Legislative Stonewalling For Ivory Tower

By asking pesky questions about possible corruption and influence peddling at the state’s flagship public university, a UT regent is being threatened with impeachment by senior legislators. This is a clear abuse of power by legislative appointees of House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.


Pitts... why doesn't he want regents investigating influence-peddling by legislators and UT donors?
Predictably, of course, the media is cheering on the moderate chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Jim Pitts (a Republican from Waxahachie) who is trying to keep a tight veil over the possible misdeeds at the University of Texas. Why?

Why would anyone try to stop an investigation that could reach into the highest levels of Texas politics and business?

The very real possibility that some legislators and wealthy donors have used their money and influence to get children and their friends’ children into UT or one of its graduate schools should be taken seriously. And especially when senior legislators are actively trying to silence an investigation!

If that isn’t smoke pointing to fire, one wonders just how high flames have to reach before the cover-up media is embarrassed by their drinking buddies’ antics?

For example, we know that various individuals associated with UT’s law school – including current university president Bill Powers – have been involved in a forgivable-loan/deferred-compensation scheme that was kept secret for years.


Dewhurst's appointee wants to end regent investigation into corruption
One has to wonder precisely what legislators are trying to hide? How many of Mr. Pitts’ donors’ kids has he pulled strings to get into UT despite their lack of qualifications? How many deserving students has he displaced through influence peddling?

Or what about State Sen. Kel Seliger (“R”-Amarillo), chairman of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee, who has also expressed hatred for university regents being more than rubber stamps for academic bureaucrats and legislative enablers?

So far, Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst are allowing their appointees – Pitts and Seliger, respectively – to build a legislative stonewall around the ivory tower of higher education.

(This is the same Kel Seliger who unsuccessfully lied to his fellow senators, causing two-thirds of them to repudiate him by recalling legislation he was falsely promoting. The same Kel Seliger who doesn’t want regents looking into the affairs of the schools they oversee, but who wanted pro-life and homeschool groups to reveal the names of their donors? Yeah, that’s him. How many kids – of his own and his donors – has he influence-peddled into UT?)


Seliger... what friends and family has his influence inappropriately got into UT?
If Mr. Pitts and Mr. Seliger have their way, regents at state universities won’t be allowed to exercise – as the state constitution requires – their duties to “provide for the administration, organization” in order to “achieve the maximum operating efficiency.”

Instead, Seliger and Pitts apparently want regents to look the other way when wealthy donors and legislative lackeys use power and influence to degrade the value of university degrees by allowing unqualified students to enter. And in so doing, they take the seats of qualified kids unfortunate enough not to be related – by blood or money – to such benefactors.

Quite frankly, by their excessive abuse of authority it appears Sen. Seliger and Rep. Pitts are impeaching themselves. Indeed, those who say regents shouldn’t investigate possible corruption in their universities are probably participating in it.


Texas Ex Appleman apparently doesn't want regents looking out for taxpayers, tuition-payers and students.
For example, Fort Worth lawyer Gordon Appleman is a Texas Ex leading the charge against regents who do their job by asking uncomfortable questions.

Besides hefty hand-outs to UT, Texas Ethics Commission records show Mr. Appleman is a political donor to pro-bloat liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans. Among the recipients of his anti-oversight, big-government largesse are:

How often has Mr. Appleman’s money and activism helped open the doors for friends and family unqualified to attend UT? Someone should investigate.

Yet an investigation by the regents is exactly what Messrs. Pitts and Seliger clearly want to avoid.

It’s rather puzzling legislators and big donors are upset by someone asking legitimate questions derived from fiduciary responsibilities and driven by the sheer amount of questionable activities we already know have been taking place.

Taxpayers, tuition-payers, parents and students expect regents and legislators to do their job: stand up against such chicanery by asking tough questions of entrenched bureaucracies and investigate the heavy smoke pouring out of the tower of the state’s largest university.


Photos: Dewhurst, AP; Seliger, Senate; Appleman, UT; Pitts, Texas Tribune

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Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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