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The Brief: Feb. 17, 2014

A months-old appeals court ruling is getting renewed attention for one big potential effect: opening up the doors in Texas to many more super PACs.

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The Big Conversation

A months-old appeals court ruling is getting renewed attention for one big potential effect: opening up the doors in Texas to many more super PACs.

"Until the October [5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals] decision, Texas political action committees — which spend money on behalf of a candidate or issue — weren’t allowed to accept donations from corporations. The court's ruling overturned the prohibition, in essence making all PACs into the 'super' variety," reported the Austin American-Statesman's Marty Toohey. One predicted result "will be a proliferation of groups spreading their message independently of individual candidates. That could mean more hard-edged ads by organizations not held to the same standard as candidates. Or — depending on one’s viewpoint — more voices freed from a particular politician’s notion of what should and should not be said."

Toohey also talked to campaign finance watchdog Craig McDonald, who said "the ruling does make untracked corporate spending more likely. Super PACs can accept money from the nonprofits that aren’t required to disclose their donors, and the PACs will also be under greater pressure to fudge their disclosures to avoid the scrutiny that unpopular donors could bring ... 'Nonprofits can be used as funnels for corporate money into PACs,' McDonald said. 'If you’re worried about money from dark corners going into politics, as we are, the future looks more bleak than rosy.'"

The Day Ahead

•    Government offices are closed in observance of Presidents Day.

Today in the Trib

Pregnant Inmates Find Help to Stay Out of Jail: (w/ video) "A new Harris County Jail program is helping pregnant inmates and young mothers transition back into society. Its goal is to ensure they learn how to be good mothers and to avoid going back to jail."

No Party Labels to Tell the Candidates Apart: "In a general election in November, a voter who doesn't know the candidates by name can make choices based on political party. It's not so easy in March, especially when the primary ballot is crowded."

Expecting Pot Penalties to Decrease? Slow Your Roll: "Gov. Rick Perry's recent remarks about states’ rights and marijuana laws drew national attention, though his staff said they were nothing new. Despite the clamor over the remarks, Texans shouldn't expect marijuana laws to change anytime soon."


Greg Abbott pushes to block disabled Texans’ lawsuits against state, The Dallas Morning News

Fikac: Wendy Davis has positions on issues. Sometimes more than one., Houston Chronicle

Breitbart News Launches 'Breitbart London' & 'Breitbart Texas' Verticals, Breitbart

Tea Party challengers fizzle in Texas, The Hill

Stakes high in this down-ballot GOP race, Houston Chronicle

Dentists fight back against Texas effort to deny Medicaid fundingAustin American-Statesman

Spiraling beef prices causing sticker shock at Texas barbecue smokers, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Rescuing a Vietnam Casualty: Johnson’s Legacy, The New York Times

Quote to Note

"Obviously I would have loved for Ted and I to be exactly two peas in a pod on everything, but in this case he chose to exercise his right as a senator, and I do believe he had that right, which is not to consent to an up or down vote."

— U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, giving his take to the Austin American-Statesman editorial board on last week's cloture vote on legislation to raise the debt ceiling

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Reps. Joe Deshotel, Allan Ritter and James White at Lamar University in Beaumont, 2/19

•    Texas Tribune Festival On the Road at the University of Texas El Paso for a daylong symposium on demographic change, 2/27

•    Live Post-Primary Election TribCast at the Austin Club, 3/5

•    A Conversation With Sen. Wendy Davis, 2014 Democratic Candidate for Governor, at Stateside at the Paramount, 3/6

•    A Conversation With Sen. Charles Schwertner and Reps. John Raney and Kyle Kacal at Texas A&M University in College Station, 3/27

•    A Conversation with U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway at Midland College in Midland, 5/13

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21

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Health care Politics Greg Abbott John Cornyn Rick Perry Ted Cruz Wendy Davis