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I've grown up in Austin my whole life. I've graduated from UT. My thesis was an adaptation of Bob Dylan's album "Highway 61: Revisited" into a play. Something worth noting: if you take me to lunch at Dirty's, I'll write anything you want.

ALEC, Abortion, & Stand Your Ground

by: Phillip Martin

Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 01:00 PM CDT

If you want to learn more about ALEC and how you can get involved in exposing their corporate influence in Texas politics, join up with Progress Texas!

The American Legislative Exchance Council (ALEC) has spent the last forty years bringing corporations, their lobbyists, and conservative lawmakers together to put the corporate interest ahead of what's best for people. Functioning as a 501(c)3, ALEC allows corporations to give large amounts of tax-deductible donations to become part of ALEC's corporate councils. These councils then vote and approve ALEC model bills, which are then presented by the corporation's lobbyists to conservative lawmakers at retreats that are often paid for by taxpayers. These model bills are shopped around the country and enacted - with limited trace of money influence - in legislatures across the country, though lawmakers rarely admit that the law started as an ALEC mode bill.

ALEC became a nationwide name last year, when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was able to use the "Stand Your Ground" defense to his advantage in court.

ALEC also has a sister organization - Americans United for Life (AUL) - that focuses exclusively on pro-life bills, using the same model/format as ALEC. House Bill 2, the controversial legislation that limited access to women's health care, came from AUL.

The legislation has been shopped across the country, with laws enacted in dozens of states that mirror the Texas law.

It is important to understand how these bills are shopped by ALEC & AUL because we need to know where lawmakers get their information, who is influencing their decision-making, and what role money plays in politics.

Click below to learn more specifics about the Stand Your Ground and HB 2 case studies here in Texas.


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Rick Perry May Veto Public Integrity Unit Money to Shut Down the Criminal CPRIT Investigation

by: Phillip Martin

Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 00:51 PM CDT

Note: This content was originally posted at Progress Texas.

Texas' Public Integrity Unit exists to investigate insurance fraud, corrupt elected officials, and tax evaders. Rick Perry wants to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit to try and shut down the criminal CPRIT investigation by vetoing funds for the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. The criminal investigation is looking at the diversion of state cancer money to Perry cronies.

Governor Perry would want nothing more than the CPRIT investigation to go away. From the Texas Tribune:

The deadline to veto bills, including line items in the state budget, is this weekend. Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said the governor's office is "going through the budget line by line, and the governor has deep concerns over the integrity of the Public Integrity Unit." 

Some Republicans have raised concerns for years that the public integrity unit is in Travis County, a Democratic stronghold. They've accused it of being a politically charged operation, and its funding has been a political football under both Lehmberg and her predecessor, Ronnie Earle

Governor Perry has deep concerns about the Public Integrity Unit, alright. If I was under criminal investigation by the state for the diversion of cancer dollars to my donors, I'd want to shut it down, too - especially if I was considering another run for President.


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Austin City Council Prepares to Take Austin Energy Away from Public

by: Phillip Martin

Tue May 07, 2013 at 05:52 PM CDT

UPDATE: The Mayor has postponed the vote this morning; the agenda item will now be up for a vote on May 23. A large number of citizens - including myself - had already scheduled the time to talk and discuss this tonight; it's a shame it got pulled so quickly and with such little notice. More here on the postponement. On the upside, it gives me more time to publicly research and write about the companies and corporations who are pressuring Leffingwell on this issue.


The City of Austin - led by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell - is preparing to take away control of Austin Energy from the public. If you want to take action, go here.

Currently, Austin Energy is managed by the City Council, which means citizens of Austin can hold those who make decisions about our energy policies directly accountable. Austin Energy is our city's largest asset, and when the people of Austin voted for Mayor Leffingwell and our City Council members, we voted for them to be in control of Austin Energy. Now, instead of asking citizens to vote on a charter amendment so voters can decide the future of Austin Energy, Mayor Leffingwell and City Council are preparing to take the power away from us without asking.

Mayor Leffingwell did not run on this issue. As I told him the first time Council considered this a few weeks ago, I would not have voted for him if he had announced this while he was running. I was in the minority of Austin environmentalists when I kept my support behind Leffingwell over Brigid Shea. I now believe I made a mistake.

This Thursday, at Austin City Hall, there will be a second and third reading on this proposal. Please speak out against an un-elected Austin Energy board.

Read more about what this proposed ordinance does below the jump.  

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George W. Bush's Nephew Finally Announces for Land Commissioner

by: Phillip Martin

Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 04:03 PM CDT

Progress Texas released the following on George P.'s announcement for Land Commissioner - he will have to follow his family legacy of No Child Left Behind and Vouchers in his quest to oversee the Permanent School Fund.
(TEXAS) - Today, President George W. Bush's nephew, George P. Bush, announced that, after much deliberation among his family about which statewide office he would deem worthy of his candidacy, he would take his unique Bush-related talents to the office of State Land Commissioner. Among its many duties, the Land Commissioner's office oversees investments made to the Permanent School Fund.

Former Governor Jeb Bush's son has been toying with running for office for months, visiting donors in other states - including Georgia and California - to ask what millionaires from outside of Texas think he should run for in Texas. To date, he has raised millions from his family's network of donors to run for office just because his last name is Bush.

Following in the footsteps of his uncle's No Child Left Behind agenda (President George W. Bush) and his father's school voucher schemes (former Florida Governor Jeb Bush), the grandson of former President George H. W. Bush told the Associated Press that he would run for Land Commissioner.

The following is a statement from Progress Texas Executive Director Matt Glazer:
    "Serving in elected office is a privilege, not a birthright. George Bush must go through the same public screening as any other candidate.

    "Polls show that Texans strongly reject the standardized testing and privatization policies his family has promoted. Unless George Bush can prove he's not just another Bush, his candidacy is likely to be met with strong opposition across the state."
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Texas Republican Legislator Files Birther Bill

by: Phillip Martin

Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 00:00 PM CST

Ed. note - the following is cross-posted from Progress Texas.

On Wednesday, January 23, Republican State Representative Bill Zedler filed House Bill 650 - a birther bill. The legislation would require any candidate for President or Vice-President to submit his or her birth certificate to the Texas Secretary of State in order to be allowed on the ballot. The application to be on the ballot, including the birth certificate, would be matters of public record.

Progress Texas has called on Rep. Zedler to withdraw the bill immediately - and if he should choose not to, for Texas House Speaker Joe Straus to refuse to refer the legislation to a committee, unless Speaker Straus believes there's merit in spending lawmaker's time and taxpayer dollars on a fringe debate that does nothing to improve our public schools, expand our health care, or invest in the future of Texas.

The petition reads:

I am asking you to withdraw House Bill 650, the birther bill you have filed. The people of Texas are embarrassed by your actions. You may be one of the last 15 people on the planet (more or less) who thinks President Obama was not born in America.

The manufactured birther controversy was an obvious attempt by extreme Tea Party members to undermine our first African-American president - and by Donald Trump to remain relevant.

On April 27, 2011, President Obama released his long form birth certificate to the media and the public, putting the issue to rest for all but the fringe element of the Republican Tea Party.

Rep. Zedler - a fringe, Tea Party conservative - is not new to crazy ideas. Rep. Zedler once tried to remove official complaints made against a doctor who injected jet fuel into his patients; the doctor also just happened to have given money to Rep. Zedler's campaign (Texas Tribune). Rep. Zedler has also filed legislation to bar discrimination against professors who teach intelligent design (HB 285), and another to outlaw Sharia law in Texas (HB 288).

Sign our petition today and let Rep. Bill Zedler know Texas has far more important problems than this.

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Women's Health Care Under Attack in Texas: 50 Votes in 10 Years

by: Phillip Martin

Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 11:57 AM CDT

The following content was originally posted at the Progress Texas blog.

Fifty votes in ten years is no accident - it's intentional.

Over the last 10 years, Texas conservatives in the State House of Representatives have cast at least 50 record votes against women's health care. Original research by Progress Texas shows that the more Republicans there are elected to the Texas House of Representative, the more record votes there are that attack women's health care. Research shows that in 2003 and 2011, when Republicans had their largest margins in the Texas House, were the years when women's health was decimated the most. Meanwhile, in 2007 and 2009 - when there was balanced partisanship in the Texas House - most all the anti-woman's legislation was kept from coming to the floor. A full accounting of our research can be found by clicking here.

Some of the most outrageous votes conservatives cast include:

  • Requiring doctors to lie to women and tell them an induced abortion can lead to breast cancer (2003)
  • Rejecting an amendment to ensure that any standard health benefit plan that provides coverage for medication to treat male erectile dysfunction to also include coverage for contraceptives (2003)
  • Refusing to ensure that contractors comply with basic federal family planning regulations when administering health care (2005)
  • Denying an increase in funding to family planning services (2007)
  • Requiring women to take a sonogram before receiving an abortion (2011)
  • Decimating funding for family planning services in Texas (2011)

A full account of the 50 votes in 10 years conservatives have cast against Texans can be found here.

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The Affordable Care Act is Working in Texas

by: Phillip Martin

Wed Mar 21, 2012 at 11:00 AM CDT

Ed. note: Phillip Martin, a long-time writer here at BOR, is now the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas. He is also a contributing writer to our site. The following post contains material originally published at Progress Texas. 

If you need any further proof that the Affordable Care Act is working in Texas, here's a simple compare and contrast between the policies of Texas Governor Rick Perry and those of President Barack Obama. Be sure to check back all week for more on how the Affordable Care Act is working in Texas, and sign our Progress Texas pledge defending the Affordable Care Act.

The key policies contrasted above are:

  • Current - This is our status quo.
  • Governor Perry's Plan - If Texas opts out of Medicaid, like Perry wants, 2.55 million more Texans will lose their health care coverage. (Source - Dallas Morning News)
  • President Obama's Plan - If the policies of the Affordable Care Act are allowed to be set in place, then 91% of the state of Texas is expected to have health care coverage in the coming years.  (Source - Houston Chronicle) 
Learn more about how the Affordable Care Act is working in Texas below the fold.
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ALEC Exposed in Texas

by: Phillip Martin

Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 10:48 AM CST

Ed. note: Phillip Martin, a long-time writer here at BOR, is now the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas. He is also a contributing writer to our site.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a corporate clearinghouse for the promotion of "model bills" that pad bottom lines of corporations at the public's expense. Over the last few months, Progress Texas has looked at ALEC and their influence on the Texas Legislature. Last week, our ongoing research culminated in the first of a series of reports detailing the influence of ALEC on Texas laws and lawmakers.

The report explains ALEC’s corporate agenda, outlines the money trail from ALEC corporate members to Texas lawmakers, and highlights how legislators take ALEC’s corporate-approved “model” bills and implements them in Texas. From 2001 to 2011, Texas lawmakers have received over $16.2 million from ALEC corporations, which is the second highest total among states. Rick Perry is the largest single recipient of ALEC-related funds nationwide, having received more than $2 million from ALEC corporate members from 2004-2011. The report also describes the cozy relationship between ALEC and the extreme right-wing group the Texas Public Policy Foundation, who regularly partners with ALEC to promote its corporate "model" bills here in Texas.

The Texas Legislature should be a laboratory for democracy, not a corporate clearinghouse for padding bottom lines at the public’s expense. ALEC Exposed in Texas shines light on the corporate lobbyists that craft cookie-cutter laws behind closed doors to put the profits of global corporations over creating better lives for Texans.

You can download our report here. We have also uploaded it to Scribd, where you can read it in full.

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Texas Taxpayers Have Spent an Estimated $2,651,429.14 on Rick Perry's Presidential Travel

by: Phillip Martin

Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 04:39 PM CST

Ed. note: Phillip Martin, a long-time writer here at BOR, is now the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas. He is also a contributing writer to our site. The following is from a memo he released earlier this afternoon at Progress Texas.
$2,651,429.14. That's the estimate of how taxpayer money Texas Governor Rick Perry spent on his 160-day amateur presidential campaign. Here's how we crunched the numbers:
According to records released by the Texas Department of Public Safety and published by the Texas Tribune, we can project Perry’s security costs from the day he officially announced his candidacy (August 13, 2011) to the time he suspended his campaign (January 19, 2012). Here is the total amount of taxpayer dollars spent during the 24-day window for which Texas DPS has released records:
September 5 – September 28 (24 days)
Baggage fees$8,140
TOTAL COSTS$397,714.37
That gives us one look into the window. But what about the weeks before and after? We can project the costs from August 13 to September 4 and from September 29 to January 19 based on the exact figures we have. Our estimates show Perry’s security costs as follows:
Rick Perry’s Security Travel Costs During his Presidential Campaign
Time PeriodSecurity costs
August 13 – September 4 (23 days)$381,142.94 (estimated)
September 5 – September 28 (24 days)$397,714.37 (exact)
September 29 – January 19 (113 days)$1,872,571.83 (estimated)
TOTAL (160 DAYS)$2,651,429.14 (estimated)
Nearly $2.7 million is a lot of money, which is why even conservatives are calling on Governor Perry to pay back the taxpayers.
Thankfully, Perry has options: he has nearly 93% of what he owes taxpayers in his state PAC. With $2,471,479.55 in his state account, that means he'd be only $179,949.59 in debt to the taxpayers of Texas -- provided he uses his state account to reimburse the state for his travel, of course. Should Perry run into trouble with the rest of his debt, I'm sure he can tap his new national donor base and the extra money he receives each year from his double-dip of retirement and salary from the job he technically has both retired from and still holds -- Governor of the State of Texas.
With a budget battle looming and conservatives threatening to go through another round of drastic cuts, the $2.65 million Perry owes taxpayers should be repaid immediately.
Phillip Martin, a long-time writer here at BOR, is now the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas. He is also a contributing writer to our site. You can follow him on Twitter at @PhillipMartin.
Related Posts on BOR:
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Devil's Advocate: Why Rick Perry Is Still in Prime Position to Win the Nomination

by: Phillip Martin

Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 11:15 AM CDT

If I told you a candidate had more than enough money to fully compete, was the darling of the Christian right due to his mastery of Southern Strategy Politics, and that the Republican Primary Calendar was front-loaded with primary voters that overwhelmingly consider themselves very conservative......and the other candidate also had enough money, but was a Mormon from Massachusetts that could barely string two words together when talking about jobs, who would you bet on?

Yes, Rick Perry is still likely to beat Mitt Romney. No amount of mush-mouthed debate flubbing is going to change that. After all, just look at what Mitt Romney did less than three weeks ago when he laid out his jobs plan:   


I've thoroughly enjoyed watching everyone pile on Rick Perry as much as the next person. The "conservative pundit class" certainly seems to have enjoyed it, as well -- over the last four days, it's all they have talked about. So much so that Perry has them right where he wants them, for these simple reasons:

  1. Nothing helps a front-runner like lowering the bar for success
  2. Money talks far more than debates, and Perry may be about to announce a boatload
  3. The difference between a Christian vs. a Mormon in the Republican primary is like the difference between a Democrat and a Republican in the Democrat primary
  4. The Republican Primary Calendar gives Perry lots of reasons to be hopeful
I'll go into these four issues -- especially the Republican Primary Calendar one -- in the coming days. For now, though, Rick Perry had a bad week. Everyone has bad week's. But one bad week does not a campaign make, and Mitt Romney hasn't yet received "The Hutchison Treatment" from the Perry team.
Enjoy his stumbles from last week, Democrats. But keep your guard up. 
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