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The Brief: Aug. 23, 2010

Politicians, mark your calendars: It's time to … mark your calendars.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

The Tribune's Elise Hu has a story today on Gov. Rick Perry's official work schedule, which raises issues of transparency with its thin documentation, especially compared to that of Perry's big-state counterparts in California, Florida and New York, Hu reports.

Bill White, Perry's opponent, found a campaign theme in June when he started hitting the governor for, as his 2010 schedule showed, logging seven hours of state work per week. "Part-Time Perry," the White campaign noted, also went 38 weekdays without any state scheduled events.

"Just because it’s not written down on the schedule doesn’t mean I’m not out there working for the people of Texas," Perry fired back. The governor challenged the media to find anyone who could outwork him.

But the Trib's review of records finds that New York Gov. David Paterson, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist keep far more extensive records of their daily activities in office. (For Schwarzenegger, this even includes more personal activities, like "cigar time.") Perry also appears to be the only governor of the four who takes three-day weekends.

"If there’s a schedule, it’s a public record. If it’s incomplete, then it’s a deception the people ought to be concerned about. … [A] document that gives a false impression is not a good practice," says Ken Bunting, the executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

Perry's camp maintains that the governor is committed to transparency and accountability in government.

Check out an interactive presentation of the records.

CULLED:

  • Charles and Sam Wyly, the Dallas-based GOP bankrollers now accused of pulling off a major insider trading scam, are speaking out to The New York Times after six years of silence on government investigations into their business practices. Sam — whom the Times colorfully characterizes as having "a laugh that blends the cackle of a mad scientist with the giggle of a teenager — a high-pitched titter that makes him sound thoroughly delighted" — calls the fraud suit a political play. Soon, he says, "the election will be over, and this will be forgotten about, or lost, be shut down, be gone, will be nothing."
  • In one of the most searing attacks fired thus far in the already heated governor's race, the political action committee Back to Basics will run an ad in Texas newspapers Tuesday assailing Gov. Rick Perry for his resistance to debate with opponent Bill White. The Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater calls the ad, which leaked Sunday, "pure cowboy machismo." "COWARD," it reads in stark, white letters below a picture of the governor. Its parting line: "Tell Rick Perry to stop cowering and face Texas like a man."
  • John Cullar, the Democrat set to face Republican state Sen. Brian Birdwell in November, withdrew from the race on Friday afternoon, citing his slim chances at victory after an appeals court ruled that Birdwell, caught up in residency controversy, could stay on the ballot. "With little time for me to organize, raise money, and introduce myself to the voters of this District, an already uphill fight against an incumbent Senator became a cause where the odds of winning did not outweigh the odds that my candidacy could divert resources from other Democrats in each of the ten counties of the 22nd District," Cullar said in a statement.

"They gonna lose. They gonna get nothing. Tee-hee-hee-hee!" — Texas billionaire Sam Wyly on the recent securities fraud suit filed against him and his brother, Charles

MUST-READ:

US-Mexico border garners national attention, El Paso Times

Economy, religion among reasons more Texans turn to home schooling, Houston Chronicle

Proposal: State could make its own electricity for Capitol complex, Austin American-Statesman

In the red, lawmakers may get schooled, Amarillo Globe-News

Averitt likely return to Texas statehouse as lobbyist, Waco Tribune Herald

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