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The Brief: Aug. 30, 2010

Has the Metroplex caught the ethics bug?

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Has the Metroplex caught the ethics bug?

Joining a number of Dallas-area legislators up for re-election in November who've recently drawn fire for alleged ethical lapses, longtime U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson was reported Sunday to have given thousands of dollars in scholarships to relatives and an aide's children, violating Congressional Black Caucus Foundation rules.

Johnson, who has represented Dallas since 1992, denied the claims last week, The Dallas Morning News reports, but admitted fault two days later, saying she didn't know of error and that she would work to "rectify the financial situation."

The news comes during an election cycle in which Dallas-area state Reps. Linda Harper-Brown and Joe Driver, both Republicans, have already provided significant headline fodder for their alleged ethical breaches. Harper-Brown, of Irving, drove a Mercedes paid for by a contractor who does business with the Texas Department of Transportation, and Driver, of Garland, admitted to double-billing his campaign and taxpayers for travel expenses.

Johnson's is just the latest case of controversy with potential implications for a longtime politician's ouster come November, but will these allegations provide Johnson's Republican opponent, the previously written-off Stephen Broden, with enough ammunition to mount a successful campaign against his popular competitor?

CULLED:

  • Making few waves, Bill White has accepted an invitation to participate in a gubernatorial debate sponsored by the state's major media outlets, while Gov. Rick Perry, who says he won't debate until White releases past tax returns, still isn't budging. Meanwhile, with Labor Day — generally regarded as the official kickoff of campaign season — quickly approaching, the Trib's Ross Ramsey has a look at Perry on the campaign trail, where, Ramsey says, the governor appears to be "in his element."
  • A warehouse fire destroyed all of Harris County's 10,000 voting machines Friday, leaving officials scrambling to refit the county with equipment before polls open for early voting in October. Its cause unknown, the blaze has left many scratching their heads and has some Democrats worrying. "The important thing here is that the Republicans who control county government and all election administration functions do not reduce the number of polling sites or do anything that would make it harder or less convenient for Harris County voters to participate in this critical election," a Texas Democratic Party official tells the Houston Chronicle.
  • Texas officials, visiting with federal officials in Washington on Friday, didn't have any luck cutting the strings attached to $830 million in school aid offered to Texas last month as part of a jobs bill passed by Congress.

"We're creating more jobs than any other state in the nation. ... Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?" — Gov. Rick Perry at a campaign stop in Temple

MUST-READ:

Parkland hospital kept information from its auditors, feared federal subpoena on Medicare overcharges, The Dallas Morning News

South Texas sheriff takes on state agency official in felony open records fight, Austin American-Statesman

Cornyn backs off birthright citizenship debate, The Associated Press

GOP says graphics firm's error led to use of Confederate image in handout, The Dallas Morning News

Five Years Later, Houstonians Conflicted About Katrina — The Texas Tribune

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