It’s been a heck of a week for long-time watchers of the Texas Republican Cronyarchy. If you woke up this morning feeling a little whiplashed, you’re not alone.
In the ongoing rodeo clown show over at the Texas Agriculture Commission, Sid Miller’s Jesus shot just may come back to bite him in the ass. On Wednesday, thanks to tremendous work by Progress Texas, the Texas Rangers opened an investigation into the ag commissioner’s, shall we say, loose understanding of state ethics laws. Then on Thursday, The Texas Tribune reported that Greg Abbott actually thinks the investigation is warranted. Apparently, the governor didn’t get the memo that Sid’s problems are really a case of “liberal harassment,” ( I highly recommend Morgan Smith’s Trib article on her interview with Miller) but that might be because his communications director resigned on Monday. Who can say for sure? Certainly nobody at the Ag Commission.
But while the ruckus over at the Ag Commission was entertaining, the real excitement was over at the Attorney General’s office. For those of you who may have had a little too much fun last night, a quick recap: Attorney General Ken Paxton is fighting a criminal indictment for securities fraud in Collin County. It’s a tough fight. His first round of lawyers quit, he got new lawyers but he has no way to fundraise to pay for them and he already admitted to committing the crime when he paid a $1000 fine to the Texas State Securities Board back in May 2014 (which reprimanded him, so there’s that). Got that?
This week, the feds got into the action. Monday, the federal Securities Exchange Commission charged Paxton with security fraud at the federal level for the same crime he’s under indictment for here in Texas. The big news from the federal filing was that the meeting that set the illegal dealings in motion took place at a McKinney Dairy Queen.
But in case you thought we had left the reality of Texas behind, the week ended with a couple of pieces of news that are no laughing matter.
On Wednesday, The Dallas Morning News reported that two former employees at the Office of the Attorney General were still being paid (another great article by Lauren McGaughy) after leaving their positions. Guess what? Turns out one of them, Chip Roy, left the OAG to become the executive director for Ted Cruz’s super PAC Trusted Leadership PAC. (And in a turn of events that will come as a shock to no one, Paxton gave Cruz his “absolute” support in a CNN interview yesterday.)
Honestly, I was ready to give Chip Roy and Ken Paxton props here. It takes some serious balls to pull a move like that. But then I read the explanation Roy sent to The Trib yesterday afternoon. Apparently, Chip Roy planned to take “emergency leave.”
The primary benefit to me would have been healthcare coverage in light of being in the five-year window after Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma. My plan has been to go off payroll at OAG using only my earned vacation and holiday time unless it were absolutely necessary to stay on pending the uncertainty of medical tests and subsequent employment. Yesterday I was blessed to receive an all-clear from my Oncologist and my complete departure from the OAG is effective at the time of the expiration of only earned vacation and holiday time.
Is that clear? Let me put it this way:
Chip Roy was given the option to keep his state-paid health insurance past the normal point of his compensation because he was facing health uncertainty.
Now we come to the genuinely important news this week from the Center for Public Policy Priorities. It’s very simple and completely awful: 1.7 million Texas children live in poverty. 1.7 million children. That means 1.7 million children being raised by adults living in poverty. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, guardians. All in poverty.
And what is one of the greatest threats facing Texas families living in poverty? The cost of health care. Not just the kids’ health care–the parents’ health care. Texas has both the highest number and rate of adults with no medical insurance. These Texans live with an uncertainty that borders on a form of terror. And that is fear is shared by everyone in the home.
Chip Roy probably understands that fear. It’s probably the reason his employer was willing to place him on a special type of leave that continued his state-paid insurance while he was facing health unknowns. That was a humane act that I can understand. However, for a Republican office holder who is committed to the overturning the ACA and is against Medicaid expansion for low income Texas–the rejection of which costs the state of Texas $6 billion in uncompensated care a year–making that gesture isn’t a sign of compassion. It’s hypocrisy of the highest order.
The way this story played out makes me feel like crying at the end of what was supposed to be a funny roundup of the news of the week. But that’s the real reality of living in Texas.
Read ’em and weep.