Chad’s Morning Brief: Wendy Davis Makes the News, Adrian Peterson Brings Debate Back to Spankings, and Other Top Stories
Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of September 15, 2014. Give me your feedback below and tune in to The Chad Hasty Show for these and many more topics from 8:30 to 11am. Remember, you can listen online at KFYO.com or on your iPhone/Android with the radioPup App.
Wendy Davis' Bad Press Weekend
The Dallas Morning News over the weekend had a piece on Wendy Davis that the campaign probably didn't like too much.
The title insurance business is “all about relationships,” says Wendy Davis in her newly published memoir.
The book, Forgetting to Be Afraid, doesn’t dwell on Davis’ years as a title company executive, other than to say she built relationships for the company run by her ex-husband, Jeff Davis.
Wendy Davis did so from an advantageous perch. Her years in the title business coincided with her time as a Fort Worth City Council member, from 1999 to 2008. Her public duties ensured contact with high-powered developers and business owners, many of whom sought tax breaks from the city.
Davis was at times in a position to vote on items that affected her business — such as projects for which the Davises’ company did title work. Sometimes she recused herself, but on other occasions she did not.
Over the years, Davis’ political opponents have accused her of using politics to benefit her business affairs. Davis denies it.
“I was very careful when I was on the City Council,” Davis said in an interview in January. “I worked with our city attorney, David Yett, to make sure I never crossed that line, and I kept in my file formal legal opinions from him when I would confront decision-making as a city councilperson to make sure I was always on the right side of the line.”
Davis’ campaign declined to make her available again to discuss this report.
She appears to have followed Fort Worth’s ethics policy. But on occasion, she did vote on the sorts of measures that the city attorney once advised her to consider avoiding “to guard against even the appearance of impropriety.”
Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor, has traded barbs over ethics with her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott. He has accused her of using her public positions, including as a state senator from Fort Worth, to help her business interests or legal clients. She has suggested that Abbott, as attorney general, has looked out for campaign donors and GOP insiders.
Davis’ share of the title company is a key component of her personal wealth. And in her campaign for governor, she has touted her part in starting the title company, though her husband acquired it after years as an employee. She has also touted her efforts to help spur development in Fort Worth.
Several episodes from her time on the City Council show how she walked the line between business and politics.
In one instance, developers wanted to transform an aging hotel in downtown Fort Worth into a three-star Sheraton in 2006. They asked for a $21.5 million incentive package from the city.
Davis moved that the council approve the tax breaks, and the vote was unanimous. She did not disclose her title company’s role in the hotel’s sale.
The same day as the vote, a deed was filed at the county courthouse transferring the hotel to its new owners, the California-based Presidio Hotel Group. Printed on the document’s corner was the name of Davis’ title company, Republic Title of Texas. She was then chief executive of its Fort Worth division, a position she had obtained in the 2004 sale of her and Jeff Davis’ title firm.
It’s not clear how much Republic earned from its role in the $11 million hotel sale. The title insurance would have cost about $46,000, according to rates set by the state.
In response to questions from The News, campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas said Davis’ pay was a straight salary, “not based on commissions or level of sales, per the guidance established by the city attorney.”
The city’s ethics rules do not prevent council members from doing business with private interests that benefit from city action.
On a few previous occasions, Davis abstained from votes that affected her husband’s business interests. On other occasions, she chose to vote on measures from which she might have considered abstaining.
Petkanas said Davis made her decisions based on the language of the city attorney’s ethics guidance about what was acceptable.
The exact point when Davis started in the title business is not clear.
After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1993, Davis clerked for a federal judge. Later, she worked for the law firm Haynes and Boone. She resigned in March 1997.
Davis’ reason for leaving the firm has varied in different accounts.
The website of Davis’ current law firm, Newby Davis, says she left Haynes and Boone “to dedicate her full time to the growth of her title insurance company.”
In the memoir, she gives another reason. Davis writes that she left Haynes and Boone because a suit she filed against the Fort Worth Star-Telegram — alleging the newspaper libeled her during a failed 1996 City Council campaign — posed a conflict for the law firm.
Petkanas said Davis left the law firm for both of those reasons.
Thoughts? You can read the rest of the story by clicking on the link above.
Child Abuse or Parenting?
After news came out Friday that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had been charged with child endangerment, debate started up about spankings. Peterson admitted to police that he had "whooped" his 4-year-old with a switch. The punishment left bruises and small open wounds on the child. ABC News reported that between 70 and 90 percent of parents have spanked their kids.
The pending child abuse case against Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson has brought spanking, a common form of child discipline used by parents, back into public scrutiny.
"By the the time they reach adolescence, 85 percent of the nation's children will have been, at one point or another, spanked," Dr. Alan Kazdin, a psychologist at Yale University told ABC News. The figure comes from a 2003 study in which Kazdin investigated the use of spanking in disciplining children.
And between 70 percent and 90 percent of Americans admit to using some form of physical force when disciplining their kids, according to Southern Methodist University psychology professor George Holden.
"Physical punishment is extremely common for young children," Holden told ABC News. "It's very common in the United States."
Kazdin's 2003 study defines spanking as "hitting a child with an open hand on the buttocks or extremities with the intent to discipline without leaving a bruise or causing physical harm."
But while spanking is prevalent, it is ineffective, Kazdin said.
"You don't need spanking to change behavior," Kazdin said. "It is not effective at all. It increases aggression in children, has emotional consequences."
The line between spanking and more serious physical abuse is often muddled by theoretical and practical definitions, Kazdin said.
His study defines physical abuse as "corporal punishment that is harsh and excessive, involves the use of objects ... is directed to other parts of the body than the extremities, and causes or has the potential to cause physical harm."
Kazdin notes that parents can sometimes use objects in what would routinely be considered a spanking.
In the case of Adrian Peterson, the NFL player used a switch, or a tree branch, to spank his son, his lawyer said in a statement to ESPN.com.
"He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas," the statement read. "Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury."
Peterson was booked and charged with reckless or negligent injury to a child, a felony, in Montgomery County, Texas, on Saturday morning. He was released after posting $15,000 bond.
Texas law defines child abuse as "an act or omission that endangers or impairs a child's physical, mental or emotional health and development," according to Texas' Family Code.
But the state makes an exception for "reasonable discipline" by the child's parent or guardian.
"Corporal punishment is not in itself abusive under the law," according to a statement from the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Physical discipline, like a spanking, would only become abusive if "observable and material impairment occurs as a result," according to the statement.
Parents in every state can legally hit their child as long as the force is "reasonable."
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