It is no secret among Austin insiders that Senator Bob Deuell has been “friendly” to the ObamaCare lobbyists at the Texas Medical Association. He’s favored them by authoring legislation to expand Medicaid and supporting the enabling legislation that implemented Obamacare navigators in Texas. Not to mention authoring the infamous SB 303, which Texas Right to Life said would have given doctors “more power over the lives of the ailing and disabled.”
Naturally, the networking and name recognition that come with a long running senatorial career result in more numerous and lucrative business opportunities. In general, Deuell’s finances would not be all that noteworthy, except for one particularly interesting disclosure. Or lack thereof…
On April 29, 2008, Senator Bob Deuell filed his personal financial statement which listed his position at Primary Care Associates as his only source of occupational income. Interestingly in the subsequent statement he filed on July 24, 2009, Deuell listed substantially more sources of income, many of which continue to appear on his personal financial disclosures in the years following.
Fast forward to December 22, 2010, when after being “recently informed” that his 2008 disclosures did not list certain sources of occupational income, Senator Deuell filed an affidavit and corrected disclosure report. The corrected statement disclosed his contracts with Outreach Health Services and Covenant Management Systems, a subsidiary of the Seton Hospital group.
While, sadly, elected officials all too often forget who they truly work for, they rarely forget where their checks are coming from. So what “informed” Deuell to disclose this information more than two years later?
As it turns out, there was a complaint filed with the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office on February 20, 2009 that containing some rather serious ethical allegations against Deuell, claiming he falsified campaign finance reports, converted campaign assets for personal use, and failed to disclose income earned at Seton and Outreach Health Management Services. The complaint even alleged that Deuell accepted a bribe to pass a particular bill during the 81st Legislative Session.
Short of being caught on tape, bribery is nearly impossible to prove. However, it is interesting to note that the very first bill Deuell authored and filed in the 81st Session was SB 187, a Medicaid expansion bill that would increase revenue from provider payments for Medicaid providing hospitals and clinics. Coincidentally, the V.P. of Advocacy and Government Relations of the Seton Family of Hospitals (the same group with which Deuell had recently come onto the payroll and failed to disclose in his 2008 filing) was among the first witnesses testifying in favor of the legislation. As Vice-Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and author of the bill while on the payroll of an entity who stood to see financial gain from the legislation, his efforts posed a serious conflict of interest.
The Travis County District Attorney in charge of the Public Integrity Unit investigated these allegations. While the D.A. couldn’t identify concrete proof of the more serious allegations, they did determine there was a failure to disclose income. Ultimately their minimalist investigation culminated in a slap on the wrist: Deuell was ordered to file a corrected statement disclosing the income (hence the affidavits) and the whole thing would be dropped. After all, what incentive would a fierce democrat of questionable integrity like Rosemary Lehmberg (the Travis County D.A. in charge of the P.I.U. who was arrested for DWI last year) have to investigate a liberal-Republican senator like Deuell? For a largely rural, conservative district like SD 2, Deuell’s voting record is about as good, if not better, than the Democrats could reasonably expect.
The file was closed in 2011, shortly after Deuell made the corrected statements.
Despite Deuell’s deep-pocketed attempts during this campaign to dupe his conservative constituents, the voters of SD 2 have made it abundantly clear that a change in leadership is desperately needed. On May 27th, conservatives must reiterate that message to ensure conservative representation for the citizens of SD 2 in the upper chamber.