Election Breakdown 2014: Texas Attorney General

Attorney General
Barry Smitherman, Dan Branch, Ken Paxton
 

TPP endorses Ken Paxton

Texas is losing a great Attorney General.  Greg Abbott has established a high standard for the kind of Attorney General Texas needs if we are to continue to successfully withstand an overreaching intrusive federal government.  All three of the candidates in this race promise to uphold the Abbott precedent.  The challenge is to determine which of the three will do this the best-- to look for events in their past where they clearly demonstrated their dedication to conservative values and the force of character to adhere to these values even when doing so may have personal costs.  

 

DAN BRANCH

Mr. Branch is a very successful attorney from the Dallas area.  He has served six consecutive terms in the Texas House since first being elected in 2002.  He is the Chair of the House Committee on Higher Education, the Co Chair of the House Committee on Excellence and Transparency and a member of the Legislative Budget Board and the Calendars and Pensions Committee. Prior to his election to the Texas House, Mr. Branch served as President of the Dallas Assembly and as Chairman of the Texas Public Finance Authority.

According to his campaign literature and website, Mr. Branch is a fighter who will use the law to stop the intrusive federal government, a man who will protect our liberties and, “work for more open, accountable and limited government.” Since past performance is the best indicator of future behavior, the question is:  how do these claims stack up against the record Mr. Branch created in his six sessions in the Legislature?  

Conservatives have complained since Joe Straus became Speaker of the House in 2009 that the opportunity provided by Republican majorities in both houses to turn Texas into a truly conservative state has been squandered due to:  a) Mr. Straus’ moderate to liberal views; and b) his continuing dependence on the Democrats in the House to keep him in office.  Readers may recall that Mr. Straus was elected speaker when 11 rogue Republicans teamed up with the House Democrats to elect him.  While Mr. Branch was not one of the “Gang of 11,” he was one of the first 5 Republican house members to join the “Gang of 11” once they had amassed most of the Democrat members’ support. (See:  http://www.acapitolblog.com/2009/01/next-speaker-of-house-rep-joe-straus.html.). For his backing, Mr. Branch was awarded the Chair of the Committee for Higher Education.  Mr. Branch cannot be held to the same level of responsibility for Mr. Straus and the tragic effect his speakership has had on the conservative aspirations for Texas as we hold members of the “Gang of 11.” But his continued support for Mr. Straus (he was in favor of Mr. Straus continuing as speaker in 2011 and 2013) in the face of evidence of the dampening effect Mr. Straus is having on conservative legislation is hard to square with his professed conservative values. So is his voting for the redistricting map in 2011 that was clearly drawn to alter districts of conservatives who had opposed Mr. Straus’ speakership (including the district of Ken Paxton) to make their chances of re-election more remote.  Supporting petty retribution of kind was not only mean-spirited, it was shameful.  We relate the foregoing history because we believe it reflects Mr. Branch’s character and values, which appear not to be particularly conservative on at least some matters.  

One aspect of Mr. Branch’s tenure as Chair of the House Committee on Higher Education that bothers us is his handling (or really lack of handling) of the University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall scandal.  Regent Hall is being impeached by a hand-picked group of Speaker Straus allies because he had the audacity to take seriously the legal and fiduciary responsibilities regents are charged with by Texas law.  Mr. Hall is accused of being too diligent, which really amounts to a ridiculous effort to cover-up UT embarrassment by UT loyalists in the House.  Mr. Branch, as Chair of the House Committee on Higher education, was in a position to get in front of this matter and conduct investigations of the gross violations which Mr. Hall uncovered (such as a secret fund that supplemented favorite law school faculty salaries, instances of lawmakers successfully pressuring UT to admit students that had previously been rejected as not qualified or improperly reporting non-monetary gifts to inflate UT’s fundraising success – to the tune of more than $244 million. (See:  http://www.empowertexans.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Letter_to_Transparency_Co-Chairs.pdf .)  Instead Mr. Branch did nothing, allowing the matter to spin increasingly out of control to the point where a Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations was formed to get rid of Regent Hall.  That committee is conducting a witch-hunt of someone who should be honored, and Mr. Branch (and his counterpart in the Senate) should be embarrassed by their behavior.  But clearly, this incident fails to portray the kind of principled leadership and courage Texas needs in our next Attorney General.  

Examination of Mr. Branch’s legislative record reveals a mix of conservative and moderate/liberal positions.  Mr. Branch does appear stoutly conservative on pro-life issues. But on education, which appears to be his primary passion, he does not reflect conservative values when he:

  1. Votes for transferring legislative responsibilities to unelected and unaccountable officials.  Examples include voting to:
    1. remove legislative oversight authority over the appointed University of Texas Board of Regents (2013);
    2. allow the appointed Public Utility Commission to increase surcharges (taxes) on monthly bills without first seeking the legislature’s approval (2013);
    3. bypass the elected State Board of Education by authorizing the appointed Texas Education Agency commissioner to approve electronic textbooks and  educational software to be funded through the state’s school textbook fund (2009);
    4. take management of Permanent School Fund away from the elected State Board of Education and have it managed by a to be created appointed council (2009);
    5. allow Texas universities to set their own tuition rates without first seeking the legislature’s approval (2003).
  2. Votes for directly increasing taxes, or indirectly increasing taxes by expanding government activity into non-core functions.  Examples include:
    1. On direct tax increases, voting to:
      1. provide significant property tax relief by imposing a payroll tax, a gross receipts tax and a half-cent increase in the sales taxes that more than offset the property tax relief (2005);
      2. allow counties to impose their own gasoline sales tax (2007);
      3. allow cities to levy a street maintenance tax for 10 years instead of 4;
      4. keep the “Amazon Tax” (2011);
      5. keep pre-payment of Sales and Use Tax that raises the tax costs to businesses;
      6. increase several fees and raiding allocated funds (2005).
    2. On indirect tax increases, voting to:
      1. dramatically increase the fines that can be charged by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (2013);
      2. require electric utility companies to provide funding for low-income energy efficiency programs, forcing utility rate increases (2007);
      3. have automatic contributions to the Parks and Wildlife when registering a motor vehicle unless opted-out (2005).
  3. Votes for increasing spending, sometimes dramatically, and raiding the Rainy Day Fund. Examples include voting to:
    1. allow the State Water Implementation Fund of Texas to raid the Rainy Day Fund (2013);
    2. raise spending by a whopping 26% in the 2013-14 Budget; which included increasing appropriations by $875 million (including $500 million for schools);
    3. authorize Tuition Revenue Bonds which borrow against future tuition revenue (2013);
    4. not support requiring the maintenance of 7% of general revenue in the Rainy Day Fund (2013);
    5. raid the Rainy Day Fund  by close to $4 billion (2013);
    6. pour $3 billion in borrowings into cancer research (2007) and then to continue to fund it (2011);
    7. create a border development bureau that would duplicate work already performed by other institutions and result in unfunded mandates on public universities (2011);
    8. keep the Emerging Technologies Fund (2011);
    9. provide taxpayer funded grants for the development of film, television, and multimedia projects (2009);
    10. give over $4000 of unsupervised money to convicted felons recently released on parole (2009);
    11. expand the number of organizations in the Texas Water Development Board Colonia Self Help Program by removing the minimum number of dwellings required allowing bid winners to be paid in advance before work is actually done (2009);
    12. create Interagency Literacy Council to enhance literacy in the state, duplicating the work of other agencies and private organizations (2009);
    13. create the Early Childhood Health and Nutrition Interagency Council to research and assess the health of children under 6 in Texas compared to other children in the United States (2009);
    14. undo prior reforms to the Children’s Health Insurance Program raising the cost of the program (2007);
    15. prevent a 2-year moratorium on  toll road building contracts in the Trans Texas Corridor (2007); and
    16. improve the economic returns of private toll road operators on roads built in the Trans Texas Corridor (2007);
  4. Votes for expanding the nanny state, reflecting little appreciation of the concept of limited government.  Examples include voting to:
    1. not deregulate the interior design business (2013);
    2. make teeth whitening a practice exclusive to dentists (2013);
    3. increase the continuing education requirements to renew an electrical sign apprentice license (2011);
    4. create new licensing requirements and regulations on dog and cat breeders (2011);
    5. expand requirements on schools for anti-bullying programs (2011);
    6. phase in mandatory boater education courses and licenses to everyone born after 1993 to legally operate a boat (2011);
    7. impose new requirements for the certification of driving instructors and courses (2011);
    8. impose mandatory meningitis vaccinations on all incoming Texas college students (2011);
    9. prohibit the sale of alcoholic malt beverages which contained caffeine (2011);
    10. make it an offense to install an irrigation system without a license (2011);
    11. expand Texas “hate crime” legislation to juvenile courts (2009);
    12. provide taxpayer funded grants to pay for voicemail services for the homeless (2009);
    13. require business owners to allow certain persons to use their restroom facilities (2007);
    14. expand requirements for  child car seats for children 4 to 6 years of age (2007);
    15. require immunizations for children in regulated child care facilities (2007).
  5.   Miscellaneous votes that cause deep concern about Mr. Branch’s lack of conservative values include voting to:
    1. violate freedom of speech by requiring nonprofits  who engage in political speech to report names of donors and established reporting requirements for certain corporations (but excluding unions) (2013);
    2. support Obamacare by legitimatizing the  healthcare “navigators” who are being used by liberals as a political tool (2013);
    3. supported term limits for state-wide office holders of two four-year terms while ignoring term limits on themselves or other elected officials (2013);
    4. require members of the Railway Commission to resign before running for other office while letting holders of all other elected offices run while still in office (2013);
    5. decreased the frequency of elections for District Judge from every four years to every six years, making the judges less accountable to the people who elect them (2011);
    6. violate first amendment freedom of religion by refusing to  provide a waiver for mandatory immunizations for those who object on religious grounds (2011);
    7. fold to federal pressure and not support criminalizing TSA's enhanced pat-down procedure (2011);
    8. violate second amendment rights by not allowing concealed handgun license holders to legally carry on university campuses (2011 & 2009);
    9. not standup to the overreach of the federal government by prohibiting the state from implementing federal greenhouse gas emissions regulations without compensation to the state from the federal government for all resulting costs and economic losses to the state (2011);
    10. not support school choice by prohibiting the allocation of state funds for the purposes of funding a school voucher program (2009);
    11. violate first amendment rights by limiting government support to faith based charities that agree to non-discrimination on services and employment (2009)
    12. support gambling by voting to
      1. expand the Texas Lottery by requiring Texas Lottery Commission to operate an instant-ticket lottery game (2009);
      2. establish an interim committee to study the economic impact of gambling in TX (2007);
      3. make it easier  to sell lottery tickets, including authorizing the sale of tickets over the internet. (2007); and
      4. keep  electronic pull tab bingo in Texas (2007).
    13. further erode the governor’s power by allowing the legislature to call itself into special session to override a veto by the governor (2009);
    14. change the Railroad Commission from a panel of 3 elected officials to 1 elected officials, creating a very powerful single position lacking the balance and protection presently provided by having a panel (2009);
    15. replace  the sentence “life with parole eligibility after 40 years” to “life without parole”, which was believed would reduce death sentences (2007); and
    16. allow the Matricula Consular, an official Mexican document, to be acceptable as identification for a Texas drivers’ license (2007).

 

Mr.  Branch may be the best lawyer in this race, as claimed by one endorser on his website. And Texas needs a good, experienced lawyer as Attorney General.  But that lawyer must share the values of the people who elect him; and sadly, Mr. Branch does not hold conservative values  In closing, we note that a number of people who have been following Mr. Branch for years, are commenting openly on how he has shifted far to the right for this race (see:  http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Branch-shifts-to-far-right-in-AG-race-5045367.php and http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/dan-branch-effect).   Texas needs leaders who are proud of who they are and what they have done as public servants, not people who say what they think they need to say to win an election. 

 

BARRY SMITHERMAN

Mr. Smitherman is the current Chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission (“TRRC”).  He was appointed to the Railroad in July, 2011, elected as Chairman in February, 2012 and was elected to a full term on the commission in November 2012.  Previously, he was a member of the Texas Public Utility Commission (“TPUC”), which he was appointed to in April 2004 and appointed chairman of in 2007.  Prior to that, he worked as a prosecutor for the Harris County District Attorney from January 2003 until he joined the PUC.  During that time, he was appointed to the board of the Texas Public Finance Authority in May, 2003 and apparently also wrote a book (http://blog.chron.com/bigjolly/2014/01/on-barry-smithermans-prosecutorial-record/). 

For the 16 years before he joined the Harris County DA’s office, Mr. Smitherman worked in investment banking, and was national manager of municipal finance for Banc One Capital Markets at the end of his career. On April 15, 2002, Mr. Smitherman co-authored an op-ed piece in the Houston Chronicle advising the city on steps that could be taken to upgrade the city’s credit rating and poor image.  Mr. Smitherman has provided us with a copy of this op-ed, which we have been unable to obtain online.  We found the column very practical and factually based.  However, four days after it was published, Mr. Smitherman was fired, apparently because he had failed to follow bank policy and review the op-ed with the bank prior to it being published.  Most people who work or have worked for large private sector entities have likely encountered similar policies.  We suspect Mr. Smitherman was shocked by the firing.  Yet he has pointed to this incident as an example of a time he stood up for his conservative values.  This would be true only if he knew he might be fired, which would suggest he purposely violated his employer’s policy to publish a practical and factual opinion.  We find this curious.

A little over 7 months later, Mr. Smitherman started working as a prosecutor at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.  Mr. Smitherman has said that he was 43 at the time he started this second career, and we applaud his mettle. Mr. Smitherman graduated from law school in 1984.  This means he had been out of law school about 19 years when he first started practicing law. (That is a lot of time to forget what you learned in law school.  When you graduate from law school, you don’t know the law, you know concepts and principles.  You only really get to know and understand the law by practicing.)]  Furthermore, Mr. Smitherman’s practice was limited to criminal law at the DA job and he was only there for 15 months before he was appointed to the PUC. He was busy, and must be a very hard worker, as he conducted 22 jury trials, was a board member of the Texas Public Finance Authority (which has monthly meetings in Austin) and he wrote a book (see:  http://bigjollypolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/barry-smitherman_trial-record.pdf ).  Mr. Smitherman has not practiced law on a full time basis since leaving the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in 2004.  Frankly, Mr. Smitherman’s legal resume is disturbingly insubstantial to prepare him to be “the lawyer for the State of Texas… [who] is charged by the Texas Constitution to: defend the laws and the Constitution of the State of Texas [and] represent the State in litigation” (see the description of the AG’s duties at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/agency/agency.shtml). 

Mr. Smitherman’s campaign literature touts that he is the only candidate in the race with prosecutor experience, which is true.  But the AG’s office is divided into 4 divisions, only one of which is criminal.  Meanwhile Mr. Branch has practiced law for about 34 years and Mr. Paxton for 23 years (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Branch) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Paxton).  TPP does not believe it advisable to elect a person with such limited actual legal experience as Texas’ Attorney General.

We find the following aspects of Mr. Smitherman’s tenure at the TPUC troubling:

  1. Mr. Smitherman calls global warming a political agenda for which there is no scientific consensus.  But his 7 years at TPUC were spent promoting an energy plan which placed a huge emphasis on developing renewable energy. 
  2. As a member of the TPUC, in 2008 Mr. Smitherman approved the building of a $4.9 billion 2,300 mile transmission line from wind farms in west Texas to urban centers in central and east Texas (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/19/business/19wind.html). The line was to be built by private investors, who would recover their investment and profit through a surcharge paid by consumers on their monthly electricity bills.
    1. In October, 2009, he bragged at a conference that:  “The reddest state is building the greenest grid; Texas’ investment in wind energy is greater than any other state.” (http://eucenter.tamu.edu/sites/default/files/Content/we/wind%20energy%20minutes.pdf). 
    2. Three years later, the transmission lines were not completed and the cost had escalated to $6.79 billion, a 38% increase from the initial projection!  Not only does this show unimpressive oversight by the TPUC, it means even higher electricity costs by consumers who will not have to pay an even higher surcharge for the transmission lines. 
  3. And then there are the smart meters.  The issue was first raised by Mr. Branch’s campaign in November, 2013, alleging that when Mr. Smitherman served at the TPUC, the agency mandated the installation of smart meters and that at the time, Mr. Smitherman widely promoted the use of smart meters (see:  http://www.bigcountryhomepage.com/story/measuring-attorney-general-candidates-on-smart-meters/d/story/zr31S4sDc06hkSEWiTinJg ).  But on moving to the Railroad Commission and deciding to seek higher office, Mr. Smitherman in July, 2013, sought to mitigate his past support of smart meters by calling on the TPUC to offer a consumer opt-out option (http://bizbeatblog.dallasnews.com/2013/07/smitherman-backs-opt-out-option-on-smart-meters.html/).  Our research concludes these charges by the Branch campaign are true.
    1. In response, Mr. Smitherman’s supporters have aggressively attacked Messers Paxton and Branch, charging that they are responsible for the smart meters because in 2005 they both voted for House Bill 2129, the legislation they claim forced Mr. Smitherman and the TPUC to mandate smart meters in Texas (http://www.texasgopvote.com/issues/stop-big-government/smart-meters-forced-texans-ken-paxton-and-dan-branch-truth-revealed-votes-don-t-006011).  We have no reason to believe or suggest that these supporters are acting at Mr. Smitherman’s request.
    2. The deception in these supporters arguments is somewhat audacious in that they fail to take into consideration all of the provisions in HB 2129.  Instead, they quote only Section 7 of HB 2129 (how the smart meters are to be paid for) and Section 8. (which articulated the legislature’s positive view on the potential of smart meters and mandates the TPUC to study and report their benefits.)  Significantly, they ignore the key provision of HB 2129, Section 6, which amended Section 30.005 (b) of Chapter 31 of the Utilities Code to read:  “CUSTOMER-OPTION PROGRAMS…(b) an entity to which this section applies shall consider establishing customer-option programs that encourage the reduction of air contamination emissions, such as: … (5) a program that encourages the deployment of advance electricity meters”.  (Our emphasis.  See http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/79R/billtext/html/HB02129F.HTM.)  This language still appears in the current law (http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/UT/htm/UT.31.htm#31.005 ).
    3. Section 6 makes it clear that HB 2129 intended to establish an option for customers to use smart meters, not a mandate to TPUC to force them on the citizens of Texas.  This view of the intent of HB 2129 is supported in a February 2012 letter to TPUC from State Representative Dennis Bonnen, who was the author of  HB 2129 (http://interchange.puc.state.tx.us/WebApp/Interchange/Documents/40190_12_720818.PDF).
    4. Mr. Smitherman’s supporters further claim that in 2007, Messers Paxton and Branch  also voted for HB 3696, which contained a provision expressing the legislature’s support for rapid deployment of smart meters (http://www.texasgopvote.com/issues/stop-big-government/smart-meters-forced-texans-ken-paxton-and-dan-branch-truth-revealed-votes-don-t-006011 ). But Section 20 of HB 3696, amended Section 39.107(i) which relates to Metering and Billing Services, not the question of whether smart meters are optional (http://www.legis.state.tx.us/billlookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=80R&Bill=HB3693). Section 30.005 (b) of Chapter 31 of the Utilities Code which contained the provisions relating to customer-options programs (including smart meters) was left untouched.
    5. Our research concludes that the smart meters are an example of the regulatory excesses that have resulted in the explosion in the size and cost of government at all levels.  The wrongdoer in this case was TPUC, not Messers Paxton and Branch.  The fact that Mr. Smitherman was a TPUC commissioner while this overreach was occurring is problematic.

Finally, we need to address one of Mr. Smitherman’s most differentiating arguments in support of his candidacy-- that he has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 7 times. This claim is important since it suggests that Mr. Smitherman may have indeed been practicing law during the last 10 years while he has been at the TPUC or TRRC. If this is the case, Mr. Smitherman’s legal resume is not a slim as suggested above.  The Austin American-Statesman reviewed Mr. Smitherman’s claim to have sued the EPA 7 times and found it to be true (http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2013/aug/21/barry-smitherman/puc-and-railroad-commission-smitherman-part-seven-/).  And there is no question but that while Mr. Smitherman was at the TPUC and TRRC, a total of 7 cases were initiated by Texas against the EPA that included as one of the petitioners the commission where Mr. Smitherman was working at the time.  But did Mr. Smitherman sue, or was it General Abbott (who also claims to have initiated these same suits against the EPA) or was it Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples (who also says he “sued the Obama EPA numerous times in order to stop burdensome regulations that would eliminate thousands of Texas jobs”) whose agency was also a petitioner on the same 7 suits (http://www.toddstaples.com/meet-todd-staples/.)? 

The Texas Attorney General website describes the agency’s duties as follows:  “Attorney General Greg Abbott is the lawyer for the State of Texas and is charged by the Texas Constitution to: defend the laws and the Constitution of the State of Texas [and] represent the State in litigation.  To fulfill these responsibilities, the Office of the Attorney General serves as legal counsel to all boards and agencies of state government, issues legal opinions when requested by the Governor, heads of state agencies and other officials and agencies as provided by Texas statutes, sits as an ex-officio member of state committees and commissions, and defends challenges to state laws and suits against both state agencies and individual employees of the State…the Office of the Attorney General files civil suits upon referral by other state agencies.” (https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/agency/agency.shtml). So when Messers Smitherman and Staples say they “sued the EPA, what they are saying is they as commissioners asked the Attorney General to bring suit against the EPA.  So in fact, they are all being truthful.  Mr. Patterson, as Land Commissioner, could (but has not, to our knowledge) make the same claim on 5 suits.  But Messers Patterson and Staples are not lawyers, and certainly were not practicing law by requesting the Attorney General to bring suit against the EPA; neither were Mr. Smitherman and his fellow commissioners at the TPUC and TRRC. 

One final point about Texas suing the EPA:  General Abbott has brought more than two dozen suits against agencies of the federal government since President Obama was elected in 2008.  At least 18 of those suits were brought against the EPA.  In all but two of these, there were two or more state agencies listed as petitioners.  As shown by the following chart, in the seven cases in which Mr. Smitherman was involved, the fewest Texas agency petitioners was 3 and the most was 5.  By “agency” we exclude the State of Texas, Governor Perry and General Abbott. This suggests to us that the Attorney General’s office must play a significant coordinating role when suits like these are brought with so many different petitioners.

File When At

File

Number

TEXAS

PERRY

ABBOTT

TCEQ

AG. COM.

LAND COM.

PUC

RAILROAD COM.

TPUC

10-1281

 

X

X

X

X

 

X

 

TPUC

11-1038

 

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

TPUC

11-1128

 

X

X

X

X

X

X

 

TPUC

10-1182

 

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

TPUC

10-1222

 

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

TRRC

11-1339

X

 

 

X

 

X

X

X

TRRC

12-1185

X

 

 

X

 

 

X

X

 

Except as noted above, from what we can determine Mr. Smitherman has done a good job as Commissioner, both at the TPUC and at the TRRC.  His campaign claim that he is the only candidate in this race with experience leading state agencies is true.  And Mr. Smitherman is a passionate pro-life advocate.  However, for the reasons stated above, we do not believe Mr. Smitherman has sufficient legal experience to serve as Texas’ next Attorney General.

 

KEN PAXTON

Mr. Paxton is currently in his first term as the Texas State Senator from District 8, which encompasses all of Collin County and a portion of Dallas County.  Previously, Mr. Paxton served for 10 years as the State Representative from District 70.  As mentioned in the write-up about Dan Branch above, Mr. Paxton decided to run for the Texas Senate after Speaker Straus and his supporters redrew District 70 in retribution for Mr. Paxton having the audacity to challenge Mr. Straus for the speakership in 2011. Mr. Paxton is a name member of a small law firm in with offices in Allen, Frisco and McKinney and owns a title company in McKinney.  Mr. Paxton holds an MBA as well as a law degree.

Mr. Paxton’s website says:  “He is known for his principled and uncompromising devotion to conservative principles – a man who has demonstrated enormous political courage throughout his service to Texas.”  Our investigation concludes that Mr. Paxton’s 6 sessions in the Texas Legislature, which offer an opportunity to not only scrutinize his record, but to also examine how that record compares to his colleagues, many of whom are running for office in this election, supports the campaign website’s description of him.  And it isn’t just TPP who reached this conclusion.  The following compares Mr. Paxton’s and Mr. Branch’s cumulative average ratings by a number of conservative groups:

 

Branch

Paxton

Americans For Prosperity Texas (2007 - 2011) 

82%

99%

Eagle Forum  (2003-2013)

69%

95%

Heritage Alliance  (2003 - 2009)

74%

89%

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (2007-2009, 2013)

69%

100%

     TFP (in 2011 gave letter grades)

C+

A+

Young Conservatives of Texas (2003-2013)

72%

95%

 

Mr. Paxton, although hardly perfect, has few peers in his consistent application of conservative principles; Mr. Branch is not one of them.  

Other than a pattern of reliably basing his votes on conservative values, the following are some of the things Mr. Paxton has done that make him stand out, in addition to his trying to topple the liberal Speaker of the House in 2011 (and these are just from the last two sessions):

  1. Education:
    1. authored a House bill lifting the cap on the number of charter schools;
    2. authored a House bill allowing school districts to impose term limits on their trustees;
    3. authored a Senate bill prohibiting the use of sex education materials supplied or produced by abortion providers (such as Planned Parenthood) and requiring parents to opt-in to their child participating in a sex education class instead of having to opt-out.
  2. Spending:
    1. authored a House bill limiting the rate of  growth in state spending; and
    2. bucked party leadership by voting against the 2013-14 Budget that raised spending by 26%.
  3. Transparency/Voter Education:
    1. authored a House bill creating county databases containing information on county spending; and
    2. authored two Senate bills to make it easier for citizens to find information about local government and school district budgets and tax revenues.
  4. Taxes:
    1. authored a Senate bill dedicating to the highway fund all revenues from gasoline taxes and taxes from the sales of tires and auto parts;
    2. co-authored a Senate bill providing businesses credits against their state franchise and/or insurance premium tax liabilities for donations to school choice programs; and
    3. authored a Senate bill phasing out the franchise tax by 2016.

 

Finally, what does Ted Cruz, who was Solicitor General under General Abbott, think about this race.  Mr. Branch obviously thinks this question is important, since he touts on his campaign website that he “has earned the support of Senator Ted Cruz’s most prominent advisors and earliest supporters,” (emphasis his) and then list several people and how close they were to Senator Cruz.  Our understanding is that Senator Cruz is not officially endorsing anyone in this race, but judge for yourself after you watch this short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPCyRgR1gZQ&feature=player_embedded.

We agree with Senator Cruz and so many others, and proudly endorse Ken Paxton for Attorney General.