Skip to comments."Texans for Sale or Rent"
Posted on 08/17/2003 7:58:19 PM PDT by Congressman Billybob
The title, of course, should be sung to the tune of Roger Miller's classic that begins with "trailers" rather than "Texans." The subject is the eleven State Senators from Texas who are holed up in a plush resort in New Mexico, afraid to return to their state for fear they would be arrested, dragged to the state Capitol, and forced to vote. Oh, the humanity.
For those who might have missed this French farce played as cowboy comedy, here's a brief recap: Texas, like every other state in the Union, has an obligation to redistrict itself after every Census. Texas attempted to do this before the 2002 election, but the courts stepped in. They rewrote the maps for that election, then kicked the matter back to the legislature for final decision. That's when things got weird.
Every ten years there's a nose count of the American people to assign the seats in the House of Representatives, per the Constitution. A few states remain constant, both in their relative size and their partisan balance. There no reapportionment is necessary, but that result is rare. Most states either grow sufficiently, or lag behind enough in population so they gain or lose Members in Congress. Most states change their partisan balance over ten years. Redrawing the lines to reflect these new realities is the basis of the decennial political blood-letting known as reapportionment.
Texas has grown and gained Representatives. It has also gone solidly Republican as measured by legislative, statewide, and presidential elections. It is the opposite of California which has gained Representatives, gone solidly Democrat, gone bankrupt, and is about to throw its Governor out on his ear. But I digress.
Not just in elections, but also in registration of voters, Texas is Republican. Yet it still has 17 Democrats to 15 Republicans in its House delegation. The Republicans have majorities in both houses of its legislature, and hold the Governorship. In those circumstances, one would expect Republicans to redraw the lines to their advantage, just as Democrats do in states they dominate. (In state legislatures that have split government between the parties, the parties strike some kind of bargain. Heck, politics is as simple as ABC sometimes.)
The wrinkle in Texas is a quorum rule which requires that two-thirds of the members of each house be present, for that house to act. The Democrats in each house lack a majority, but they can muster more than one-third of the members. Texas is now in its second Special Session as called by the Governor to deal with its reapportionment, which should have been passed in 2001. Its legislature apparently will not act in this Session, and the Governor will call a third Session. What's going on here?
The first Special Session was brought to a screeching halt when one-third of the House (all Democrats) skedaddled off to a Holiday Inn in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and had meals and press conferences in a nearby Denny's. Now in the second Special Session it's the Senators (all Democrats) who have gotten out of Dodge and are now located in a luxury resort in New Mexico. (They were flown there in a jet belonging to a bank, raising a federal legal problem.) The Texas Senate is still nominally in session, so the Senators are still receiving their salaries and per diem expenses in the amount of $125.
The remaining Senators back in the Capitol in Austin have voted to fine the missing Senators $1,000 per day and rising, for their absence. The Senators playing hooky in New Mexico say they won't pay the fines. None, however, has indicated any opposition to pocketing their salary and expense checks for the Session they are not attending.
Some of the evasive eleven have claimed there's a racial issue present because several of them are black. Walking off the job is not racial. Getting paid for not working is not racial. Contempt for democracy is not racial. Claiming a subject is racial when it's not, now that's racial.
A basic rule of democracy is, when your party loses an election you lick your wounds, accept the results, and prepare for a different result in the next election. Why are the Texas Democrats violating that basic rule? In a word, money. As Deep Throat advised Woodward and Bernstein in a D.C. parking garage, back at the time of the Watergate scandal, "Follow the money."
I am indebted to the excellent research of Roddy Stinson for the San Antonio Express News, who wrote an article on 14 August entitled "Who's paying for the Texas Senators NM vacation?" He tracked the major contributions to the Senators who have high-tailed it to New Mexico. In short, about forty percent of all the money that went into the campaign coffers of one of these Senators came from either the Texas Trial Lawyers Association or from individual trial lawyers in that state. (This is based on a test case of just a few of these Senators.) And the Senators are using those accounts to pay the freight for their vacation from legislating.
I strongly recommend that full article to every reader. It's on the Internet. It will open your eyes just like sitting on a tack would.
It should be noted that while the House members holed up at the Holiday Inn and Denny's, the Senators are lounging by the indoor/outdoor pool at Albuquerque's Marriott Pyramid North, with its waterfall in the lobby, its $99-and-up weekend rates, and its restaurants with comparable quality and costs. Obviously, rank does have its privileges.
So why would Texas trial lawyers shell out cash money for Texas State Senators not to do their job in Austin? Does the phrase "tort reform" ring a bell?
An increasing number of states are passing tort reform in response to doctors who are fleeing various jurisdictions, or even quitting their professions altogether, due to liability insurance rates that may exceed $100,000 a year for doctors who've never had a successful claim against them. Insurance companies are also supporting such reforms because the rates they must charge are going through the roof. And ordinary citizens are joining the demand because ultimately, in insurance and/or medical costs, they pay the whole bill for this legal excess.
But the one place where tort reform would really take a serious bite out of the problem is in Congress. If they reined in the trial lawyers at the national level, the problem would be solved in part in all states at a single stroke. So who is against tort reform? It's the trial lawyers who get fat on a system that has turned the courts into a cash cow for the lawyers, and for their support personnel like BMW dealers.
And months ago, tort reform was defeated in the Congress with the nearly unanimous support of Democrats, with a couple stray Republicans thrown in.
Given all these facts, what's going on in (and outside of) Texas is entirely understandable. Both Republican and Democrat experts agree that if Texas is reapportioned based on its growth in size and growth in Republicans, the Republicans will gain six or seven seats in its House delegation. That sort of change from Texas alone could be sufficient to make tort reform pass in Congress. And the trial lawyers would no longer be able to back a Brinks truck up to their offices and unload the cash with a pitchfork (with upwards of 40 percent of the money not going to John Q. Public who lost a leg, but to John Q. Lawyer who wants to buy an airplane).
So the Texas trial lawyers are a thin green line, protecting their own wallets and the wallets of their confederates across the country from tort reform. No wonder their association gave $50,000 to one of absconding State Senators. No wonder that trial lawyers like Richard Warren Mithoff (Houston), the firm of Perry & Haas (Corpus Christi), and the firm of Morgan & Weisbrod (Dallas) gave $10,000 each to just one absent legislator.
For a successful trial lawyer, $10,000 is mere coffee money. It's a drop in the bucket compared to the opportunity to take down $500,000 next year, if the money machine for trial lawyers remains exactly as it is. The Texas Trial Lawyers Association also gave a total of $160,000 to eight of the other fugitive Senators.
The problem of the purchase -- or more accurately the rental -- of politicians by trial lawyers is not just a Texas matter. A decade ago a colleague of mine and I did a client research project (the results were not published) which tracked major donors to federal candidates back to their lairs. We found that, contrary to federal law, many lawyers made contributions listing their home addresses (on Long Island or elsewhere) and omitted the required information about their occupations. Net conclusion: about a quarter of all contributions to all candidates for Congress was then made by lawyers, a percentage that may have increased since then.
In Texas, in Congress, and no doubt in many other states, the trial lawyers are renting politicians the same way that they hire secretaries or lease office equipment. If it's beneficial to their practices, they spend the money.
What's the solution in Texas? The strike by Democrat legislators there needs to be broken by whatever means that the law allows. The Senate, the House, and the Governor need to accomplish this result in the third Special Session. Also, a serious effort needs to be made, both by honest Democrats in the primaries and by Republican opponents in the general elections, to throw out of office all Texas legislators whose idea of doing their job is to run away from the state.
The break in the Texas logjam is needed for more than just the people of Texas. There's a natural tendency toward cowardice among humankind. The Texas legislators who ran away rather than stay and do their job need to be slapped down as an example to all other legislators in all other states on any issue. If the Texas cowards succeed, there will be more legislative cowards elsewhere. If the Texas ones fail, that tendency will be reduced. For the same reason that we send robbers to prison in part as an example to other robbers, Texas needs to send its absent legislators to the state Capitol.
Texans for sale or rent / Having our room service sent / Lounging round by the pools / Playing our whole state for fools ....
We know every lawyer in every court / And all of their partners, and all of their torts / And every hangout, in every town/ And every lock that ain't locked when no one's around ....
Texans for sale or rent ....
- 30 -
John Armor was a trial lawyer early in his checkered career. He has now mended his ways, and is a civil rights lawyer in appeals cases. - 30 -
Is that true or just wishful thinking?
BUMP to add NM to Topics.
|* Tobacco Five refers to Walter Umphrey, John OQuinn, John Eddie Williams, Wayne Reaud, Harold Nix, their spouses and partners.
** Transfers from National Democratic Sources consist of contributions to the Texas Democratic Party from the DNC (Democratic National Committee), the DLCC (Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee), the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), and the DSCC (Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee). In the 1998 election cycle, the Tobacco Five and other Texas Plaintiff Lawyers contributed in excess of $1.8 million to national democratic sources.
And that's one of the reasons I may run for Congress. Watch this space....
Billybob / John
Only an idiot would think that!
Stay safe !
The very best to you and yours.
She has the nerve to call Gov. Perry a puppet when she is now being used as the puppet of the liberal left wing of her party. I take this personally because she my husband and I graduated from the same high school and know each other well, but this has just really put me off. Any coorespondence to them I have sent, I have sent to her first and have definately signed my name.
In any case this post must be passed on to others, and even more others. Thank you for it.