Shaking down restaurant owners

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that head of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has been soliciting campaign contributions for Perry’s re-election campaign from the owners of the bars and restaurants that TABC regulates. José Cuevas, a Perry appointee, has written a letter asking for large donations ($1,000- $5,000) for a fund-raising event for Perry’s campaign.

Apparently, this violates no law. In Texas the head of a regulatory agency can solicit campaign contributions from individuals whose fate they control.

As I’ve noted before, Texas is very uneven in how it regulates conflict of interest. I am forbidden to make a contribution to a State Board of Education campaign because I’ve written a textbook while Cuevas can solicit funds from the people he regulates?

The Perry defense is: “In this case, you have a letter from someone who is a longtime restaurant owner who is soliciting money from people in the same business.” This only reveals the degree to which we’ve allowed conflict of interest to become institutionalized. To paraphrase: “Of course, he soliciting money from people he does business with–that’s who we put him in charge of.”

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said that he has absolutely no reservations about the solicitation. When asked about state regulators soliciting those they regulate he declined to comment on “hypotheticals.”

That’s not a hypothetical–it is principle. You either have principles or you don’t.

We usually only see restaurant owners being shaken down on television crime dramas.  It’s wrong. Texas has a serious problem if Perry can’t see this. Let’s hope that this blind spot is limited to one campaign person.

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Update: According to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Rick Perry doesn’t “have a problem in the world” with his appointee soliciting restaurants for donations. That’s too bad. Texas government needs a higher standard of ethics. Apparently, ethics cramps his campaign’s style.

I wish Cuevas would change his ways. Anybody who would run a place call “JumBurrito” is generally okay with me.

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