In a blistering letter to the chairman of the Texas State University System (TSUS), state Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) trashed the character and qualifications of former state Rep. Brian McCall (R-Plano) to serve as the system’s chancellor. Sent on official stationary of “The Senate of The State of Texas,” this letter should send both an encouraging and troubling signal to conservatives and taxpayer advocates. In the letter, Sen. Wentworth makes the case that he should have been picked for the bureaucratic post on the basis of his history of delivering billions in pork over the years.

”I’m more than a little disappointed and puzzled; I’m personally offended that my significant and sustained support of and advocacy for higher education and the system for many years apparently count for so little in the minds of the Board of Regents.” – letter from Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio)

In the documents, released by The Texas Tribune last week, Sen. Wentworth refers to the Board’s decision not to hire him as “unexpected.” Which certainly raises the specter that maybe he’s only been advocating for TSUS universities, and higher education in general, expecting that he would one-day be rewarded with a cushy academic position. Isn’t this exactly the kind of “you scratch my back” politics so many conservatives are fed up with?

Even more telling, Sen. Wentworth’s tirade continued into what appears to be a loose political threat, or warning at best, to the Board. He chides them for “disregarding the personal recommendations of the Lt. Governor of Texas and the Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee, among many others” including those “who have a significant say in the future of the TSUS.”

From reading the letter and the additional documents, it is as if Sen. Wentworth thinks the TSUS Board of Regents should have considered no other candidates, and begged him to take the job.

Sen. Wentworth goes as far as referring to Mr. McCall as a “Johnny-come-lately opportunist.” Not exactly terms of professional endearment.

While Chancellor McCall wasn’t one of Empower Texans’ taxpayer heroes when he served in the Legislature, he does hold a Ph.D., is a published author, and has served as a professor; hardly unqualified for the job. I guess he just didn’t serve in the Legislature long enough and rack up enough pork-barrel projects for Sen. Wentworth’s liking.

It will be interesting to see who carries the TSUS legislative agenda next session, and how it will be received by Sen. Wentworth.

This has all the makings of a graduate-level seminar for incoming legislators. In the politics of the modern pork and patronage system, if directing billions of taxpayer dollars into favored institutions isn’t enough to guarantee you a prime retirement job then maybe you shouldn’t even try. Perhaps this lesson will give lawmakers yet another incentive to be more judicious in how they spend your money.


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