Yesterday, Breitbart Texas broke news exposing Attorney General candidate Dan Branch for making false statements during an interview with the Texas Tribune. Breitbart unearthed a letter sent by Branch to UT President Bill Powers directly contradicting statements Branch had made to the public and to Tribune editor Evan Smith.

At the 44:55 mark of the video of Branch’s appearance on “TribLive,” Branch was asked about his potential involvement in the current scandals plaguing the University of Texas. An audience member asked: “Representative Branch, in your position on the Higher Ed Committee, have you ever exerted influence behind the scenes to get someone into UT or UT Law School?”

Branch shifted in his seat and took a gulp of water and then answered categorically, “I have not.” His eyes then darted out at the audience and towards the other side of the room.

After such a short reply, Texas Tribune Editor Evan Smith challenged Branch. Smith asked: “You’ve never written a letter to a University President? You’ve never written a letter – none of the stuff that’s been alleged of other members, you would …?”

Branch replied: “Hey, I have, when I wasn’t – look – I wasn’t in Higher Ed for the first six years, so I didn’t come to that committee until, I think, 2009. So, when you’re a state representative and your constituents come to you and say, ‘Hey, would you write a letter for my student or my son?’ If you know them or they come by or sometimes they come by for an interview, then I think it’s your job as the state representative to try and help your constituents. Once I became Chair of Higher Ed, I have backed away from that and told people I don’t write letters of recommendation — even my own constituents. So I’ve tried to push away from that because I don’t want to create an appearance issue.”

But Breitbart has released a letter showing that Branch wrote directly to Bill Powers (and outside the appropriate channels) on behalf of one applicant just seven days after being named Chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education.

These revelations come just days after UT System Chancellor Cigarroa announced his intention to create a “firewall” between the admissions office and the UT administration due to rampant abuse of the admissions process by legislators and other powerful alumni.

Will Branch come clean? Was he lying to Evan Smith and the audience at TribLive or does he simply not recall the influence he has exerted to get students into Texas universities.

Dan Branch needs to be honest with Texas voters and explain each of the various ways he has exerted influence over the admissions process at Texas Universities while serving as Chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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