The Brief: Branch's Commitment to Transparency Questioned

State Rep. Dan Branch, who is running for Attorney General,  speaks to the Pachyderm Club in Houston Thursday Nov. 14, 2013.
State Rep. Dan Branch, who is running for Attorney General, speaks to the Pachyderm Club in Houston Thursday Nov. 14, 2013.

The Big Conversation

With his opponent's lapses in disclosure making headlines in recent days, some are now questioning GOP attorney general candidate Dan Branch's own commitment to transparency.

At issue is Branch's opposition to an amendment in 2003 — his freshman year in the Legislature — that would require lawmakers to disclose when their firms lobby the Legislature, according to a report by the Tribune's Jay Root and Edgar Walters.

Branch, who was and still is a lawyer for Winstead PC, a large firm that has a thriving lobby practice, spoke out against [then-state Rep. Jim] Dunnam's amendment. In a video recording of House proceedings, Branch, who at that time was also registered as a federal lobbyist for Winstead, voices concerns with the more robust disclosure, saying the amendment required transparency measures that were redundant.

...

Dunnam recalled how it went down in a recent telephone interview. “I didn’t know where [Branch] worked,” he said. “To me, it was just once again, here comes somebody shooting down real disclosure, and everybody except the public knows what’s going on. It avoided the central issue, and that’s why don’t we tell the public the core thing they want to know.”

The Branch campaign pointed out in response to the criticisms of the candidate that conflict-of-interest policies at Winstead PC were significantly stricter that what is required by law. As a result, the campaign said, the amendment was "superfluous and irrelevant to Branch’s situation."

The Day Ahead

•    Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis is in Austin for a campaign event at 11 a.m. to discuss her GOP rival Greg Abbott's oversight of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

•    Gov. Rick Perry is scheduled to give the keynote address at the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at 3 p.m. in the Texas Senate Chamber.

•    The Department of Public Safety announces at 11 a.m. the creation of a new Mounted Horse Patrol Unit, to be based at the Texas Capitol.

•    The House Select Committee on Transportation Funding, Expenditures and Finance meets at 9 a.m. in the Capitol Extension to take invited testimony on revenue sources and the budget for transportation. (agenda)

Today in the Trib

Comptroller to Strip Clubs: Pay Up: "A controversial strip club fee that lawmakers approved in 2007 is still winding its way through the courts, but Comptroller Susan Combs is pressing the clubs to six years worth of 'pole taxes.'"

Backed by Austin Filmmaker, Murderer "Bernie" Could Be Freed: "Nearly two decades after Bernie Tiede shot 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent and tucked her body in the deep freezer, he could walk out of jail on Tuesday."

Tax Collection Moves Forward Despite BLM Dispute: "While the federal Bureau of Land Management spends the next several years figuring out whether it owns some 90,000 acres of land along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River, landowners will continue paying taxes, at least for now."

Must-Read

In new attack, Wendy Davis links Greg Abbott to CPRIT imbroglio, Austin American-Statesman

Would Abbott take fights with feds into governor’s office?, The Dallas Morning News

The Paxton Problem, Texas Monthly

Ken Paxton wins NRA support in runoff for Texas attorney general, Austin American-Statesman

Deadly side effect to fracking boom, The Associated Press

Longoria, Muñoz launch Latino Victory PAC, San Antonio Express-News

An ag commish race like no other, Houston Chronicle

Mark White: America's Capital Punishment Crisis, Politico

Quote to Note

“It’s outrageous and false, and they sure know how to distort a photo to make you look terrible.”

— North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson on her reaction to an attack ad funded by outside groups' independent expenditures on behalf of two of her opponents

News From Home

•    It's Day 2 of the Texas Tribune's Spring Member Drive. Through statewide reporting, interactive data applications, a suite of topic-specific newsletters and free events, we're empowering Texans with the tools they need to help shape the future of our state.

Become a member today!

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Rep. Dan Branch, Candidate for Attorney General, at the Austin Club, 5/8

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway at Midland College in Midland, 5/13

•    A Conversation With Steve Patterson, UT Men's Athletic Director, at the Austin Club, 5/15

•    A Conversation With Sen. Glenn Hegar, Candidate for State Comptroller, at the Austin Club, 5/29

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21

Disclosure: Winstead PC founder Pete Winstead is a donor to The Texas Tribune, and Rice University and the Texas A&M University System are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. The Winstead Civic Trust was a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune in 2010. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.