What’s Been Happening- Lt. Gov Debate, Davis Fights Back, SOTU

On Monday night the four GOP candidates for Lt. Gov of Texas got together for a debate.  The topics were – end of life issues, border security, Dan Patrick’s bankruptcy, Dewhurst’s phone call, double-dipping, abortion, marijuana, creationism, and term limits.  I guess that’s what the GOP base cares about?

PDiddie sums it up here, Four boobs on the tube.

All four want to force a woman to give birth to a child that is the product of rape or incest.  All four said that the judge who compelled the hospital to end life support for a brain-dead pregnant woman carrying a deformed fetus was wrong, and would support a bill in the next session to prevent another judge from doing so.

All four support the teaching of creationism in public schools.  All four are opposed to the decriminalization of marijuana.  (Only Patterson among them favors the use of medical pot.)  All except Patterson want a fifty-foot-high wall at the Rio Grande border armed with machine gun turrets and high voltage current running through the concertina wire at the top.  (That’s barely an exaggeration.)

Dan Patrick wouldn’t pay back the debts he went bankrupt on, even now that he has the money.  Jerry Patterson can say “tetrahydrocannabinol”, several times, without mangling it.  Todd Staples’ head is still too large for his body.  And Dewhurst is so confident of victory that he didn’t bother to work in any time for debate practice.

No questions about infrastructure, or water, or the environment, or the Texas economy, or education, or Medicaid expansion, or predatory payday lenders, or anything of substance to anyone outside the Tea Party base of the Texas Republican Party.

That’s why Texas Democrats declared Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov. Leticia Van de Putte the winner of the debate.

“Tonight the four candidates performed like they serve: Lt Governor Dewhurst deflected the blame to others, Sen. Patrick lacked reasonable solutions, Commissioner Staples blamed President Obama, and Commissioner Patterson talked down to voters.  Tea party extremists showed us once again that Republicans simply do not represent mainstream Texan values. Texas voters deserve better from their elected officials. Tonight’s clear winner was State Senator Leticia Van de Putte. She is the only candidate in the Lt. Governor race with the record, vision, and everyday Texan values to lead our state.”

Wendy Davis’ daughters cleared the air about the lies that have been told about their mother and their family.

Davis and Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov. Van De Putte each gave a speech in Austin last night. Watch them here.

President Obama gave his SOTU speech last night. It was good, but likely won’t change much, if anything. The President’s main issue is the one it’s been from the beginning of his presidency. He still won’t do what needs to be done, Rules of Liberal Political Success.  He’s never told the American people who is responsible for the economic mess, and held those who caused it responsible.  It’s just not something he’s capable of doing, for whatever reason, and it doesn’t make me mad anymore.

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Lies & The Lying Liars That Tell Them

The only thing worse then the media created “scandal” that Wayne Slater started this week is the fact that anyone, much less people who consider themselves journalists, would take a convicted criminal and serial liar‘s obviously edited video seriously.  And it’s sad that Wendy Davis has had to respond to the after the insults and death threats she’s been getting.

Slater’s old buddy James Moore debunked his whole original argument earlier in the week, Wendy Davis and the Amazing Media Mobile Home Mystery.

There is nothing untrue in the Wendy Davis narrative. But there is something unfair. Consider that she got loans and assistance and got into Harvard Law. Her husband helped. He knew her potential. He said as much in Slater’s article. He introduced her to people. Wendy took her children with her to Boston but, undoubtedly, discovered it is hard to do Harvard Law and raise kids. They went home to their dad. She commuted as often as affordable to be with them. She got a by-god Harvard Law degree.

Quite a tale, eh? Reframe it around a man. And here’s the interpretation: Can you believe the sacrifices he made for his family, to get his degree, and lift them out of their situation? Lived in a mobile home a few months, lived with his mother, lived in a small, cheap apartment, went into debt, paid off his loans, endured long weekends to make sure he was involved in the raising of his children while reading the law, and managed to eventually become a Texas State Senator and run for governor. The marriage didn’t survive but the couple separated amicably and continued to raise their children together and still have mutual respect. Who is this great man?

He’s a woman. Name of Wendy Davis. Democrat of Fort Worth.

[…]

The Davis Campaign should have come up with something considerably better for a response than having an articulate candidate say she needed to use “tighter language” because it suggests there is a marketing team at work and not a basic truth: A single mother endured difficulty to raise her family and succeed. That’s it. It’s a hell of a story.

As far as the video goes, I was hopeful that the Shirley Sherrod fiasco had taught the media a lesson about these highly edited “scandal” videos. But that’s not the case.  The draw of these videos, which contrive scandal, is just to strong for the media, it’s like crack for them and they just can’t put give it up.

PDiddie, has a great post on this, A furiously busy week to be a political pundit.

*Of course the title of this post is a nod to Al Franken’s 2003 book*

Game On

Elections are too often about issues that matter little to most people.  I will certainly vote for Wendy Davis over Greg Abbott, if those are the choices, in November. That will be because of a perception that Davis will be less likely to favor big business and corporations over the people of Texas, unlike Abbott.

The BS that started this weekend has little significance to the millions of Texans that are struggling to make it day-to-day.  It won’t raise the minimum wage, provide health care, an education,  or increase anyone’s pursuit of happiness.  It’s the Rovian tactic of attacking your opponents perceived greatest strength.  In other words Davis’ “up by her bootstraps” story really scares the Abbott campaign and the Texas GOP. So they’re going to try and swift boat her.

The more they muddy up Davis’ strength the more likely it is, they believe, that those initially inspired by her will become cynical and loose their enthusiasm to work and vote for her.  This story will do nothing to sway the hard partisans.  It’s an attempt to try and keep the electorate the way it has been for the last 20 years, small and right wing.

This election comes down to one thing.  If the electorate expands significantly Wendy Davis and the Democrats will have a great 2014.  If it doesn’t, we’ll have more of the same.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has more including plenty of link.

Not to mention this is taking away from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s ignorant and out of touch comment, “At the end of the day, we’re paying our school teachers – when you count in cost of living – a very fair salary.”

Wendy Davis Has Money & More

As far as the money race goes Wendy Davis’ campaign has done what it needed to do.  Post a number that shows her campaign can be competitive.  And raising $12.2 million over the last half of 2013 does that.  What’s a more impressive number is this one, via the Texas Tribune.

Besides unveiling the combined $12.2 million haul, Team Davis also said that the Fort Worth senator had collected donations from 71,000 contributors from Texas and around the United States.

While Davis is going to need tens of millions of dollars to beat Abbott, what she needs more is an army of donors, volunteers, and activists to win this race. Which is why the 71,000 number is so important.

Kuff has more, Davis outraises Abbott.

The truly impressive stat to me is the one about Team Wendy getting a contribution from all 254 counties in Texas. That would include King County, in which President Obama received five – yes, I said “five” – votes in 2012, and Loving County, in which he received nine. Eighty-five percent of the donations were for $50 or less. And yes, that is some fine whining from the Abbott campaign. He has more cash overall, of course, since he’s had years to hoard many millions, but the game is officially on.

[…]

Yes, I know, money is not determinative. But let’s be honest, it’s expensive to run a statewide campaign in Texas. You can’t raise the kind of money you’re going to need to run that campaign if people don’t believe in you. This is a great first step, but it’s a long way from over. Davis will need to repeat this kind of performance for July and for the 30 day, and again she’s going to need her ballotmates to do well, too. We all have our work cut out for us.

Here’s the text the Davis campaign’s press release, (Via BOR, Wendy Davis Raises Unprecedented Amount Of Money; Beats Greg Abbott Across All Committees).

Davis Reports Record Strength in Campaign for Texas Governor

More Than $12.2 Million Raised, Showing Unprecedented Support for Candidacy

FORT WORTH, TX – Senator Wendy Davis reported that she has raised over $12.2 million in her bid for Governor of Texas, the result of contributions from 71,843 individual contributors. Davis’ first fundraising report since announcing her campaign on October 3, 2013 includes contributions made to Wendy R. Davis for Governor, Inc., Wendy R. Davis Candidate/Officeholder, and the Texas Victory Committee, Inc. between July 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013.

84,704 contributions of $50 or less accounted for 85% of all donations made during this period. Davis’ fundraising numbers exceeded expectations and demonstrate the overwhelming support for her candidacy and campaign to be Texas’ next Governor. Texans from all 254 counties in the Lone Star State contributed to her campaign, further proof that Texans across the state believe she can win.

Total Contributions:
Wendy R. Davis for Governor, Inc.: $4,172,778
Wendy R. Davis Candidate/Officeholder: $4,555,228
Texas Victory Committee, Inc.: $3,501,513

Additionally, Battleground Texas is expected to report contributions totaling $1.8 million in this reporting period. Since Davis announced her candidacy in October, Battleground Texas has been working closely with the Wendy Davis campaign to register and engage voters across Texas. Battleground Texas began operating in early 2013 and strongly supported Senator Davis’ entry into the Governor’s race.

The Texas Victory Committee is a joint effort between the Wendy R. Davis for Governor campaign and Battleground Texas created to support electing Wendy Davis as Texas’ next governor, particularly Senator Davis’ specific commitment to running an historic grassroots campaign across Texas.

[UPDATE]
Harold Cook has more, Wendy Davis’ loot.

But the real news is on Wendy Davis’ side: Not only did she slightly out-fundraise Abbott during the reporting period ($12.2 million for Davis vs. $11.5 for Abbott), but she raised it from almost 72,000 individual donors. That donor number is at a level I cannot even comprehend, and is very good news for the Davis effort. She’ll be able to return time after time to those small dollar donors and they’ll keep giving – which is something one cannot often say about the mega-donors.

He also debunks the GOP’s attempts to discredit the Davis campaigns fundraising numbers. Obviously these numbers have scared the GOP, as this tweet shows.

Abbott still won’t answer core question on White, “should he resign”?

Since the El Paso Times started reporting on payday lending and Perry’s crony appointee William White, the core issue may be getting lost. As Harvey Kronberg state’s in this video.

“The core of the question here, is it appropriate for someone in the payday lending industry to chair the Texas Finance Commission, which has over sight over the consumer credit division?

Well, not it’s not, and it’s wrong too.  He goes on to say that’s the question that  Greg Abbott keeps avoiding.  Saying Abbott wont’ answer..

Whether it’s appropriate of whether the commissioner should resign?”

Some of the media in Texas got bogged down with exactly how much money Abbott has taken from White ($100K) and that Wendy Davis voted to confirm him – before his corporation was fined $19 million for, among other things, ripping off veterans. But Hopefully with the latest revelation from the Lone Star Project we can get back to the real issue, Abbott’s Green Light to Predatory Lenders.

Greg Abbott’s office issued the key document that has allowed payday lenders to operate outside of Texas usury laws and exploit Texans across our state. A letter issued from the office of the Attorney General carefully lays out that payday lenders in Texas can take advantage of a loophole used by credit service organizations to avoid Texas laws preventing unscrupulous lending. It is essentially a “how-to guide” for payday lenders to expand and grow their predatory lending businesses.

Payday lenders had been nervous about expanding their operations in Texas, but Abbott’s letter gave them the go-ahead they needed. The respected financial industry publication American Banker reported how payday lender Ace reacted to the Abbott letter:

“The Irving, Tex., company originally saw too much legal risk in the CSO setup, in which payday specialists can collect as much as 20% in fees for arranging a short-term loan from a third-party lender. But this month Texas’ attorney general, Greg Abbott, sent a letter to the state’s Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner saying that CSOs are permissible. So on an earnings conference call last week Ace said it will begin brokering loans as a credit service organization sometime in the next two quarters.” (American Banker, February 1, 2006)

Attorneys general in many states act aggressively to reign in abuse by predatory lenders like Cash America and ACE, but not Greg Abbott. In fact, Greg Abbott has been the payday lender industry’s facilitator and protector.

Abbott gave the green light, and pay day lenders hit the gas. Payday lender outlets have proliferated all across Texas during the Perry/Abbott era. In 2004, there were approximately 300 payday lenders in Texas. By 2011, there were over 3,000. Right now, there are more payday lending establishments in Texas than there are McDonald’s and Whataburger locations combined.

So, don’t look for Greg Abbott to jump on the bandwagon to get rid of William J. White or impose any more restrictions on predatory lenders, unless of course the payday lenders themselves or other Austin insiders give him the green light.

That’s right Abbott provided the legal framework for these “loan sharks” to start operating in Texas.  But what this really shows is what’s been the GOP’s agenda all along.  Taking from poor, working, and middle class Texans and giving to the wealthy and corporations.  It’s what they do.  And when Davis, or other Democrats point it out, it drives the GOP crazy.

Brains and Eggs has the most recent reporting on this issue, Abbott escorted the loansharks into Texas in ’06.  What’s telling for now is that Abbott and his campaign still wont’ say whether or not White should resign.

This issue fits very well with Davis’ campaign theme of giving voice to the voiceless.  While the GOP and corporations are colluding together to gauge Texans, nothing is being done to protect consumers.  It’s long past time these kind of issues come to the forefront in Texas politics.

Payday lending becoming an issue in Texas for 2014

The El Paso Times has recently brought the issue of payday lending in Texas to light, Payday-lending official: Borrowers responsible for their decisions.

The official who oversees Texas’ consumer watchdog says payday-loan customers — not the lenders — are responsible when the loans trap them in a cycle of debt.

William J. White says it’s out of line to even question an industry that has had its practices called exploitative by many critics, including the Catholic Church.

White was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to chair the state agency that oversees the Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner, which is responsible for protecting consumers from predatory lending practices.

White also is vice president of Cash America, a major payday lender that the new U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month socked with its first sanctions for abusive practices.

White didn’t return calls earlier this month for a story about his dual roles as payday lender and consumer defender. But, on Dec. 12, as the Finance Commission wrapped up its monthly meeting in Austin, he agreed to answer a few questions.

“What you’re doing is totally out of line,” White said, as the interview wound down. “This fox-in-the-henhouse stuff is totally political.”

His company and others in the industry have been accused of making payday loans to desperate people in amounts they can’t afford to repay. Customers become trapped in a cycle in which all of their disposable income — and some non-disposable income — goes to payday lenders, critics say.

[…]

As the name implies, payday borrowers take out loans against their next paycheck or some other regular payment, such as a Social Security check, said Ann Baddour, a senior policy analyst with Texas Appleseed, an Austin-based non-profit that seeks to defend the rights of vulnerable populations.

She said the average fee on such loans is 25 percent. So if a borrower takes out a two-week loan for $400, he or she owes $500.

If, at the end of the first two weeks, the borrower can’t pay, the loan is rolled over and two weeks later, if the borrower pays $100, he or she still owes $500. In that scenario, the borrower could pay $100 every two weeks and not scratch the principal amount of the loan.

“You keep paying and what you owe never changes,” Baddour said.

As the article goes on to show the payday loan industry has ties, to both parties, in The Lege.

Proponents of regulations to ensure borrowers don’t get stuck in debt seem to have failed to get the Legislature to pass a law and getting Perry, who appointed White to the finance commission, to sign it.

A report by Texans for Public Justice shows that between 2009 and 2012, prominent Republicans such as Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus were the biggest recipients of campaign funds from the payday lending industry. But it also showed that more liberal-leaning officials and groups such as state Sen. Letitia Van de Putte and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus also received five-digit contributions.

The Democratic candidate for governor, state Sen. Wendy Davis, is a major proponent of increased regulations and is not on the list of big recipients.

Advocates have focused their efforts on Texas cities. Last week, Houston joined Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and El Paso as major cities to pass ordinances.

There are concerns that El Paso’s ordinance might be eliminated even before it takes effect.

City Attorney Sylvia Borunda Firth last week said that El Paso Bishop Mark J. Seitz has visited City Hall personally to lobby in favor of the ordinance, which limits the percentage of income that can be borrowed and the number of times the loan can be rolled over.

Seitz could not be reached for this story, but a statement by the Texas Catholic Conference sets out the church’s position.

“In the teachings of our faith we have many warnings about usury and the exploitation of people,” it says. “Lending practices that, intentionally or unintentionally, take unfair advantage of one’s desperate circumstances are unjust.”

Whether one thinks of payday lending whether it’s immoral, unjust, or just plain wrong, it’s hard to argue that one of the main players in the industry should be overseeing the consumer watchdog for payday lending.

Which is why Wendy Davis is starting the New Year with a bang.  Highlighting Gov. Rick Perry and the GOP’s closeness to the immoral Pay Day loan industry is a perfect issue.  It shows how the GOP favors the powerful over the people and works well with Davis’ campaign theme of giving voice to the voiceless.  Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis calls for official’s removal over payday lending views.

he finance commission, which White chairs, oversees the state agency that is supposed to protect Texans from predatory lenders, but White is also a vice president of Cash America, a payday lending company that was sanctioned by the federal government last month for violating the law and obstructing the investigation.

White claimed that Cash America voluntarily reported its violations and suggested ways to fix them.

He also said, in essence, that borrowers are to blame if they find themselves unable to repay Cash America payday loans that carry an annual interest rate of 533 percent.

In a statement, Davis said White’s comments were beyond the pale.

“Texans are tired of back-room deals and dishonesty in Austin,” Davis said.

“William White can’t protect Texas consumers while he represents a predatory lending company on the side. Mr. White should resign from his post — and if he won’t, Governor Perry should remove him.”

The campaign of Davis’ likely Republican opponent. Attorney General Greg Abbott, did not immediately respond Monday when asked if Abbott thinks White’s presence on the finance commission is appropriate.

Perry’s office earlier this month reiterated its support for White, but it also did not immediately respond Monday.

Here’s more from the El Paso Times, Texas finance panel’s actions attacked. Again this fits perfectly with the GOP’s long-held strategy of protecting the interests of business and corporations at the expense of working Texans and consumers. This is one of those issues that almost everyone agrees on, except for those who need campaign contributions to win their next election.

Further Reading:
Fast Cash: How Taking Out a Payday Loan Could Land You in Jail.

Wendy Davis TPA’s Texan of the Year

Here’s the press release:

Texas Progressive Alliance Names Senator Wendy Davis 2013 Its ‘Texan Of The Year’

 

            AUSTIN—The Texas Progressive Alliance, the nation’s largest state-based association of online and netroots activists, today named State Senator Wendy Davis recipient of its Texan of the Year Award for 2013.

            “Senator Davis’ actions this year made her a clear choice. Our vote was unanimous,” said Vince Leibowitz, Chair of the Alliance. Leibowitz said Senator Davis’ June filibuster of Senate Bill 5 on behalf of Texas women and the preservation of reproductive rights was a courageous action that served to galvanize and energize Texas Democrats. “Senator Davis’ courage to stand up and block this outrageous legislation helped raise awareness in Texas of the assault on a woman’s right to choose that our legislature has waged for the last decade, as well as the extraordinary measures right-wing Republicans in Texas will take both to trample the rights of women and their own colleagues in government,” Leibowitz continued.

            Not only did Davis’ actions draw national attention to Texas, but her filibuster and subsequent campaign for Texas Governor have galvanized Texas Democrats. “We have not seen this kind of excitement for a non-presidential election in Texas in many years. We see Democrats are energized, organized, and ready to take back our state for the people. To a great extend, we have Senator Davis and her courageous actions to thank for this; she served as a unifying figure for our party to rally around, and her actions will both strenghten the party in the long run and serve to expand our base,” said Charles Kuffner, Vice Chair of the Alliance.

            Previous Texan of the Year recipients are: Carolyn Boyle of Texas Parent PAC (2006); Texas House Democratic Leaders State Reps. Jim Dunnam, Garnet F. Coleman, and Pete Gallego (2007); the Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign (2008); Houston Mayor Annise Parker (2009); Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns (2010); and the protesters of the Tar Sands Blockade (2012). There was no award given in 2011.

Brains and Eggs has much more on the selection.

We also had to briefly consider a non-Texan named Cruz, who got somewhat more than 15 minutes’ worth of fame out of reading Green Eggs and Ham during a filibuster of his own… but humbly chose to give all the glory to God President Obama instead.

So Ted’s the biggest loser.  Again.

Honorable mentions for Texan of the Year have to include Leticia Van de Putte for her own significant role in Davis’ filibuster; Sarah Slamen, aka @VictorianPrude, who burst on the national scene just prior to LVDP and Davis doing so; Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood; Annise Parker (as previously mentioned, the TOY winner in 2009); and Beyonce’ (yes, Beyonce’).

Congratulations to Wendy Davis for being selected TPA’s Texan of the Year. And here’s to her being elected Governor of Texas in 2014!