in Houston, Texas
Texas Congressman Ron Paul gets top mention in D.C. group’s rankings of lawmakers defending taxpayer interests
Monday, Sep 24, 2012, 12:53PM CST
By Steve Miller
money

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste ranks Texas congressman and former presidential aspirant Ron Paul at the top of its latest list of federal lawmakers who defend taxpayer interests. Paul scores a 98 percent, bested only by two senators from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Also near the top of the list from the Texas delegation were Republicans Sen. John Cornyn (95 percent rating) and Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions, who both scored 91 percent ratings.

At the bottom of the list were Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee (4 percent) , Eddie Bernice Johnson (8 percent)  Silvestre Reyes (5 percent) and Charlie Gonzalez (8 percent).

The list, compiled annually by the tax watchdog group since 1989, was again much more welcoming to  Republicans than Democrats. Among the Texas Republicans scoring poorly were Kay Granger (52 percent) and Lamar Smith (56 percent).

According to the council, “the ratings separate the praiseworthy from the profligate by evaluating important tax, spending, transparency and        accountability measures.”

Charity Navigator, a group that ranks non-profits, defines the council as “a private, non-partisan organization representing more than one million members and supporters nationwide… [its] mission is to eliminate waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the federal government.”

The council received a decent overall review from Charity Navigator, although it ranked low on transparency with a rating of 44 out of a possible 70.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, NewsVine and tumblr.

Photo of money by flickr user Dan4th, used via a Creative Commons license.

Texas members of Congress dip once, twice, three times at the public trough
Friday, Aug 10, 2012, 08:04AM CST
By Steve Miller
ice cream

Of the state’s 34-member U.S. congressional delegation, 12 are taking a pension from a public retirement plan, according to financial disclosures filed by the politicians.

Among the best compensated in the pack is Republican Ted Poe, 63, a former prosecutor and judge in Harris County whose district includes Kingwood and Beaumont, who reported dual pension payments in 2011; he was paid $82,153 by Harris County and $57,229 by the Texas County and District Retirement System.

U.S. reps, many of them former state elected officials, receive a congressional salary of $174,000. They are not prohibited from taking their taxpayer-subsidized retirement while serving in Washington.

Steve Ellis, with the D.C. watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, says public pensions make elected officials that much more out-of-touch with the retirement realities of private-sector workers, whose plans are usually packaged as defined contributions to a 401(k) or IRA.

“The public derides career politicians, but that’s what a pension is generally for, rewarding someone for a career’s worth of work,” Ellis said. “At some point you have to question whether elected officials should be receiving pensions at all.”

Members of the delegation draw on a number of retirement programs established for state employees, most through the Employees Retirement System of Texas.

Cities also offer a pension plan, usually under the Texas Municipal Retirement System. Counties use the Texas County and District Retirement System. State judges, the Texas Judicial Retirement System.

All but one, the Municipal system, are tapped by at least one member of the state’s delegation.

Rep. Al Green, a Democrat from Houston and a former justice of the peace in Harris County, reported a pension payment in 2011 of $96,948 from the Texas County and District Retirement System.

John Carter, a Republican from the Austin area, served as a district judge for 20 years in Williamson County. He has received generous payments from the Texas Judicial Retirement System. According to his financial disclosure, Carter, 70, last year received a pension of $76,458 from the judicial system. Carter, who has spoken out against other forms of perceived judicial and legal abuse, has drawn a pension payment every year since taking office in 2003, totaling $693,162.

 

Other lawmakers reporting state pension income in 2011 were Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall, who listed $65,748 in income; John Culberson, R-Houston, $26,983; Gene Green, D-Houston, $51,862; and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, $35,000. Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison reported $23,774, also from a state plan.

 

Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee, a former Houston City Council member, noted on her disclosure form that she is vested in the city's plan but has not yet received a benefit.

Some lawmakers listed their pensions as assets, for which the member is required to report the value in a broad range and, if income was generated in that year, the amount.

Two lawmakers disclosed their pensions in this way but did not report receiving payments.

Republican Kevin Brady, a former state rep from the Woodlands whose U.S. district takes in part of suburban Houston and Beaumont, listed his state pension valued at $15,001 to $50,000 in 2010.

Charlie Gonzalez, a Democrat from San Antonio, last year reported pensions worth between $50,001 and $100,000 from the Employees Retirement System of Texas and between $15,001 and $50,000 from the Texas County and District Retirement System. Gonzalez spent time as a state district judge and a state district judge before being elected to Congress in 1999.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn also listed a pension for the first time in 2011 worth $50,001 to $100,000 from the Employees Retirement System of Texas. He reported taking a $10,131 distribution. Cornyn was a state district judge and a member of the Texas Supreme Court before he was elected state Attorney General in 1998. He won his Senate seat in 2002.

Ellis, of Taxpayers for Common Sense, sees a distinction in the public’s mind between double-dipping by members of Congress in state or local plans and workers who are taking two checks from the same level of government. 

For example, Gov. Rick Perry was discovered in December to have been drawing his state pension while serving in state office – and making a short-lived bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

“I think some of the noise about Gov. Perry was that it was state pension & state salary,” Ellis said. “Especially considering it is a state or local pension – which they would be owed no matter what their job was - Congressman, plumber, or dog-catcher - it becomes harder to go after. At some point it does seem excessive, that they are able to feed at the various public troughs.”

The federal-state double dip is “hard to justify,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, of the Texas office of Public Citizen, a consumer rights group.

“It’s become more problematic up and down the level of bureaucracy, where members of Congress or high state officials like Gov. Perry do this kind of stuff,” Smith said. “Then it becomes OK for executives in state agencies to retire and then go back to work as consultants for the agencies they worked for, which is becoming more common.”

However distasteful double-dipping may be, it would be hard to ban.

“The situation isn't any different, technically, from a teacher receiving pension payments from Texas and doing some part-time or full-time teaching in another state,” said Ron Snell, who studies state pensions for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Given the general understanding that a pension is deferred compensation -- compensation a person has already earned by employment but that has been deferred from the time of service until later -- it would be difficult to construct state law to prohibit the practice.”

It would take a federal law to prohibit the state-federal double dip, which, Smith said, “I don’t expect to happen in my lifetime.”

More information about lawmakers’ finances in 2011 will trickle out over the summer. Nine members from Texas requested extensions to get in their paperwork, according to Legistorm.

Most of the former state lawmakers in Congress receiving state pensions introduced bills during their time in Austin regarding retirement benefits.

Rep. Kenny Marchant, a state rep from 1987 to 2004, in 1997 authored a pension bill that would have based lawmakers’ pensions on starting teacher’s salaries. The bill failed. Marchant, R-Coppell, in 2010 received a $35,000 state pension. In 2010, he was determined to be the 17th wealthiest member of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Laredo Democrat Henry Cuellar, a state rep from 1987 to 2001 who received $38,596 last year from the Employee Retirement System of Texas, pitched a bill in 1997 that would have given county court at law judges credit toward a state pension. He also authored a 1991 bill to allow communications officers with the Department of Public Safety qualify for the same benefits as troopers. Both failed.

Lloyd Doggett, who served in the state Senate from 1973 to 1985, authored a bill in 1979 that would allow state employees to take their accrued sick pay in a lump sum. The bill, which was determined to cost taxpayers up to $6 million a year, went nowhere.

Doggett, though, also authored a joint resolution that was adopted and asserts a retiree cannot collect “from more than one system for the same service, but the legislature may provide by law that a person with service covered by more than one system or program is entitled to a fractional benefit from each system or program…”

Doggett, D-Austin, listed income of $64,906 in 2010 from his state pension.

Texas Watchdog’s review found Republicans and Democrats alike double-dipping.

Smith, of Public Citizen, pointed out that conservatives have been most outspoken on the problems caused by public pensions, “and you can’t have it both ways.

“You can’t be openly critical of people doing what you’re doing,” he said. “It’s part of why people are so distrustful of their elected officials, and
it exemplifies that public service is abused by those at the highest level of government.”

Members of Congress are also able to participate in the federal pension system and are vested after five years of service.

Lawmakers who are 62 or older with five years of service or 50 or older with 20 years of service are able to take a full pension. Lawmakers with 25 years of service qualify for full pension benefits as well, no matter their age. Amounts are based on their time of service, age at retirement and which plan they are in. A detailed assessment of the system can be seen here.

Ron Paul, the Libertarian congressman from east Texas, proclaimed in 1997 that he would never take a federal pension. He does take $104,516 a year in benefits from the private pension he set up when he was a practicing physician.

congress graphic

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of money by flickr user athrasher, used via a Creative Commons license.

Salamanders would be blocked from endangered species listing under bill by Texas Sen. John Cornyn, Rep. John Carter
Monday, Jul 30, 2012, 12:14PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Georgetown salamander

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. John Carter of Texas are attempting to disrupt what has become, at taxpayer expense, the most extensive salamander education program in American history.

In case you missed it from over the weekend, Cornyn and Carter have introduced a bill they call Salamander Community Conservation Act, the Hill is reporting. You can see the text of the bill here.

The bill harnesses the might of our entire federal government to keep the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing as endangered four of our personal favorite salamanders: the Austin blind, the Georgetown, the Jollyville Plateau and Salado.

This bit of killjoy legislation is designed to get in front of what has produced a robust cottage industry for boutique environmental law offices, lawsuits of the kind that have made the Barton Springs salamander and dunes sagebrush lizard two of the most beloved reptiles since Beany and Cecil.

Cornyn and Carter say the abuse of the Endangered Species Act is not only a waste of government time and taxpayer money, billions of dollars in economic development are lost in the areas cordoned off as protected salamander habitat.

“The ongoing attempts by environmental extremists to circumvent this process through court action cannot be tolerated,” Carter is quoted in the Hill story. “This legislation can restore common sense and due process to environmental issues, provide better species protection results and recognize the needs of human beings as well as salamanders.”

The two lawmakers says they learned a lesson from the lawsuit brought by WildEarth Guardians to force the listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard. Last month, officials for the Fish and Wildlife Service put a temporary halt to all the legal fun by rejecting Ol’ Sagey.

"The real problem is how the Endangered Species Act is being abused." Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in a press release. “Today it's the dunes sagebrush  lizard, tomorrow it's another species to settle another lawsuit."

The New York Times did a little digging last year into all this federal reptile dysfunction, to steal from Patterson’s priceless release headline. At the time, WildEarth Guardians and another environmental group, Center for Biological Diversity, had filed more than 100 lawsuits against the U.S. Department of the Interior over roughly 1,100 species.

By swamping the Fish and Wildlife Service and causing them to miss deadlines for deciding on the listing of species as endangered, the Times found these environmental groups were able to pile on more litigation.

Taxpayers have had the privilege of funding all of this. The Fish and Wildlife Service budget went up 11 percent  to $24.6 million for the endangered species listing alone. Since 2009 the program budget is up 28 percent, the Times says.

What taxpayers might not know is that in addition to congressional action and federal litigation, they pay to support the work of WildEarth Guardians. Texas Watchdog took a look at the most recent financial statement, 2010, posted by the New Mexico-based non-profit group.

In that year, $487,748, roughly a third of its $1.5 million annual budget came from government grants. In 2009, government grants accounted for $583,496 of its budget. In its annual report, the group says those grants come from the New Mexico Environment Department and, get ready for this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it is suing perpetually.

You can hardly blame them for suing, if you can believe their 2011 annual report. More than 15 percent or $303,046 of its total revenues of $1.96 million came from legal settlements.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of the Georgetown salamander via Southwestern University.

Texas reps maintain support for $1.4 trillion Joint Strike Fighter project beset with delays and cost overruns
Monday, Apr 02, 2012, 10:43AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Congress

You know what they always say in government, in for a dime, in for $1.4 trillion.  As long as the money keeps coming to Texas.

The Defense Department calls it the Joint Strike Fighter, but what it is is Congressional pork on the hoof, gorging itself for a decade on horrendous spending overruns at the Lockheed Martin assembly plant in Fort Worth, according to a story by the Dallas Morning News.

Why, that’s in U.S. Rep. Kay Granger’s district. The Republican has gained a measure of dubious renown for her facility in getting the public to fund a Fort Worth downtown redevelopment project headed by her son, JD.

Granger, it seems, worked her magic at one time to make a present to the Joint Strike Fighter of its very own congressional caucus. A quarter of the 48 members of the caucus are from Texas.

Granger, in turn, was the single biggest beneficiary of contributions - $45,700  - from people connected to the Joint Strike Fighter project, a Center for Responsive Politics report in December, said.

Members of the Strike Fighter Caucus, on average, received twice as much in contributions from the interested parties as their fellow, not as fortunate representatives, the report says.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, whose fondness for family has also been expressed with our tax money, lobbied for funding for an optional engine for the fighter that the Defense Department had even given up on.

Even U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who never seems to make the annual lists of pork barrel divers, has taken to reflexively defending the most expensive defense project in history, one that cost as much as a decade fighting the Iraq War.

“We’ve put all our eggs in the F-35 basket,” Cornyn told the Morning News.

To steal shamelessly from Chief Brody in Jaws, you’re going to need a bigger basket.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of U.S. Capitol by flickr user cliff1066, used via a Creative Commons license.

Houston-area Congressional delegation gets wealthier even in recession
Monday, Mar 05, 2012, 11:35AM CST
By Steve Miller
money house

While median incomes among Texas residents increased a barely-perceptible 0.8 percent between 2007 and 2010, the capital gains of most of our Beltway delegation climbed with gusto, according to this Houston Chronicle analysis.

The new findings covered the period between 2006 and 2010 and were done by mining the required financial disclosure filings by our elected federal representatives. Seven of the 11 noted made money as the S & P Index slid 11 percent over that period.

We’re especially proud of Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, whose already formidable bank rose 715 percent, from $46 million to $380 million.

Especially proud because it appears that McCaul hasn’t held a private-sector job very often, according to his biography. He came to Congress after working in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and prior to that, he was a deputy attorney general when U.S. Sen. John Cornyn was the AG. He was also a federal prosecutor in Washington.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee has also weathered to recession well, jumping her assets 433 percent, from $175,000 to $935,000.

That didn’t deter Jackson Lee from lamenting those who are less fortunate.

“The house is on fire,” Jackson Lee told an MSNBC talking head last year. “Poverty has to be our number one issue for the American people.”

But both of these legislative giants have lost value on their respective homes. McCaul’s assessed home value  - on a 10,000-square foot crib in Austin - went from $3.125 million in 2006 to $3.110 million in 2010, while Jackson Lee’s more modest 4,000-square foot place in Houston slipped in appraised value from $242,000 in 2008 to $221,532 in 2010.

Also noteworthy is the gain of Republican presidential contender Ron Paul, who reported a 46 percent increase from $2.4 million to $3.5 million.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Image 'Money House' by flickr user 401K, used via a Creative Commons license.

Cornyn, Dewhurst, Reyes make charitable gifts of (some) campaign cash from convicted felon; Perry still has $80K from El Paso businessman Bob Jones
Monday, Feb 06, 2012, 11:39AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
money

It is Texas Watchdog’s privilege to extend a laurel and hearty handshake to the El Paso Times for dogging state politicians given more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from convicted felon Bob Jones.

The newspaper two months ago extracted promises from U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Gov. Rick Perry and  Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to give their Jones donations, catalogued here by Texas Watchdog, to charity.

A federal judge last February sentenced Jones to 10 years in federal prison and ordered him to pay $68 million in restitution for embezzling millions of dollars from government programs while he headed the National Center for Employment of the Disabled.

Perry, the primary beneficiary of Jones’ generosity, raking in $80,000 between 2002 and 2005, has not yet given away the tainted campaign money, the Times is reporting today. A Perry spokesman, however, says the checks are in the mail. Almost.

Dewhurst has shed $10,000 of the $22,500 he received, and a spokesman said the rest would be handed out by the end of the month.

Cornyn has so far donated $5,100 of about $12,000. Reyes gave $3,500 of a total of $18,500 to the U.S. Department of Treasury. His staff says he is in the process of purging his campaign accounts of all Jones and Jones family donations.

All of Jones’ contributions were made before his indictment in 2008 on 37 counts of public corruption. Texas law does not require elected officials to return donations from people later convicted of crimes.
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Follow Texas Health Care Report on Twitter, and fan us on Facebook. Texas Health Care Report is a project of Texas Watchdog.

Photo of money by flickr user stephend9, used via a Creative Commons license.
Federal panel hears arguments today in Texas redistricting case
Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012, 10:03AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
gavel and texas

A panel of federal judges in the District of Columbia today will begin hearing testimony for and against the maps of new voting districts passed last June by the Texas Legislature.

The three judges are expected to decide in hearings continuing through Jan. 26 whether the state’s redistricting violated the federal Voting Rights Act and discriminated against minority voters, according to story today by the Houston Chronicle.

The panel set Feb. 3 to hear final arguments in the case, which was argued before the Supreme Court Jan. 9.

The timing for decisions in the two court cases will dictate when Texas can hold its primary elections. The March 6 primary has already been pushed back to April 3. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is unhappy because he thinks the primary will probably be pushed back again, an Associated Press story today says.

Today’s hearing was made necessary because the Department of Justice in a pre-clearance review found the Legislature violated the Voting Rights Act. Texas is among the states the voting act singled out for its history of minority voter discrimination, requiring them to get federal approval for any changes made to their voting procedures.

The Department of Justice called on a three-judge panel in San Antonio to draw a new map, which Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott challenged before the Supreme Court.
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Graphic by flickr user Truthout.org, used via a Creative Commons license.
Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger floats proposal for more state senators
Wednesday, Nov 30, 2011, 11:30AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Texas state Capitol

One imagines state Sen. Kel Seliger fresh from a trip to the federal court woodshed, alone in a garret, candle dim, the floor a pool of wadded paper, his pencil worn to a nubbin.

At last, I have it, the chief draftsman of the Legislature’s currently discredited redistricting maps, tells the Austin American-Statesman today. What Texans need is more state senators.

Seliger, R-Amarillo, floated the idea at a public forum Tuesday in Austin to give the public something to think about. Perhaps to take their minds off of his redistricting maps, which will end up balled up on the floor, too, without the help of the Supreme Court.

Why, next year Seliger’s district will cover 50,000 miles, 37 counties from his hometown all the way to El Paso, he complained. His isn’t the biggest district. And all those people.

"But if you look at it from the standpoint of representation, state senators now represent around 800,000 people — and in some parts of the state, that covers a whole lot of ground.” Seliger says. “It makes really representing those people very difficult, makes interaction with constituents very difficult."

And while all this difficulty was not forced on Seliger, there are those who represent many more people spread out over a lot more territory. U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn divvy up roughly 26 million people, 254 counties and 268,596 square miles. California has two senators for 37 million people and 163,707 square miles.

So as not to dismiss his idea out of hand, we brought out the Texas Watchdog Calculator®. Seliger’s plan calls for a 19.4 percent increase in the number of state senators. Each senator’s representation would drop from an average district of 838,710 to 702,703 people.

A similar percentage increase at the federal level would boost the U.S. Senate to 120 members. However, those senators would still be representing an average of more than 2.6 million people.

To reach Seliger’s representation ratio, the calculator says we would need 445 U.S. senators.

Seliger is described in the Statesman story as a member of the smaller government Republican Party. Conservative watchdog Empower Texans, which issues a scorecard on small government voting by the Legislature, gave Seliger a D+ for the 2011 sessions.

And this before his government expansion idea. At least he anticipated the reaction.

"If you asked most people what they thought about having more legislators in Austin,” Seliger said, “they'd probably say: 'Oh, great. That's a horrible idea.'"
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of Texas state Capitol by flickr user Kumar Appaiah, used via a Creative Commons license.
Texas Reps. Jeb Hensarling, Sam Johnson get ‘super hero’ award from conservative Citizens Against Government Waste
Monday, Oct 03, 2011, 02:35PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
House floor

A taxpayer group that tracks Congressional voting named just six of the 435 members of the U.S. House Super Heroes, and a third of them came from Texas. 

Texas Republican Reps. Jeb Hensarling representing the 5th District and Sam Johnson representing the 3rd District earned perfect scores from the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.

The conservative non-profit issues its grades based on 2010 voting records consistent with fiscal responsibility, accountability to and transparency with voters. By those measures, Texas sends a polarized delegation to Washington.

In addition to its Super Heroes, the group labeled Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison and 18 Texas congressmen, all Republicans, Heroes. Eleven Democrats were given the lowest grades and named Hostile to the group’s principles.

Only one member, Rep. Chet Edwards, got a middling grade of unfriendly. The Democrat representing the 17th District lost his seat to Bill Flores last November by the biggest margin of any incumbent Democrat in the country.

Hensarling was the lone Texas Super Hero for 2009 when Citizens Against Government Waste was deeply dissatisfied with congressmen in both parties for votes that made the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act laws.

For 2010, the group made heroes out of 144 representatives, up from 89 the year before. The number who scored a perfect zero - including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. - was just 30 compared to 105 in 2009.
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of the House floor via HouseLive, a video streaming service of floor proceedings.
Today's featured video: Of the people, by the people, for the people -- and on the Internet
Tuesday, Apr 05, 2011, 11:37AM CST
By Jennifer Peebles
Lincoln, Tad and laptop
Seven score and a few extra years ago, Abraham Lincoln said our government was supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Then why is it often so hard to find out what our government is up to?

One thing that would likely make it easier is a bill that was reintroduced in Congress yesterday, the Public Online Information Act, or POIA. A video from the Sunlight Foundation about POIA is today's featured video clip on the Texas Watchdog home page.

Some quick background from a blog post by Sunlight's Daniel Schuman:
 
Today Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) reintroduced the landmark Public Online Information Act. If enacted, POIA would bring the government into the 21st century by requiring the government to embrace the presumption that government-held information, already required to be public, must be available online. Data should be free from the shadows of obscurity and brought into the sunlight of the Internet.

The current way information is often made accessible in Washington is that you often must show up in person at a musty repository and photocopy information page by page -- or try your luck at freeing information through a FOIA request and endure countless (and possibly politicized) bureaucratic business days. The public demands better; it looks online for information.

Amid immediate concerns over government transparency projects losing funding, it is important to push for the sweeping, cultural shift that Washington desperately needs. That's why we continue to advocate for the information government produces to be available online, in user friendly formats, and available to the public at no cost.
 
When he mentions "immediate concerns over government transparency projects losing funding," Schuman is referring to the possible shutdown of federal government transparency sites like USASpending.gov and Data.gov, which will go down the drain because their funding is being killed off in the fiscal year 2011 budget bill.

We also want to point out that Tester is one of the co-sponsors of the Faster FOIA Act of 2011, along with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. That’s another good idea floating around up there on Capitol Hill.

Let’s hope both of these bills go somewhere this year.

You can read more about POIA on this site.

It’s your government. It’s your information. Why shouldn’t you be able to access it online?

 
***
Spotted a good video clip? Shoot a note to jennifer@texaswatchdog.org.

Photo: Drawing of Lincoln and his son Tad surfing the Web on a Sony Vaio laptop. History tells us that when Matthew Brady took the photo on which this drawing was based, he said, "Man, I really need a new laptop." See the Library of Congress for more details.
Video
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Watering Hole 1114 B Potomac Dr. [HAR] … Read...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Comment of the Day: Still Missing the Good Ol’ Days “I was born in ’91, so I never got to experience the little mom and pop stores (hardware store or otherwise). I wish I could have...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Nothing Really Happens with This Bed Bug Shutdown Notice and Implosion Threat Posted to a Westheimer Strip Center Mattress Store “The movie finally makes a reasonable amount of sense now” after 4 years of work on it, writes producer Joseph Graham on the...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Swamplot Sponsor: Central Bank Swamplot’s sponsor today is Houston’s own Central Bank. Thanks for the continuing support! Central Bank has 4 (central) Houston...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
The Next Food Hall Coming to Downtown Houston Will Be a Storeful of Open Kitchens If you’re just coming up to speed on the whole food hall thing, remember this: It’s not a food court, it’s a food hall....
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Amazon Will Swallow Whole Foods Whole For those who expected Whole Foods Market to shop itself to a fellow grocery store chain and not a powerful company experimenting with...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
This Century’s Rise in Home Prices; Rare Local Air Monitoring Equipment Exhibited at Museum Houston-Area Home Prices Have Increased Nearly 30% Since 2000, Finds Harvard Study [Houston Chronicle] Stream, AMD To Develop 5-Story...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Feagan, and Again, and Again Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. Demolition is...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Blessed are the Poor: Examining opposition to debtors-prison legislation Texas State Sen. Paul Bettencourt was quoted by the Associated Press (June 11) criticizing debtors-prison legislation (SB 1913) which...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Vault 14759 Oak Bend Dr. [HAR] … Read...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Bones Found in Holdout Heights House Attic Tell No Tales Fox26 has now updated its story from March on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the fate of Mary Cerruti, the former owner of the...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
Fast Indian Comes to the Strip Center End of 19th St. Just opened this week in Re:Vive Development’s new add-on strip center at 721 W. 19th St., just west of Shepherd Dr.: the first...
Update:2 years 9 months
Swamplot
A Personal Big Day at L'Auberge in Lake Charles In previous posts, including in my Lifetime of Running Cold history of my personal gambling, Iit's been mentioned that I've been...
Update:2 years 9 months
Cory Crow
Debtors-prison policies decried, DPS cuts license center hours, and other stories Here are a few odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention while mine is focused on preparing for a much-need break next week.SCOTUS...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Junk-science based false convictions in Houston lampooned by comedian Someone has finally grokked and managed to convey in an accessible, understandable way the unmitigated travesty of justice surrounding drug...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Just Liberty post-session roundup podcast Here's the latest Just Liberty podcast - this time reviewing criminal-justice reform legislation from the 85th Texas Legislature -...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Governor signs omnibus innocence bill to track informants, record interrogations Governor Greg Abbott today signed HB 34, Texas' latest omnibus innocence legislation. Grits explained in this post why the eyewitness ID...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Houston meeting of Texas Latino GOP PAC tomorrow evening From the InBox: The Texas Latino GOP PAC are the gatekeepers to the conservative Latino Community, for far too long GOP outreach to Latino...
Update:2 years 9 months
Big Jolly Politics
Sen. Joan Huffman to recap the 85th From the InBox: Join us THIS WEDNESDAY, June 14 (Flag Day!), for our meeting with State Sen. Joan Huffman, SD 17, who will be discussing...
Update:2 years 9 months
Big Jolly Politics
Gov. Abbott mistakes incarceration smell for "freedom" Governor Greg Abbott made a speech in Bell County recently declaring that, as one drove north out of Austin, one could notice a different...
Update:2 years 9 months
Grits for Breakfast
Unanswered questions about law-of-parties beyond death penalty In our podcast the other day, Texas Defender Service Executive Director Amanda Marzullo estimated that 10 percent of death-row defendants...
Update:2 years 10 months
Grits for Breakfast
Priorities The headline from the Victoria Advocate declaring that the Texas Legislature prioritized mental health treatment over incarceration is...
Update:2 years 10 months
Grits for Breakfast
Legislative Session The 85th Legislative Session was different in many ways. Two things changed the narrative this session. First, Empower Texans successfully...
Update:2 years 10 months
Big Jolly Politics
Court trends advise tempered enthusiasm for HB 34 eyewitness ID reforms Does this sound like a suggestive photo array to put before a witness?A witness described being robbed at gunpoint by a “[b]lack male,...
Update:2 years 10 months
Grits for Breakfast
MAY 22, 2917 / Theodore Dalrymple on secularization and transcendence THE SECULARIZATION of Europe is hardly any secret. Religion's long, melancholy, withdrawing roar, as Matthew Arnold put it, is a roar no...
Update:2 years 10 months
Unca Darrell
MAY 10 / James B. Comey . . . . . . needed firing. Everything he did during the 2016 election was wrong. He was wrong . . . . . . back in July to release information...
Update:2 years 11 months
Unca Darrell
Droppin' F bombs, Beto O'Rourke style It's not often that a politician decides to start cursing repeatedly during speeches and interviews. But that hasn't stopped...
Update:3 years 1 week
Rick Perry vs The World
APRIL 5, 2017 / Weeding out the audience at the Alley is . . . . . . a feature, not a bug. Houston's Alley Theatre is running "An Act of God," a loosely dramatized collection of irreverent one-liners...
Update:3 years 1 week
Unca Darrell
Statewide primary rumors It's that stage of the election cycle where politicians are trying to figure out if they should run for something else or stay put. ...
Update:3 years 2 weeks
Rick Perry vs The World
Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Is Ted Cruz vulnerable? Not really. Sure, he's not liked, Texans think Ted puts Ted first, his approval rating is upside down, etc...
Update:3 years 3 weeks
Rick Perry vs The World
MARCH 16, 2017 / Jim Webb on what it means to be a redneck, and . . . . . . why redneck culture matters. In 2004 Jim Webb wrote Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. Though the 2016 presidential...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
MARCH 3, 2017 -- Goodbye, and thanks, to Thomas Sowell THOMAS SOWELL, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and one of America's most important public intellectuals, retired from...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
March 2, 2017 / The poem our teachers got wrong TWO ROADS diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. Generations of commencement...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
FEBRUARY 27 / Eric Hoffer on . . . . . . baby boomers and alienated intellectuals. "SCRATCH AN INTELLECTUAL, and you find a would-be aristocrat who loathes the sight, the...
Update:3 years 1 month
Unca Darrell
2017 Project: January “Progress” There are two different ways to interpret my 2017 project: that it's a way more complicated New Years Resolution, or that it is essentially...
Update:3 years 2 months
Greg's Opinion
Ted Cruz's first senate term in a nutshell The National Review's Tim Alberta switched to Politico, and one of his opening pieces put Ted Cruz's first term in a nutshell It...
Update:3 years 2 months
Rick Perry vs The World
Andrea Parquet-Taylor named KTVT CBS 11 news director Former KHOU 11 assistant news director Andrea Parquet-Taylor named Vice President, News Director for KTVT CBS 11 Andrea...
Update:3 years 2 months
Mike McGuff
VIDEO: KPRC 2 10pm newscast (1-24-99) ...
Update:3 years 2 months
Mike McGuff
Democrats actually thought Wendy Davis was a serious candidate? Hat tip to Willisms: VIDEO- Wendy Davis being Wendy Davis: https://t.co/SHq3ACGVDJ #txlege— Will Franklin (@WILLisms) January 24,...
Update:3 years 2 months
Rick Perry vs The World
Luke Bryan to sing National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI on FOX ​ Country music superstar LUKE BRYAN will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LI pregame festivities at NRG Stadium in Houston...
Update:3 years 2 months
Mike McGuff
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 7 years 10 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 7 years 10 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 7 years 10 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 7 years 10 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 7 years 10 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 7 years 10 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 7 years 10 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 7 years 10 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
San Antonio Current | 7 years 10 months
Go ahead, chalk it up http://t.co/YMWpC5wM #satx #chalkitup
Caller.com | 7 years 10 months
Scanner: Bathroom on fire in 600 block of Virginia, CC fire dept. on the way
Ballotpedia | 7 years 10 months
Does your state offer early voting? Do you qualify? Find out! #election2012 http://t.co/eodxBYVD
Dallas Morning News | 7 years 10 months
Why a Dallas-area cycling coach believed Lance Armstrong was drug-free (video) http://t.co/gURdYkj1
Caller.com | 7 years 10 months
Dozens of illegal waste dumpers sentenced in Jim Wells Co.; others on the run: http://t.co/NgerCdsQ
Karen Townsend | 7 years 10 months
Consistently impressed w/raullabrador when I listen to him in Congressional hearings. #Libya
Cory Crow | 7 years 10 months
Diigo: United raises fares by up to $10 per round trip - Business - http://t.co/kWY8gwPV http://t.co/bw25JP5R
News 4 WOAI | 7 years 10 months
If you see news in or around San Antonio 'SEND IT' to @NEWS4WOAI here: http://t.co/uMqbMXQv OR email us at: NEWSDESK@WOAITV.COM
swamplot | 7 years 10 months
Mining Houston Garbage for Recycling and Compost Gold http://t.co/HMMBArMX
swamplot | 7 years 10 months
Daily Demolition Report: Tulane Highway http://t.co/JXmkSx11
KFDA NewsChannel10 | 7 years 10 months
Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues http://t.co/y3VrPfkM
Williamson County | 7 years 10 months
Mental Health Awareness Week FREE Webinar:"Understanding Depression-How to Help You or a Loved One" Thurs,Oct 11@1pm-https://t.co/YUWi19WY
© 2020 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement