Update: 8:05 pm on January 2, 2014 — Ogle has fixed seven of the thirteen typos on his new “issues” page but six remain. Glad we could help proofread.

Update: As of 5:15 pm on January 2, 2014, candidate Duke Burge has removed the issues page from his website. Candidate Skip Ogle has made some additions and rearrangements (while leaving much of the original text intact) which has provided our new favorite office game: “Count Skip Ogle’s Typos.” Candidate Mike Novak has yet to make changes or alterations to his website.

What do a lobbyist who is challenging an East Texas conservative all-star and a San Antonio politician who is running for the Senate have in common? They both don’t care much about what they say to voters in order to get elected and they’re both backed by Team Straus.

Skip Ogle has been a lobbyist in Austin for two decades, but a review of his website hides that fact. He describes himself only as the “Director of Community Relations for SuddenLink.” But we now know that Ogle has been dispatched to Tyler by Team Straus to challenge conservative Taxpayer Champion Matt Schaefer. How do we know of the connection?

On Ogle’s website, he has a page called “The Issues.” There, on “Jobs and the Economy” Ogle has this to say:

“While the Texas economy continues to lead the nation we have thousands of people moving here everyday [sic] from California, New York and other liberal places. We have to make sure we continue to hold down spending, keep our regulatory environment predicable [sic] and limit government intrusion in our lives.”

Pretty vague, but it sounds nice. Ogle would have voters believe that these are his positions on the issues that motivate him. The only problem is that his statement is taken word-for-word from the website of San Antonio Senate candidate, Mike Novak. Novak, a San Antonio business establishment candidate who is challenging conservative Donna Campbell for Senate, has a campaign website as well. That website, too, has an “issues” page and a section on “Jobs and the Economy.” Guess what Novak has to say on the subject:

“While the Texas economy continues to lead the nation we have thousands of people moving here everyday [sic] from California, New York and other liberal places. We have to make sure we continue to hold down spending, keep our regulatory environment predicable [sic] and limit government intrusion in our lives.”

It’s the same statement, down to the spell-checker-proof misuses of “everyday” instead of “every day” and “predicable” (an adjective describing that which can be stated or predicated) and “predictable.” It turns out that every statement on the two men’s issues pages are the same, down to their oddly emphatic (yet vague) statements on “Life.” Both men claim they: “will always stand on the side of life. PERIOD!

Now, it is certainly a possibility that Mr. Ogle decided on his own to plagiarize the statements from Mr. Novak’s website. But the odds of the lobbyist-turned-candidate in East Texas choosing to crib from a San Antonio politician’s website or vice versa seem pretty slim. It is more logical to suggest that the two candidates share a consultant who lazily used the same website language for both of them. This is where the connection to Team Straus comes into play.

A WhoIs search of the two websites shows that Ogle’s website was originally registered by Skip Ogle Homes, a business owned by Ogle. But Novak’s website was registered by Austin political consultant Bill Bragg. Logic suggests that since Bragg did the website work for Novak, he probably did the work for Ogle as well.

Bragg has received $79,883.36 in payments from Texans for Joe Straus, the political action committee controlled by liberal House Speaker Joe Straus. Bragg has also received big money from moderate Attorney General candidate Dan Branch and notorious pro-abortion Republican Sarah Davis of Houston.

But that’s not all. Bragg’s company, Bragg Consulting Group (whose crony-baiting website urges visitors to “be prepared to work with government” if they want to be “competitive”) lists an address at 1801 Lavaca, Suite 106 in Austin. That’s the same address as the office of liberal consultant Bryan Eppstein’s associate, Keats Norfleet.

The issues page from Novak and Ogle’s website is also shared by Midlothian School Board President and candidate for House District 10 Duke Burge. Burge does, however, rearrange some of the statements and removes the “Period!” from his statement asserting (less strongly, we guess) that he is “Pro-Life.”

So what does this say about Ogle, Novak, and Burge? First and foremost, it shows that they aren’t concerned with what their political operatives will say on their behalf in order to get them elected. Voters want to know where candidates stand on the issues and want to know what motivates them. If candidates are willing to let their political operatives crib their statements from another candidate’s website, it seems clear that the only thing they really believe in is telling the voters what they want to hear.

But more importantly, the connection between the three candidates’ sites demonstrates a connection between all three candidates and House Speaker Joe Straus. There are serious implications of the sitting House Speaker targeting a conservative House incumbent. Voters in Tyler need to determine whether they want strong conservative representation, or a representative recruited to run by the Austin political establishment.

More concerning, though, may be the House Speaker’s decision to dispatch his team to aid a challenger to his incumbent Senator. Relations between Straus and the Senate have often been brittle. His decision to have his team rattle swords with his own State Senator will tend to make the relationship even more toxic.

Candidates file their semi-annual financial reports on January 15th. It will be interesting to see what other connections in these three races can be gleaned from the reports. Stay tuned for more.

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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