The Big Conversation:
As the fight for Texas’ open seat — the most expensive U.S. Senate race in the nation — trudges forward, one candidate is drawing heat because of his largest single donor.
“Tea Party-backed Senate candidate Ted Cruz points with pride to the army of small conservative donors supporting him,” writes the Tribune’s Jay Root, “But his largest longtime contributor is a gay billionaire who supports same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, campaign finance filings show.”
Peter Thiel has given the maximum amount, $5,000, to Cruz’s bid against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. The German-born hedge fund manager and founder of the online payment system PayPal gave the Club for Growth Action, a super PAC backing Cruz, $1 million in May. That makes him the group’s largest single donor.
The Texas U.S. Senate race has fueled nearly one-fifth of the $69 million spent nationally on candidate advertising, or more than $12 million in radio and TV ads, according to a new analysis by the Sunlight Reporting Group of Federal Election Commission filings reported by the Houston Chronicle. Dewhurst has shelled out $6.8 million in the race, making him the top spender in the nation. Former candidate Tom Leppert was a distant second place at $3.2 million. Cruz has spent $2.1 million, making him the fourth-highest spender on ads behind Tom Smith, a Republican challenger in the Pennsylvania Senate race who unloaded $2.6 million.
Thiel is a longtime supporter of Cruz. In 2009, he gave the candidate $251,000 in 2009 for his aborted run for attorney general — 19 percent of the total raised for that campaign. John Drogin, a spokesman for Cruz said that the former solicitor general considers Thiel a friend though they do not agree on every issue.
Before the runoff, Cruz and other Republican candidates attacked Leppert for appearing at a gay pride parade while he was mayor of Dallas.
"It's hypocritical and deceitful for Ted Cruz to claim to be a Tea Party Republican when his largest donor spends millions of dollars pushing the opposite side of conservative issues important to Republicans," Dewhurst spokesman Mark Miner told the Tribune.
But Drogin said Cruz’s record on the issues spoke for itself: "Ted's record of defending marriage between one man and one woman is as clear and unwavering as his commitment to reduce the size of government and defend the Constitution come hell or high water."
· After hailing him as a hero for casting the deciding vote upholding the Obama administration’s healthcare law, liberal court-watchers are now bracing for the “John Roberts rebound.” When the high court returns in the fall to a docket filled with cases on affirmative action, same sex marriage rights, voter ID laws, and possibly, the Voting Rights Act, they may be “may be nursing an ugly hangover,” writes Josh Gerstein in Politico, as the conservative justice goes back to his old ways.
· In the past four years, graduation rates have soared in Dallas Independent School District, leaping from 62.5 to 77.3 percent. Officials from the state’s second largest district attribute the success to programs like their early college high schools. Meanwhile, Houston ISD, Texas’ largest district, had less rosy news to report. High school student scores on the new standardized tests “varied widely,” with performance lagging “below average” at the district’s four Apollo campuses, which superintendent Terry Grier started two years ago to increase achievement at Houston’s worst schools.
· Touring a military base in the Alamo City, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said she supported congressional hearings on the scandal that has resulted in the investigations of 12 San Antonio basic training instructors for illicit sexual conduct with recruits. They are accused of assaulting thirty-one female airmen in three different squadrons.
“I kind of felt like I was watching that old movie ‘The Godfather’ and the American people looked the Godfather in the face and he said, ‘I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse.’ And that offer is, You're going to buy my insurance, and if you don't, I'm going to tax you. That is just unconscionable.” — Gov. Rick Perry, in an email to the Southeast Missourian, on the U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to strike down federal healthcare reform.
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