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The Brief: Aug. 16, 2013

A high-profile legal fight over an airline merger has provided new fodder in the governor's race.

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The Big Conversation

A high-profile legal fight over an airline merger has provided new fodder in the governor's race.

As the Tribune's Jay Root reports, Tom Pauken, the underdog in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, used the issue on Thursday to attack front-runner Greg Abbott, the state's attorney general.

Pauken, the former chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, slammed Abbott for joining U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this week in a lawsuit seeking to block a merger between American Airlines and U.S. Airways.

"I think conservatives are shocked that he would join with Holder on a suit like this," Pauken said, noting Abbott's penchant for challenging the Obama administration. "It’s clearly not a conservative approach or policy position. And it’s broader than that. It’s a job killer."

Abbott, who declined to respond to Pauken's criticism, has said the merger would raise ticket prices and cut service to rural areas. In an op-ed in today's Dallas Morning News, Abbott elaborates: "Why in the world would Texas file a legal action challenging the merger of American Airlines with US Airways? The answer is simple: We believe that actions by the airlines and their officials violate antitrust laws."

"I have sued the Obama administration about 28 times and have repeatedly battled against overreaching actions by the federal government," he adds. "I would not join with the federal government in a legal action if the merits did not command it."

The issue drew a more subdued reaction among Republicans vying to succeed Abbott as attorney general, likely reflecting, as the Morning News notes, Republicans' attempts to position themselves against the Obama administration without distancing themselves from Abbott.

Culled

•    Fort Worth lawmaker tries to block request for information on dealings with conservative group (The Dallas Morning News): "A Fort Worth lawmaker has turned to the attorney general to block a request for information that could show her interactions with the American Legislative Exchange Council, an influential conservative think tank. The Center for Media and Democracy, a Wisconsin-based government watchdog group, requested through Texas public records laws in early July that state lawmakers release documents. All of the lawmakers complied with the request except Republican Rep. Stephanie Klick, said Brendan Fischer with the watchdog group."

•    Wallace Hall's Lawyer: "Not a Basis for Impeachment" (The Texas Tribune): "In a letter to the co-chairs of the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, a lawyer for embattled University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall clarified some of the motivations behind Hall's ongoing investigation into the system's flagship university."

•    Central Texas denied grants to help enroll uninsured (Austin American-Statesman): "Central Texas organizations hoping to get a chunk of federal aid to help sign up uninsured people for subsidized health insurance got left out of $10.3 million in grants awarded to the state on Thursday."

Quote to Note: "So disgusting!" — San Antonio City Councilwoman Elisa Chan discussing homosexuality in a secret recording obtained by the San Antonio Express-News

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