Chad’s Morning Brief: David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick Debate, House Votes to Hold Former IRS Official Lois Lerner in Contempt, and Other Top Stories
Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of May 8, 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.
Important Election Dates:
Election Day for City and School Board: May 10
**KFYO Election Night Show: May 10th 7-10pm**
Early Voting for GOP and Dem. Primary Runoff: May 19 – May 23
Election Day for GOP and Dem. Primary Runoff: May 27
The runoff election for Texas Lieutenant Governor has gotten personal and ugly. During a debate Wednesday in Dallas, both David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick lobbed even more personal attacks at each other. According to the Dallas Morning News, the two spent more time debating who was truthful than on policy.
Republicans David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick blasted each other in tough personal terms in their latest debate Wednesday, each accusing the other of lying as the increasingly fractious GOP race for lieutenant governor draws closer to its finale.
They lamented the campaign’s hard-hitting TV ads, repeatedly interrupting to defend their own messages as true. They accused each other of doing little to advance conservative goals on border security or state spending.
At one point, Dewhurst, the incumbent, asked Patrick: “Do you have snake oil for the hair loss, too, Dan?” Patrick shot back: “You can’t get much more cheesy than you are, Lieutenant Governor. It’s really beneath you.”
The pair faced off at the Dallas studios of WFAA-TV (Channel 8) in what may be the final debate before their May 27 runoff. The matchup, streamed online, had few rules and little structure, allowing the former allies’ increasing animosity to burst forward. They disagree little on policy, as Dewhurst noted, and spent more time debating who was the more truthful candidate.
Patrick accused Dewhurst of misusing Patrick’s efforts to help a charity for disabled children. He noted that the incumbent’s TV ad shows Patrick shirtless, at an auction he did for a charity, accusing Dewhurst of trying to make him look untrustworthy.
“Why did you keep running that ad for five days after you knew it was wrong?” Patrick asked. Dewhurst apologized, but only for the photo, not the criticisms of Patrick’s past business dealings in the ad.
Dewhurst contended that Patrick had repeatedly lied about his record as lieutenant governor on border security, the budget and management of the Senate.
“This goes to whether this man is fit to be lieutenant governor, and I contend he is not,” Dewhurst said, citing a “pattern of deceitfulness” by Patrick during the contest.
Patrick said that Dewhurst, after 12 years in the office, had fallen short on property tax cuts, border security and other measures. Dewhurst shot back: “You talk, I act.”
One policy area the two disagreed on was proposed legislation to make it easier for women to file suit in state court against employers who discriminate against women on salaries. The Legislature passed such a bill in 2013, but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it.
While Dewhurst questioned whether the measure is needed, he said he would allow it to come up for action on the Senate floor if it is passed out of a Senate committee in the 2015 session. “There should be equal pay for equal work,” he said.
But Patrick said he would exercise the prerogative of the lieutenant governor and prevent the bill from coming to the Senate floor even if it is recommended by the committee that considers it.
“I don’t think the senators will want that bill, but if they do I would hold it” from Senate action, Patrick said. “I don’t think the government should tell businesses how to pay their employees, whether male or female.”
Dewhurst borrowed from his TV ads in ripping into Patrick, saying, “Dan declared personal bankruptcy, stiffed his creditors and pocketed his employees’ federal income tax withholding.” His reference was to Patrick’s bankruptcy in 1988 after his chain of sports bars failed in a struggling Houston economy.
Patrick called that “a plain lie.” He acknowledged that he filed for bankruptcy but also noted that one of Dewhurst’s businesses filed for bankruptcy in 1982.
When Dewhurst reminded viewers that Patrick “knowingly employed” workers at his sports bars who were in the country illegally, Patrick answered: “There he goes again, folks. Personal attacks.” He insisted he didn’t know the workers were hired at his establishments. It also was not illegal at the time to do so.
Patrick also repeated his accusations that the lieutenant governor lost control of the Senate during debate on an abortion bill that later passed, and that Dewhurst was absent from the Senate floor a third of the time during the 2013 session.
“That is really nuts,” Dewhurst responded, challenging his rival to look at daily Senate journals that showed he was present every day when business was conducted.
Patrick finished first in a four-candidate field in the March primary, pushing him to front-runner status for the runoff. But Dewhurst is spending millions on his TV ads to try to close the double-digit gap from the first round. The winner will take on Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio in the fall.
Dewhurst has the endorsement of Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who finished fourth in the primary. Patrick has scored endorsements from groups such as the powerful Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which previously supported Dewhurst.
The Hill reported last night that the House voted 231 to 187 to hold former IRS official, Lois Lerner in contempt.
The House voted Wednesday to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about the agency’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups.
The 231 to 187 vote, which attracted just 6 Democrats, marked the latest escalation in the nearly yearlong IRS controversy, which broke last May when Lerner acknowledged and apologized for the agency’s singling out of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Democrats who voted in favor of the move included Reps. Ron Barber (Ariz.), John Barrow (Ga.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Nick Rahall (W.Va.) and Patrick Murphy (Fla.). All Republicans voted "yes."
Republicans said the move to hold Lerner in contempt was both reluctant and a long time coming, after they’d tried to secure her testimony for more than 11 months.
Lerner has twice invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination before the House Oversight Committee.
But Republicans say she waived those rights by claiming her innocence in an opening statement, and they have suggested the Obama administration is stonewalling them in their investigation of both the IRS and the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
“The contempt of the U.S. House of Representatives is a serious matter, and one we take only when duly warranted,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said on the House floor. “There are few government abuses more serious than using the IRS to punish American citizens for their political beliefs.”
The vote refers the contempt charges to the local U.S. attorney, who will decide whether to bring them before federal court.
Lerner, the former head of an IRS division that oversaw tax-exempt groups, could face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine if found guilty of the charges. She retired from the IRS in September, after being suspended shortly after the IRS controversy broke.
At the same time, the House’s batting average hasn’t been great in recent years when it comes to contempt charges. The Justice Department declined, for instance, to bring House-passed contempt charges against Attorney General Eric Holder to federal court.
“Congress loses about 80 percent of these contempt proceedings,” said Stan Brand, a House counsel under former Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.).
But legal experts say there’s also a crucial distinction between the case against Holder and Lerner.
Unlike with Holder, the Obama administration has not invoked executive privilege in the Lerner case. If they did, Republicans would be able to further press their case that the White House was obstructing their investigation into the IRS.
With executive privilege not expected to be an issue, Charles Tiefer, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, said that the Justice Department wouldn’t be as reflexively opposed to the contempt referral.
“They wouldn’t have a pre-established Justice Department decision on this one,” said Tiefer, a former deputy House counsel in the 1980s and 1990s.
Because of that, Brand said that: “If I had to bet, I’d say it was 50-50 or better that they’d proceed with the case.”
But there could also be legal reasons for the Obama administration to decline to bring the Lerner contempt charges to federal court.
Congressional Democrats and Lerner’s own attorney, Bill Taylor of Zuckerman Spaeder, have said they don’t believe the GOP’s charges will stand up in court.
Taylor, who had asked to directly address the House on why they shouldn’t proceed with contempt charges, said that Wednesday’s vote “has nothing to do with the facts or the law.”
“It is unfortunate that the majority party in the House has put politics before a citizen’s constitutional rights,” Taylor said.
Democrats have said that, citing precedents back to the days of former Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.) in the 1950s, that courts have historically protected the rights of witnesses who took the Fifth before Congress.
Still, as they lashed out at the contempt vote on Wednesday, Democrats also made sure to point out they weren’t defending Lerner’s job performance, and said they also wanted her to testify.
“I will not walk a path that has been tread by Sen. McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.
“I am not defending Ms. Lerner,” Cummings added. “But I cannot vote to violate an individual's Fifth Amendment rights just because I want to hear what she has to say.”
The contempt vote Wednesday came after weeks of Republicans intensifying their focus on the IRS, picking up the pace on an issue that, along with Benghazi, remains popular among their conservative base.
In a separate vote Wednesday, the House voted, again largely on party lines, to urge Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS.
GOP lawmakers had been skeptical of seeking a special prosecutor, since Holder would have appointment power. But Republicans now say that the Justice Department is currently undertaking a phony criminal investigation into the IRS.
The Justice Department told the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday that it received its letter asking them to consider prosecuting Lerner for charges with penalties of up to 11 years in jail.
Democrats, while careful not to defend the IRS, have also accused the Republicans of using the IRS and Benghazi as an election-year distraction and political ploy.
“It may be red meat for the extreme right wing, but for too many Americans, it adds to the cynicism that this is a place where trivial issues get debated passionately and important ones not at all,” said Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.).
Republicans say that Lerner remains the critical figure in finding out just what happened at the IRS.
“The Fifth Amendment is protection. It is a shield. Lois Lerner used it as a sword to cut and then defend herself from any response,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).
Other Top Stories:
These and many more topics coming up on today’s edition of The Chad Hasty Show. Tune in mornings 8:30-11am on News/Talk 790 KFYO, streaming online at kfyo.com, and now on your iPhone and Android device with the radioPup App. All guest interviews can be heard online in our podcast section after the show at kfyo.com.