Rick Perry Is the King of Pay-to-Play

Highlights from Hair Balls

Political Animals

That quaking and creaking isn't from the Chilean earthquake; it's a destructive seismic shift to right-wing extremism and plutocracy in real time with its epicenter in Texas.

The rumble began with Attorney General and Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott's new educational model, "Teach the Best and Shoot the Rest," based on Charles Murray's white-nationalist writing. It became louder with Gov. Rick Perry's favorable nod to his nuclear-waste cronies last week, his abuse of political patronage and having Texas taxpayers foot the bill for his travels ­related to his thinly veiled presidential ­aspirations.

But the "big one" came just last week with the SCOTUS ruling on McCutcheon.

There's no longer any point in waiting for an all clear; it's a daily series of aftershocks. Perry's 12-year reign as the king of pay-to-play state appointments is no secret, but lately, it's a blatant and unashamed succession of revolving doors. Perry is running an employment agency for his cohort of Perryists, his lieutenants and benefactors. They are unqualified individuals whose only marketable skill is being his friend or contributor.

Among the latest unqualified appointments is Joe Weber, Perry's closest friend when he was a cheerleader at Texas A&M. Weber's most recent stint was as A&M's vice president for student affairs. How that qualifies him to head ­TxDOT is a head-scratcher.

Weber will replace Phil Wilson, who is another longtime member of Perry's political patronage club. Without any engineering experience, Wilson's chief qualification for leading the $10 billion-a-year agency was his cozy relationship with the governor.

Under His Perryness's reign, Wilson held at least a half dozen public offices, including secretary of state and the gov's personal communications director. The most blatant breach of trust occurred in 2006, when he enabled a public-private partnership on wind energy. It cost taxpayers a bundle, but it enriched both Wilson and the Guv. Wilson became a lobbyist for Luminant for a cool half-million a year, and Perry received campaign contributions totaling $633,575 over ten years.

Perry's still capitalizing on other people's dime. His political aspirations for the nation's highest office in 2012 were financed by Texas taxpayers to the tune of $3.6 million. Our tab continues for his 2016 dreams with his travels to Davos, London and a succession of states in America.

But it was the "big one" that happened last week. The final insult to the people's rule came in this SCOTUS ruling in favor of ­McCutcheon. No amicus brief needed. It's ­ridiculously simple:

1) The wealthiest citizens purchase legislation and the politicians who will dutifully enact it.

2) Politicians suppress the vote.

3) Gerrymandering by the courts dilutes the power of voters even further.

4) The wealthiest citizens rule by ­oppression.

We are another cautionary tale in a series of stories about plutocracy.


Cruz-ing to a Fail
Ted Cruz goes Obamacare trolling.

Dianna Wray

As we rolled up to the fourth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law, Sen. Ted Cruz couldn't help but take a shot at the program — which has had plenty of administrative problems since it was kicked off last fall.

He asked on Twitter: "Quick poll: Obama­care was signed into law four years ago ­yesterday. Are you better off now than you were then? Comment with YES or NO!"

The poll was posted on the anniversary of Obamacare being signed into law. Within hours Cruz got hundreds of comments from people talking about how the Affordable Care Act has changed their lives — in a good way.

The comments are definitely an interesting development, considering you'd think most people getting "Sen. Ted Cruz" in their Facebook feed would be inclined to agree with him. It looks like Cruz, king of political trolling, is himself getting trolled.

Ridin' Dirty

Uber Dilemma
Taxi exec goes undercover, files papers against Lyft and Uber.

Camilo Smith

Citations seem to be part of doing business and breaking into a new market for the app-based ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft. They're finding out that elbowing their way into Houston's livery space for the past month doesn't come cheap.

"We clearly have two rogue operators in the city of Houston today, Uber and Lyft, who are operating in clear violation of Chapter 46 of the [city] code," Duane Kamins, a partner, along with his brothers, in Houston's second-largest cab company, Houston Transportation Services, said at last week's city council meeting.

In an affidavit he filed, which you can view on houstonpress.com, Kamins describes getting charged $4.70 for a short trip from an Uber driver with the handle Abdessamad. He also details a $13 trip with Lyft driver Ballagio.

A spokesperson for Lyft, Katie Dally, explained how driver compensation works: "Lyft credits new users' accounts with free rides when they sign up with Lyft through our Pioneer Program — so users are not paying for rides, and drivers are compensated based on time and distance with those credits."

She also said, via email, that a Lyft driver was cited for taking cash from an undercover cop who asked for a ride and that the company was "covering the cost of the citation and any necessary legal assistance."

Another taxi study is expected to be presented to the city council.

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Carol Morgan