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The Brief: Jan. 6, 2011

Already caught up in one fight, House Speaker Joe Straus now has another on his hands.

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Already caught up in one fight, House Speaker Joe Straus now has another on his hands.

As reported today by the San Antonio Express-News, Straus — currently fending off two challengers trying to oust him from his position in the House — has been hit with ethics complaints accusing him of accepting illegal corporate contributions and failing to disclose certain campaign finance information.

The Texas Ethics Advisory Board, an activist group, filed the complaints against Straus — a Republican whom some conservatives view as too moderate — with the Texas Ethics Commission. And one member of the Advisory Board, William Elmer, wasn't shy about the group's political intentions, telling the Express-News, "We're one of many of the voices who think that Joe is not a suitable candidate for speaker of the House, so we're just trying to make our voice heard." 

J.D. Pauerstein, a lawyer for Texans for Joe Straus, called the complaints "baseless allegations made by folks that, apparently, have a political agenda driven toward attacking Speaker Straus rather than any honest concern about these reports." 

The dust-up comes a week before the House is set to elect a speaker, the most powerful post in the Texas House. Conservative activists have pressured Republicans to oust Straus, with some calling on the Republican Caucus, which will meet Monday, to coalesce behind one (more conservative) candidate, which would allow the party to pick the next speaker without any Democratic votes. Straus, nonetheless, is widely expected to win re-election.

The ethics commission said it couldn't comment on the complaints.


  • It's but a mere revenue forecast, but Comptroller Susan Combs' announcement Monday of how much money the state is expected to collect through August 2013 will steer the course of the coming legislative session. The Tribune's Ross Ramsey today looks at what the announcement will mean — and why accuracy is often a problem with these estimates.
  • A panel said Wednesday that the Texas Department of Transportation needs a change in leadership to rehabilitate its public image and deal with financial difficulties.  
  • Controversial immigration legislation — bills mirroring Arizona-type enforcement that could pass through the Texas Legislature, in which Republicans now hold a wide majority — has Texas sheriffs split. Some say they'd welcome the added enforcement; others say their police forces are already stretched too thin.

"Hell no." — U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, on whether he's considering changing parties


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