Politics

Online Privacy
3:28 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Obama Meets Internet CEOs To Discuss Privacy Issues

Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg speaks during his Feb. 24 keynote address at the Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.
David Ramos Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 5:22 pm

Leaders of high-tech companies, including Google and Facebook, descended on the White House Friday for a meeting with President Obama on the subject of privacy. The meeting itself was private. But aides say Obama wanted to hear from the CEOs about their concerns with the government's high-tech surveillance.

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Austin City Council
11:22 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Council Member Mike Martinez Joins Race for Austin Mayor

Austin City Council member Mike Martinez, photographed in 2012.
KUT News

Austin City Council member Mike Martinez announced this morning he will run for mayor.

His campaign will officially kick off April 5, with Martinez planning campaign announcements in each of Austin's 10 new City Council districts.

"Because of the new district system and because we have moved our election to November, obviously it‘s going to be the highest voter turnout in a mayoral election than we have ever seen in the history of Austin," Martinez says. "Typically in May we see 30 to 40 thousand voters. We anticipate well over 200,000 voters in this November election, so that will be a major, major difference this year.” 

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2014 Texas Elections
4:47 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

An Interview With Controversial Conservative Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sulivan and Empower Texans handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars during 2014 state primaries.
Texas Tribune

Candidates backed by the most conservative wing of the Texas Republican Party were the big winners in March's state primaries. Support from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and local Tea Party groups have gotten much of the credit for those wins. But support from a conservative policy group called Empower Texans also helped carry the day.

The group's leader, Michael Quinn Sullivan, has taken some heat for what's been called his efforts to purify the GOP, working to get rid of Republicans he says aren’t sufficiently conservative.

Sullivan stopped by KUT to speak with Ben Philpott about what would be different in a Legislature run by his kind of Republicans.

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Politics
4:18 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Activists Plan to Carry Guns on Sixth Street During SXSW Wednesday

Twitter pictures captured from a similar walk last Saturday.
Twitter user @SocialMatchbox and David Yoakum/Twitter user @davidb00ts

Update: About forty gun activists marched from the Capital and down Sixth Street today, many openly carrying black powder revolvers and rifles strapped across their backs. The rally occurred right in the middle of the South by Southwest festival. 

“We’re trying to get open carry of hand guns passed," says Chris Way from Fort Hood. That’s be a lot easier than carrying an AR-15 over the street. Really all it is, is we don’t want the government in our lives and we don’t want telling me how to protect my family and my little one.” 

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SXSW 2014
12:33 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

WATCH: Gov. Rick Perry Talks Pot on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' in Austin

Jimmy Kimmel is broadcasting his late night show from Austin the week of South by Southwest.
youtube.com/JimmyKimmelLive

Governor Rick Perry appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night.

The talk show has relocated to Austin for the week of South by Southwest. Gov. Perry got a mix of cheers and boos when introduced. He hinted he may run again for president, saying “America is a great place for second chances.”

Perry and Kimmel also talked about efforts towards decriminalizing marijuana.

"For over a decade we’ve lowered the penalties," Perry told Kimmel. "We’re trying to be smart about it. You don’t want to ruin a kid’s life for having a joint.”

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Politics
4:46 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Call for Buc-ee's Boycott After Owners Endorse Dan Patrick

Texas convenience store chain Buc-ee's has waded into controversy with its owners' endorsement of Dan Patrick for Lieutenant Governor.
flickr.com/jenniferwoodardmaderazo

Buc-ee's, the Texas convenience store known for their clean restrooms and beaver mascot, is now the subject of a boycott.

U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is encouraging a boycott after owners of the business endorsed Republican State Sen. Dan Patrick for Lieutenant Governor.

Castro sent a tweet saying he won't gas up there because Patrick is a "fear mongering immigrant basher:" 

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Politics
10:12 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Texas Tea Party Taking Power Back From Conservative Business Groups

Sen Dan Patrick (R-Houston) lead the Tea Party charge on Primary night.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Last week’s GOP primary showed the continued strength of the Tea Party in Texas. But it also showed a weakening of another stalwart Republican demographic: the businessperson.

First, a disclaimer: The results don't prove anything definitive. One election does not a trend make. And it's not hard to find people who say the state's business leaders still have a large role in Republican Party politics.

"I think the business community hasn't lost its voice," Rice University Political Science department chair Mark Jones says. "But its influence is much less then it was say 10 years ago."

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SXSW 2014
12:02 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Edward Snowden Speaks at SXSW Interactive

Edward Snowden's revelations have launched debates about surveillance, privacy, and democracy, but not everyone agrees he should speak at South by Southwest.
livestream.com/texastribune

Update: Edward Snowden made the case for online privacy in his South by Southwest video appearance today. 

Speaking via Skype, and superimposed over an image of the Constitution, Snowden said it needs to be easier for people to interact with secure data.

"If any journalist in the world gets an email from somebody saying, 'Hey, I have something that the public might want to know about,' they need to be able to open it, they need to be able to access that information, they need to be able to have the communication," Snowden said. "Whether they’re a journalist, or an activist, or even your grandma."

NPR has a live blog of Snowden's remarks you can read here.

Original story (10:55 a.m.): Edward Snowden is scheduled to speak via video from Moscow this morning at South by Southwest Interactive.

Snowden, the former contractor facing felony charges for leaking classified documents revealing National Security Agency surveillance, will speak to SXSW's tech community today at 11 CST. The conversation will be moderated by Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project and Snowden’s legal advisor.

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Politics
4:47 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

How To Pick A Candidate In Texas: Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe

Rebecca Gonzalez searches for a location for an election sign at an early voting polling site Feb. 18 in San Antonio, Texas.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 2:49 pm

Jim Hogan thanks God for his victory in a statewide Texas primary election on Tuesday. His campaign clearly had little to do with it.

Hogan paid his filing fee and then did essentially nothing else.

"Not being a politician, I didn't want to spend money," he says. "I didn't buy any mailers or yard signs. I think it's a waste to spend a lot of money on these politics."

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Politics
11:29 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Texas & Travis County Primary Live Blog: Who Won, Who's In a Runoff

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Ft Worth, takes the stage as supporters at her Fort Worth headquarters cheer her victory in the primary election.
Laura Buckman, Texas Tribune

Update: The Results Are In

Election results are now in with between 99.95 and 100 percent of precincts counted statewide. Click Here for KUT's rundown of election night winners. Click Here to check out how Republicans voted across the state. Click Here to see results from the Democrats. 

One hundred percent of Travis County precincts have also reported results. But the final tallies might change just a tad because votes cast after 7 p.m. have not yet been included. The polls in Travis County were open late on Tuesday because of bad weather. Click Here for the latest from Travis County.

Overall, the night turned out to be a good one for many Tea Party candidates. KUT's Ben Philpott takes a look at that:

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Politics
11:21 am
Wed March 5, 2014

On to November: The Winners in the 2014 Texas Primaries

Attorney General Greg Abbott delivers his primary acceptance speech in San Antonio.
David Martin Davies, TPR

The results are in for the 2014 Texas Primary Elections. We now know who most of the candidates will be in the November general election, but several statewide races are headed to a runoff on May 27.

We've compiled a list of the top vote earners for the major statewide and Travis County races. The percentage of votes received (as of this writing) is shown next to each candidate's name. Races with an asterisk are heading to a runoff.

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Primary Election Day
3:10 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

You Can Now Vote Until 9 p.m. in Travis County Primaries. Here's Where.

Primary voters can cast their ballot at any polling place with a "Vote Here" sign.
KUT News

Update: It's worth noting that ballots accepted from 7 to 9 p.m. will be provisional ballots. A press release from Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has more: 

Pursuant to Texas election laws, ballots cast by individuals who arrive at a polling place after 7 p.m. but before the polls close, will be voted as provisional ballots.  Ballots cast provisionally are reviewed by a ballot board and will be accepted as long as the voter is otherwise qualified.  Votes casts by eligible voters during extended hours will be counted and included in the final tally, however, results from these ballots will not be included in this evening’s unofficial vote totals. 

“We appreciate the dedication and stamina of our election workers who will be working long into the night.” said DeBeauvoir.  “Elections wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of these steadfast and faithful citizens who conduct elections under extraordinary circumstances.” DeBeauvoir added.

Some observers are already discussing what effect those ballots could make – especially in one Travis County race. Jim Henson, director of UT-Austin's Texas Politics project, tweets "That ringing sound you hear? Calls from[Andy] Brown, [Sarah] Eckhardt to election lawyers." 

Update (2:40 p.m.): A judge has granted a request to keep Travis County polling places open an extra two hours tonight - until 9 p.m. - after icy weather caused voting officials to delay opening polls until 11am this morning.

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Politics
11:56 am
Tue March 4, 2014

On Farms, School Lunches & Gas Pumps, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Weighs In

The Agriculture Commissioner focuses on much more than cows and crops.
KUT News

When Texans – mostly farmers and ranchers – sat down to write the state constitution in the 1800's, they didn’t see the need for an elected Agriculture Commissioner.

That oversight was quickly remedied.

Texas agriculture, crops and cattle are known across the country and around the world. Its "Go Texan" campaign can be seen in grocery stores and TV ads across the state: Why buy vegetables from California, when you can pick from that (noticeably labeled) batch from Texas?

But the office does more than sell the product. It also helps farmers and ranchers successfully grow it. 

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Politics
2:29 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

The Main Thing People Think Texas' Attorney General Does (But Really Doesn't)

The state's attorney has many roles in the Attorney General's office.
flickr.com/safari_vacation

Texas' current Attorney General, Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, has his own memorable description for his job.

"My job description has been simplified over the past four years," Abbott said during a speech in April. "Because what I do is I go into the office, I sue the federal government and then I go home."

Abbott was purposely oversimplifying what his office does, but defending the state's laws is a key element.

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Politics
2:01 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Texas Comptroller, the State Bureaucrat Who Can Grind Budgets to a Halt

How much money the state spends can be dictated by the Texas Comptroller.
flickr.com/amagill

The Texas Legislature writes the state budget. The Governor signs it into law. But with a single action the Texas Comptroller can kill the entire appropriations process.

But before we get to that. let's start with the real burning issue: How do you pronounce it?

"No that's the argument right, is do you pronounce it controller or comptroller," UT Law School professor Hugh Brady says.

OK. Pronunciation aside, what does the office do?

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Politics
11:36 am
Mon March 3, 2014

The Surprising Role of Land Commissioner, Launch Pad of Texas Politics

This 1849 map of Texas was compiled from land office records – and is currently available for sale on the land office's website.

The state of Texas owns a bunch of land. That's because, in case you didn't know, we used to be our own country and joined the United States without the need for a land grant from the Feds.

All that land needs someone – and an office – to look after it.

"I think the Land Office describes the duties of the Land Commissioner pretty well," says the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Bill Peacock. "It's basically to take care of the public lands of the state of Texas that don't belong to a specific agency or universities or things like that." 

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Texas Politics
3:47 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

A Brief History of Texas' Most Powerful Political Office: Lt. Governor

The Bullock Texas State History Museum. Bullock helped build the office of Lieutenant Governor into a political powerhouse.
Credit Teresa Vieira for KUT News

When I moved to Austin in 2002, one of the first things I did to acclimate myself to Texas was visit the Bullock Texas State History Museum

I remember standing on the second floor, staring at the statue of the man whose name was chiseled onto the side of the building. Then I started to read his history on the plaque at the base of the statue to see just how long he'd been Governor or U.S. Senator.

That's when I discovered Bob Bullock had only been Lieutenant Governor.

"Lieutenant Governor is basically the Vice President of the United States," University of Texas School of Law professor Hugh Brady says.

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Politics
7:52 am
Fri February 28, 2014

Meet the Candidates: Barry Smitherman

Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman is running for Texas Attorney General
Credit Todd Wiseman for The Texas Tribune

Raised in Highlands, Texas, Barry Smitherman initially set his sights on the world of finance. But a funny thing happened on the way to the top: an op-ed he cowrote on reforming Houston's finances led to him getting fired from his high-profile post at Bank One.

At age 42, Smitherman had to start over, accepting a post as a "baby" prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney's office. Out the blue came an appointment from the Governor to serve on the Texas Public Finance Authority and then the Public Utility Commission, where he became chairman. In 2012, He was elected to the Railroad Commission, which he chairs.

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Politics
6:23 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

President Obama Coming to Austin for Civil Rights Summit

President Obama speaking on the U.T. Austin campus about the importance of education, August 9, 2010
Marsha Miller, University of Texas at Austin

President Obama is planning to be in Austin on April 10 to deliver the keynote address at a Summit on Civil Rights. The event at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum commemorates 50 years since President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. 

“I think we see the Obama Administration has taken active part in the national dialogue about the progress we’ve made over the past 50 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act," says Ranjana Natarajan, a civil rights expert and professor at the University of Texas School of Law. "They’ve been working on policies to further that process, whether it’s healthcare or criminal justice reform."

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Politics
10:29 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Brown, Eckhardt Duke it Out in Dem Primary for Travis Co. Judge

Sarah Eckhardt and Andy Brown have begun their final push to next week's election.
Credit facebook.com/saraheckhardtaustin, facebook.com/andybrowntx

The retirement of longtime Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe has led to a spirited battle in the Democratic primary to pick his replacement. 

One way to view the race is as a battle between connections and experience. Andy Brown has the connections as leader of the Travis County Democratic Party for the last few years. He's participated in multiple campaigns and raised a bunch of money for local Democratic candidates – so maybe it's no surprise that he's backed by a slew of elected officials.

"I've been endorsed by Congressman [Lloyd] Doggett, by Jim Hightower, by every single Democratic elected official who's endorsed in this race," Brown says. "I've been endorsed by the labor union that represents county employees, the one that represents teachers."

On the other side is former Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, who's running on her experience.

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