The Brief: Top Texas News for Dec. 5, 2012

The Big Conversation:

Intrigue over a former Texas politician's high-profile parting with a major Tea Party group continues to build.

Mother Jones reported Monday that former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey had resigned as chairman of FreedomWorks, an influential Washington-based conservative group, due to a rift over the organization's future.

"The top management team of FreedomWorks was taking a direction I thought was unproductive, and I thought it was time to move on with my life," said Armey, who represented North Texas in Congress from 1985 to 2003.

A day later, The Associated Press reported that Armey had left the group in exchange for $8 million in consulting fees to be paid by Richard J. Stephenson, a major Republican fundraiser who sits on FreedomWorks' board of directors. Armey had reportedly decided to quit in August but was persuaded to wait until after the election to leave.

Now, Politico reports that tension between Armey and the group stemmed from a dispute over a book deal that the group's president, Matt Kibbe, had landed. Armey reportedly believed that Kibbe had used FreedomWorks staff and resources to help write and promote the book, a conservative manifesto that was released in June.

"What bothered me most about that was that he was asking me to lie and it was a lie that I thought brought the organization in harm’s way," Armey said of Kibbe.

Of the payout, Armey said: "The concern was that the story that the press would write is that the whole Tea Party movement was in a state of disarray. That was probably a fairly reality-based concern to have, and we wanted the organization to survive and do well and the movement to survive and do well. So that was one of the reasons why we were concerned about me leaving before the election."

Kibbe denied that the book deal played a role in the controversy; he attributed Armey's departure to "competing visions" of the group's future.

Culled:

  • Former U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks died Tuesday night of a sudden illness at the age of 89. Brooks, a Democrat from Beaumont, served in the House for 42 years, from 1953 to 1995. He was also in John F. Kennedy's motorcade in 1963 when the president was assassinated.
  • In a rare foray back into politics, former President George W. Bush at a conference on Tuesday urged compassion in the debate over immigration, which has flared since Democrats won resoundingly with Hispanics on Nov. 6. "America can become a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time," Bush said at the event, which was organized by the George W. Bush Institute. "As our nation debates the proper course of action on immigration reform, I hope we do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contributions of immigrants." Bush, who pushed for comprehensive immigration reform during his presidency and has mostly stayed out of politics since leaving office, also said that immigrants "fill a critical gap in our labor market" and that they not only "help build the economy, they invigorate our soul."
  • Going over the fiscal cliff could cost Texas more than $1 billion over the next two years, according to the state's Legislative Budget Board. The Texas Education Agency would likely take the biggest hit, according to the Austin American-Statesman, though 13 Texas agencies would face cuts. State lawmakers will meet next week to discuss the situation.

"I think the human nature is to be free. The human instinct is to be free, free from overtaxation, free from overregulation, free from overlitigation. And until we free up the entrepreneurs in this country, we are going to struggle economically as a nation." — Gov. Rick Perry while guest-hosting CNBC's Squawk Box on Tuesday

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