Thursday, February 28, 2008

Art Hall Accepts Thousands From Valero PAC, Employees

Hall Previously Claimed Valero Told Him His Wife's Position With The Firm Constituted No Conflict Of Interest
Vince Leibowitz - February 28, 2008

AUSTIN--Former San Antonio City Councilman Art Hall has accepted more than $5,000 in contributions from Valero Energy's political action committee and several of its employees, according to records from the Texas Ethics Commission.

On February 8, Hall received a $5,000 contribution from the Valero Political Action Committee, a PAC notorious for giving thousands of dollars to Texas' most conservative Republicans-- and Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams, the man Hall and Dale Henry (D-Lampasas) seek to replace in the November general election.

In addition to the $5,000 from Valero's PAC, Hall also took more than $2,000 from Valero employees and attorneys in late January and February. According to Hall's most recent filing with the Texas Ethics Commission, he received the following contributions from Valero employees and attorneys:

Robert Bower, Valero Attorney, $500 2/23
Theodore Guidry, Valero employee, $500, 1/26
Diane Hirsch, Valero Attorney, $300, 2/23
Martin Loeber, Valero Attorney, $500, 2/23
Rich Walsh, Valero Attorney, $1,500, 2/23
Parker Wilson, Valero Attorney, $500, 2/23

"The money that Art Hall has accepted from Valero's PAC and its employees is especially troubling given the fact that he is very connected to Valero through the fact that his wife is an attorney for Valero," said Vince Leibowitz, campaign director for Dale Henry, Hall's principal opponent.

According to Hall's Personal Financial Statement on file with the Texas Ethics Commission, Hall's wife owns between 5,000 and 9,999 shares of stock in Valero which, if sold, would represent a net gain of $10,000 to $24,999.

"All of this is especially disturbing given the fact that Art Hall is actually getting advice from Valero on what constitutes a conflict of interest for his campaign," said Leibowitz.

At a forum in Decatur on January 29, Hall was asked if he believed it constituted a conflict of interest that his wife, Stephanie Hall, is an attorney for Valero considering the Railroad Commission regulates the oil and gas industry. Hall told the audience that he had contacted Valero and that he was advised by the company that her work would not constitute a conflict of interest for him.

"Art Hall is getting ethics advice and money from Valero energy. What else is he getting from them? Are they advising him on energy policy as well? Art Hall represents no departure from the current rubber-stamp culture at the Texas Railroad Commission where Commissioners take thousands of dollars from oil company PACs and their employees and then give them whatever they want without regard for the best interest of Texas consumers or the environment," Leibowitz said.

"Valero's PAC is notorious for giving large sums of money to Republicans and pet conservative causes," Leibowitz said. "Valero has given Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams $20,000. Now Art Hall is taking Valero's money and telling Texans that he will bring 'balance' to the Texas Railroad Commission. What kind of 'balance' is that, exactly? The kind of 'balance' where Hall will simply be another hand out taking money from the oil industry? That's not 'balance,' that is merely more of the same," Leibowitz continued.

Valero has given incumbent Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams $10,000 on two occasions: once less than a year ago on June 28, 2007, and once on June 7, 2002. Valero has also contributed to some of Texans most anti-consumer, counter-progressive Republicans and Republican causes.

The company's PAC gave $15,000 to Tom Craddick's "Stars Over Texas" Leadership PAC ($10,000 on 10/11/06 and $5,000 on 10/25/04), and $30,000 to Speaker Craddick's personal campaign account since 2004 ($10,000 on 11/08/05 and $10,000 on 11/5/07, and $10,000 on 11/10/04). A small sampling of Valero's contributions to Republicans include:

Texas Conservative Coalition ($2,500 on 9/10/07)
Former State Rep. Joe Nixon ($1,000 on 3/5/04)
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst ($10,000 on 11/6/03)
Attorney General Greg Abbott ($10,000 on 7/11/03)
Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo ($5,000 on 1/29/04)
U.S. Senator John Cornyn ($2,500 while Cornyn was Texas' AG on 11/7/2000)
State Rep. Phil King ($2,500 on 10/23/07)
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples ($5,000 on 11/27/07)
Former State Rep. Talmadge Heflin ($1,000 on 11/9/04)

The Valero-tied contributions aren't the only suspect contributions Hall has received as a candidate. While on the San Antonio City Council, Hall accepted money from executives and employees of the HB Zachry company, a San Antonio-based company which has paired with Spanish company Cintra and, in March 2005, signed a comprehensive development agreement authorizing $3.5 million in planning for the first phase of the controversial Trans-Texas Corridor. Hall accepted a $500 contribution from HB Zachry on April 26, 2005 and a $250 contribution from J.P. Zachry on August 8, 2005. As a San Antonio City Councilman, Hall also took money from Valero's PAC on May 3, 2005 ($500).

At the January 29 forum in Decatur, Hall also failed to state a position on a question that asked whether or not he favored continued development of the Trans-Texas Corridor, which will include "designated utility zones" which will facilitate the transport of oil and natural gas and could have a significant negative impact on Texas' environment and groundwater.

Henry faces Art Hall of San Antonio and Mark Thompson of Hamilton in the March 4 Democratic Primary. The winner of the March 4 Democratic Primary will face Commissioner Michael L. Williams in the general election.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

More Democrats turn out all of first five days of early voting in Arlington and Tarrant County

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - Feb. 24, 2008

In Arlington, Democratic voters outnumbered Republican voters at all five polling places for each of the first five days of Early Voting. Countywide, over twice the number of Democrats voted early or by mail than Republicans.

In Arlington this year, larger numbers of Democrats are voting than Republicans. Democratic turnout at the five Arlington early voting sites exceeded Republican turnout for the first time in decades. In Arlington, known as a "Republican stronghold", 1033 votes were cast the first day of Early Voting in the Democratic primary while only 496 Republican votes were cast.
County wide, 5,733 Democrats voted early the first day; 2,606 Republicans voted early in Tarrant County on Tuesday.

On Wednesday Feb. 20, in Arlington, 1112 Democrats voted early; 463 Republicans voted early at the five early voting sites in Arlington.

On Thursday, Feb. 21, in Arlington, 846 Democrats voted early; 421 Republicans voted Thursday in Arlington.

On Friday, Feb. 22, in Arlington, 1,164 Democrats voted early; 557 Republicans voted early Friday in Arlington.

On Saturday, Feb. 23, in Arlington, 1,259 Democrats voted early; 431 Republicans voted early Friday in Arlington.

During the first five days of early voting in Arlington, 2,423 Democrats voted early and 988 Republicans voted early in Arlington during the first five days of early voting.


County Wide on Tuesday Feb. 19, 5,732 Democrats voted and 2,607 Republicans voted.
County Wide on Wednedsay Feb. 20, 5,602 Democrats voted and 2,583 Republicans voted.
County Wide on Thursday, Feb. 21, 4,554 Democrats voted and 2,204 Republicans voted.
Wednesday. 5603 Democrats voted early and 2583 Republicans cast early ballots.
County Wide on Friday, Feb. 22, 5,992 Democrats voted and 2,985 Republicans voted early.
County Wide on Saturday, Feb. 23, 6,979 Democrats cast early ballots and 2,514 Republicans voted early.

During the first three days of Early Voting this year in Tarrant County 15,888 Democrats voted early and 7,394 Republicans voted early.


By the second day of early voting, Tarrant County Elections reported a total of 2,146Democratic Primary mail ballots had been received and 1,982 Democratic Primary Vote by Mail ballots were still unvoted; 536 Republican Primary voters have returned Vote by Mail Ballots; 849 Republican Vote by Mail ballots remained to be voted at the close of the second day of Early Voting.
By Saturday, Feb. 23rd, 2,579 Democratic Vote by Mail Ballots had been returned and 893 Democratic Vote By Mail Ballots remained unvoted; 714 Republican Vote By Mail Ballots had been returned by Thursday and 888 Republican Vote By Mail Ballots remianed out and unvoted.

Democrats outpaced Republicans at the polls in Tarrant County on each of the first five days of Early Voting. Arlington, formerly thought of my many as a Red city, and discounted by most national Democratic campaigns as too expensive to work and too Republican to merit expenditure of resources, continues to turn out over two Democratic voters for every Republican. Democratic turnout has attracted the Presidential Campaigns. Chelsea Clinton appeared at UTA earlier this month. Her father, President Bill Clinton, will be 'stumpin'' for his wife at a rally this morning, (Sunday, Feb. 24) from 9:30-noon at Vandergriff Park. Arlington, noted as a city with a large number of Republican donors, has attracted Republican Presidential candidates in past years and some statewide Democratic candidates. This year, instead of fundraisers, the campaigns are holding rallies open to the public. Retail politics has arrived in Arlington


Tarrant County - 2000:

Democratic Voters: 372 - Republican Voters: 1,558
Tarrant County - 2004:
Democratic Voters: 396 - Republican Voters: 286
Tarrant County - 2008:
Democratic Voters: 5,732 - Republican Voters: 2,607

Tarrant County - 2000:

Democratic Voters: 558 - Republican Voters:2,518
Tarrant County - 2004:
Democratic Voters: 464 - Republican Voters: 387
Tarrant County - 2008:
Democratic Voters: 5,602 - Republican Voters: 2,583

Tarrant County - 2000:

Democratic Voters: 713 - Republican Voters: 3,319
Tarrant County - 2004:
Democratic Voters: 591 - Republican Voters: 496
Tarrant County - 2008:
Democratic Voters: 4,554 - Republican Voters: 2,204

Tarrant County - 2000:

Democratic Voters: 983 - Republican Voters: 4,665
Tarrant County - 2004:
Democratic Voters: 610 - Republican Voters: 538
Tarrant County - 2008:
Democratic Voters: 5,992 - Republican Voters: 2,985

Tarrant County - 2000:

Democratic Voters: 1,205 - Republican Voters: 5,788
Tarrant County - 2004:
Democratic Voters: 542 - Republican Voters: 372
Tarrant County - 2008:
Democratic Voters: 6,979 - Republican Voters: 2,514

SOURCE: Tarrant County Election 3-4-2008 Primary Elections Combined Early Voting posted Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008

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