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The Brief: Aug. 24, 2010

It's back to school for Texas students, and back to controversy for Texas regents.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

The Tribune's Matt Stiles and Brian Thevenot are reporting today that Texas university regents appointed by Gov. Rick Perry have donated at least $5.8 million to the governor's campaigns over the past decade.

Roughly half of Perry's appointed regents have donated to his campaign over the years, with an average of donation of $64,000. The $5.8 million haul from regents makes up more than half of the $10 million Perry's received from his appointees to boards and commissions. (Check out the nifty interactive data application.)

Perry has long denied any wrongdoing in his appointment process. "The governor appoints people to boards and agencies based on their qualifications and nothing more," Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier tells the Trib. "It’s their right to contribute to his campaign based on what they think of his leadership."

But opponents, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White, have seized on what they deem an obvious conflict of interest. "It's clear that, for Rick Perry, appointments aren't about serving Texans but about building his own self-serving partisan political machine," says White spokeswoman Katy Bacon.

Earlier this month, Stiles reported on White himself accepting contributions from individuals he appointed while mayor of Houston. Bacon said then that White's actions were insignificant compared to Perry's.

CULLED:

  • A new Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday put the governor's race about where it sat last month, with Perry leading 49 to 41. Texas Monthly's Paul Burka: "I see nothing in here that is bad for Perry or good for White. Nothing has changed except the White campaign’s bank balance — for the worse. The political climate weighs heavily in Perry’s favor and is reflected in Perry’s high approval rating. About the only thing White can hold onto is that this is August and most people do not pay attention to politics in August."
  • The Trib's Ross Ramsey has an interview with Debra Medina, the former Wharton County GOP chair who had her higher-profile opponents sweating momentarily in the Republican gubernatorial primary earlier this year. Among the topics of discussion: whether she'll vote for former opponent Rick Perry in November, whether she'll vote at all, the mosque near Ground Zero, and not saying "bullshit" to Glenn Beck.
  • The Houston Chronicle reports today that since the beginning of 2009, Texas' congressional Republicans have hauled in more money from the nation's capital than their Democratic counterparts. Both parties are enjoying the D.C. dollars, though, with 31 of the state's 32 House members having received more money from political action committees in the district than from their home state.
  • Back so soon? Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, whose name was cleared last week in a six-year Justice Department case investigating his ties to convicted ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is in a Texas court today on money laundering charges.

"This is all about hate and Islamaphobia." — U.S. Rep. Ron Paul on opposition to construction of the Islamic center near Ground Zero. Paul has come out in support of the center, breaking with much of the Republican Party, including his son, Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul

MUST-READ:

State proposes 6-month deadline to agree on use of 'The Alamo', The Dallas Morning News

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to use new equipment to monitor air around Barnett Shale, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Dallas council members walk out of meeting before tax rate vote, The Dallas Morning News

Formula One track could reap millions, Austin American-Statesman

Weekend Shootout Sparks Fresh Outrage From Perry, The Texas Tribune

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