The Right spends a lot of time calling out the Left on their cronyism—government contracts existing strictly for their own benefit, conflicts of interest, increased regulations protecting industry incumbents, etc—and rightly so.
However, the exact same cronyism sometimes comes to light on our side, and unethical behavior on the Right needs just as bright a light shone on it as it does on the Left.
Over the weekend, former gubernatorial candidate Tom Pauken flashed a spotlight on a few conflicts of interest with moderate candidate for Attorney General Dan Branch. And, as flashes of light often do, it caught my attention.
Branch was Speaker Joe Straus’ Higher Education committee chairman during the last session. As it turns out, Branch’s lawfirm, Winstead PC, procured a half-million dollar contract with Texas A&M University while he was serving in that position.
Winstead PC also spent the 83rd Session lobbying the legislature for Pearson Education—whose latest testing contract with the state is costing nearly half a billion dollars. (For those unfamiliar with Pearson, they are the standardized testing giant in the public education field … making it a driving force behind the “teaching-to-the-test” philosophy that now embodies public education in Texas.)
As Straus’ chairman of the House Higher Education committee, it’s safe to say that Branch is someone with significant influence over education policy in the Texas Legislature. And, yet here is his law firm knee-deep in state contracts regarding both higher education and public education.
Branch has been touting a “record of transparency” throughout the AG’s race, but these contracts raise some questions where Branch’s ethics are concerned.
Why did Winstead PC get a contract with Texas A&M University in the middle of a session where Branch was the chair of House Higher Ed? And, why didn’t he recuse himself from votes on bills—like House Bill 5—that would affect his firm’s client, Pearson Education?
We’ve called out Senator Wendy Davis for similar unethical behavior in the past, when she was sitting on the Transportation and Education committees during the 82nd legislature and was under contract with the NTTA and other public sector clients.
Now, it seems Dan Branch has taken some lessons in “ethics” from Wendy Davis.