaig’s new radio show debuted this past Sunday. Mark was joined by Houston Tea Party Society founder Felicia Cravens, where they discussed the growth of the “Tea Party” movement in Texas and the upcoming US Senate race between Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz. In particular, they discussed some of the major donors involved in the race. You can listen to the show below.

The Mark McCaig Show airs live every Sunday from 4-5pm on NewsTalk 1070 KNTH in Houston. The show can be streamed live on the station’s website,1070knth.com and via KNTH on the TuneIn Radio app for your smartphone.

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TLR President Trabulsi, Who Donated to Mondale Against Reagan, Gives Big To Dewhurst

Texans For Lawsuit Reform President Dick Trabulsi has a long history in the Democratic Party. He has financially supported a number of Democrats, including Jimmy Carter (Trabulsi was identified as a “key supporter” of Carter’s in media reports). When Ronald Reagan ran for re-election in 1984 and ultimately carried 49 states, Trabulsi donated to Walter Mondale. In the 1988 Presidential race, Trabulsi was active in the campaign of Gary “Monkey Business” Hart. During the 1992 election, Trabulsi helped raise money for Bill Clinton and hosted a Clinton fundraiser with Bill White, who would later become mayor of Houston and Democratic nominee for Governor.

Despite claims from Texans For Lawsuit Reform to support conservative values, Trabulsi has written about his desire to see the Texas Democratic Party revitalized in TLR’s newsletter. Trabulsi’s liberalism runs in his family. His nephew, Mark Strama, is a liberal State Representative from Austin and was one of the earliest supporters of Barack Obama in Texas. It is no coincidence that TLR has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Strama’s campaigns and has supported him in general election contests against Conservative Republican challengers.

Despite his extensive liberal ties, Trabulsi has contributed heavily to David Dewhurst’s campaign for the United States Senate. According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Trabulsi contributed $1,000 to the Dewhurst campaign on 9/6/11 and an additional $500 on 5/2/12. The vast majority of TLR’s leadership and major donors have joined Trabulsi in contributing to the Dewhurst campaign.

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Company of Major TLR and Dewhurst Donor Paid $3 Million to Settle Claims it Cheated Taxpayers

James Pitcock, CEO of Williams Brothers Construction (one of the largest highway contractors in Texas) is one of the biggest donors to Texans For Lawsuit Reform, as well as “SuperPACs” supporting the US Senate candidacy of David Dewhurst. According to reports on file with the Federal Election Commission, Pitcock has donated $200,000 to pro-Dewhurst SuperPACs this year. Pitcock’s contributions came in the form of a $100,000 contribution to the “Conservative Renewal PAC” on 2/2/12 and another $100,000 to the “Texas Conservatives Fund” on 2/28/12. The only candidate supported by each of these SuperPACs is David Dewhurst. Pitcock has long been a financial supporter of Dewhurst’s, having contributed $565,000 to his campaigns for state office since 2000.

In 2005, Pitcock’s company, Williams Brothers Construction, paid $3 million to the Federal government to settle claims that it cheated taxpayers, including claims under the Federal False Claims Act. In a public statement announcing the settlement, Chuck Rosenberg (then the US Attorney for the Southern District of Texas) stated “The government will not tolerate violations in the pursuit of profits. Contractors are not free to ignore their obligations.”

Pitcock has also been a major donor to the special interest group Texans For Lawsuit Reform, having contributed $190,000 to its political action committee. TLR has vigorously opposed legislation at the state level modeled after the Federal False Claims Act that would provide additional tools to prevent and punish fraud against Texas taxpayers. TLR’s opposition of this pro-taxpayer legislation only serves to protect unscrupulous government contractors and others who seek to enjoy ill-gotten gains at the expense of Texas taxpayers.

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