Lamar Smith has questions to answer

Texas Republican is throwing stones over ‘secret negotiations,’ but he’s got conflicts of interest of his own

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith

On April 22, 2010, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Lamar Smith of Texas and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Darrell Issa of California — both Republicans — asked asked nine automobile company CEOs to answer questions about their “secret negotiations” with the Obama administration on setting greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards under the Clean Air Act.

“Given the clear conflict of interest issues at play, which naturally arise when the government is in a position to pick winners and losers and the future viability of private entities, it’s imperative to act with the utmost of transparency,” Smith said, regarding the secret greenhouse emission arrangement.

Smith — the fifth richest member of the Texas delegation to Congress, vehemently anti-gay and a former partner of the law firm of Maebius and Duncan — has some “secret negotiation” issues himself that he needs to explain to Texas voters.

From 1989 to 2010, Smith received $403,547 in political campaign donations from big oil and gas companies.

Valero Energy and Lewis Oil, a distributor for Chevron, donated thousands of dollars to his campaign. Smith’s former law firm partner, Jeb Mabius Jr., worked for the Gulf Oil Company rebranded as Chevron in the 1980s.

The apparent conflict of interest doesn’t end there. Smith co-sponsored House Congressional Resolution 417, which would open the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil shale reserves exploration and extraction.

Smith is a staunch advocate for big oil companies and is opposed to the American Clean Energy and Security Act, stating it would raise gas prices and eliminate more than 2 million jobs.

According to the University of California at Berkley, the ACES bill would boost annual household income by $1,200 and create more than 1.9 million jobs.

So, why does our state representative oppose the bill that would limit green house emissions and help kick start our fledgling job market? I will allow you to decide as I lay out the results of my investigation.

Smith and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, recently submitted a brief to the federal appellate court in Case No. 09-17490, arguing that the U.S. Constitution gives the legislative and executive branches, not judiciary, the authority to make political determinations about the impacts or injury as a result of greenhouse emissions.

Around 400 indigenous villagers of the city of Kivalina, Alaska, claim they were forced to relocate due to floods destroying their homes and business — floods that they feel were a result of global warming.

The villagers, with the help of Steve Susman, filed a lawsuit against the big oil companies whose business operations, they felt, were responsible for the global warming that lead to the destruction of their city.

The oil companies in question included ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron and other big oil producers.

Are you starting to see a pattern? Why would a Texas representative file a brief in an Alaskan case? Why would

Lamar Smith want to stop the court from determining damages that were a result of global warming?

Once the head of the Ethics Committee and currently up for re-election, Smith needs to answer what appears to be a quid pro quo issue.

So my questions are, given the clear conflict of interest issues at play — which naturally arise when the government is in a position to pick winners and losers and the future viability of private entities — will Lamar

Smith resolve the issues around questionable campaign donations? Will he explain his opposition to the ACES bill? Will the Texas Ethic Commission investigate these issues?

C.D. Kirven is an activist and the Lambda Literary Award-nominated author of the book What Goes Around Comes Back Around. She is also a former GetEqual member and co-founder of Get Equal Now, a founding board member of DFW Pride Movement, an artist and a filmmaker who created the first LGBT cell phone documentary about same-sex intimate partner abuse. She has an online clothing line at Zazzle.com/cdkirven and is editing her online reality show about her life called: SOULPRINT. She is currently working on a screenplay, her second book and a documentary. E-mail her at cdkirven@aol.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Will Cornyn remember Log Cabin singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to his wife next time he screws us?

Our first report from Wednesday night’s Log Cabin Republicans National Dinner comes from The Standard-Times of San Angelo. Anti-gay Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who accepted an award from the gay GOP group and spoke at a reception prior to the dinner, reportedly told them he was amazed at the controversy surrounding his appearance there:

“I guess perhaps it speaks to the times we find ourselves in where people are so unwilling to find grounds of commonality where we do agree despite some honest differences and firmly held differences of opinion,” Cornyn told about 60 guests at the Log Cabin Republicans Political Action Committee.

They listened, clapping enthusiastically at times, to the Senate’s chief fundraiser the day after the social conservative voted to block the repeal of the ban on openly gay and lesbian people serving in the military. The LCR is leading a legal fight to repeal the ban.

Cornyn also opposes same-sex marriage.

The event was closed to the press, but an audio recording showed that those attending the event sang “Happy Birthday” to Cornyn’s wife, Sandy, after he told them it was her birthday Tuesday.

“I’m sure you have made her day,” Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in the recording provided by an attendee of the PAC reception.

Read the full story here.

—  John Wright

UPDATED: Log Cabin responds to Congressman Pete Sessions’ decision not to attend dinner

Pete Sessions: Silver fox or just sly like one?

Roll Call is reporting that Dallas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions has backed out of a scheduled appearance Wednesday night at a fundraiser for Log Cabin Republicans, saying he needs to attend a House GOP caucus meeting instead.

Well isn’t that a convenient excuse? We’re sure Sessions’ no-show has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he and Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, also slated to appear at the Log Cabin dinner, are being villified on right-wing websites for accepting the invitation. As we reported, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins sent Cornyn a letter last week demanding that he skip the dinner. And FRC said on its blog Tuesday that Cornyn shouldn’t have accepted the invitation in part because Log Cabin derives its name from the idea that President Abraham Lincoln was gay, a theory FRC seems hell-bent on dismissing. Meanwhile, American Family Association President Tom Wildmon told CSN News that by attending the fundraiser Cornyn is actively promoting “men having sex with men.”

We called Sessions’ D.C. office to get further explanation about his decision to back out — such as whether the Republican caucus meeting was scheduled before or after the Log Cabin dinner, whether they are in fact at the same time, and if they are, whether he can’t afford to miss a few minutes of the caucus meeting to make a cameo at the LCR dinner. But not surprisingly, Sessions spokeswoman Emily Davis mysteriously became unavailable after we identified ourselves as being from the gay paper, and she hasn’t gotten back to us.

We’re sure some gay Republicans will defend Sessions’ decision, pointing to his appearance at the annual dinner of the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin two years ago. But we’d like to point out that the 2008 dinner came immediately AFTER the November elections, not six weeks before them. Let’s face it, folks, Republicans like Sessions are scared shitless of the Tea Party right now. And while tea-baggers like to say they’re concerned primarily with fiscal issues, many of us recognize them as the same right-wing nutjobs who were peddling social issues five years ago.

In case you’re wondering, Sessions faces Democrat Grier Raggio in November.

UPDATE: Melissa Kennedy, a spokeswoman for National Log Cabin Republicans, contacted Instant Tea to say that our previous headline, which suggested the Sessions had gotten cold feet about the dinner due to pressure from social conservatives, was inaccurate. Kennedy said we should have contacted Log Cabin before posting it. She said Republican House leaders have called a mandatory meeting for tonight and so Sessions’ reason for not attending the dinner is legitimate. She said if Sessions was worried about how the Log Cabin appearance would look, he wouldn’t have accepted their invitation in the first place.

Sessions is sending a senior staff member to pick up his award from Log Cabin, and he’s videotaped a message that will be played during the dinner, Kennedy said.

“We don’t feel like someone left us at the altar,” she said.

Asked whether Log Cabin has any qualms about hosting Cornyn after he supported Tuesday’s filibuster of the bill containing language to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell,” Kennedy said absolutely not. Kennedy said Log Cabin supported Senate Republicans’ decision to filibuster the bill based on Majority Leader Harry Reid’s refusal to allow them to propose amendments.

“We’re not saying they’ve been our best buds and we’re going to have sleepovers, but we’re working on it and we appreciate the fact that they said yes,” Kennedy said of Cornyn and Sessions and their decision to accept the group’s invitation to the dinner.

—  John Wright

UPDATED: ‘Crunch time’ on DADT; Defense bill now set for vote on Tuesday afternoon

UPDATE: The Washington Post is reporting that the Defense appropriations bill, which includes the amendment to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell,” is set for a vote next Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 21. MetroWeekly reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed for cloture Friday on the Defense bill, and the Senate will vote on whether to proceed with debate at 2:15 p.m. EST on Tuesday. If there are 60 votes to proceed, debate will begin. The debate could include amendments to strike or modify the DADT repeal provision.

ORIGINAL POST:

“It’s crunch time,” according to Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Both HRC and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network issued action alerts Thursday pleading with people to call and/or e-mail their senators and tell them to support a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” which is expected to be voted on by the Senate next week.

It makes no difference that Texas Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn are unlikely to support DADT repeal, the groups say.

“This is a 100-senator strategy, and we need your help to make it work,” Solmonese wrote.

SLDN is urging poeple to call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. The line is open 24 hours a day. Ask for your senator’s office, then say the following:

Tell your senators to vote with Sen. Reid and Sen. Carl Levin in opposing a filibuster, or any amendment to strike “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal from the larger defense bill.
• Tell your senators that it is critical they vote and finish the Defense bill before they leave for the election recess.

You can also call Hutchison’s Dallas office at 214-361-3500 and Cornyn’s Dallas office at 972-239-1310. HRC has posted a form for e-mailing senators.

—  John Wright

Tell your senators Marine Cpl. Danny Hernandez from Paradise, Texas, wants his damn job back!

Marine Cpl. Danny Hernandez

We received an e-mail on Wednesday from Cpl. Danny Hernandez, a Marine discharged under “don’t ask don’t tell” who came out to his family earlier this year by, of all things, writing an open letter to President Barack Obama. Hernandez, who’s from the small town of Paradise northwest of Fort Worth and graduated from Texas A&M University last year, now lives in Washington and is working with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Here at Instant Tea we’ve been pretty hard on Texas Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn lately, but Hernandez has a point: He says that although the two “have not been very helpful with this effort, we cannot remain complacent.”

“We cannot give up without having our voices heard,” Hernandez says. “Never in the seventeen years that this law has existed have we been so close to victory. … I hope to be wearing my uniform again soon.”

Below is Hernandez’s full e-mail including contact numbers for Hutchison and Cornyn. So what are you waiting for? You haven’t called yet?

Texas Friends and Allies –
As a Texan, an Aggie and a Marine discharged because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I am asking for your help.

Just two nights ago Senator Harry Reid announced that the vote on the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the repeal of DADT, will be scheduled for next week. The momentum is high, but the fight is not over. We need your support.

Join Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Lady Gaga, Senator Reid, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and all of our supporters across the nation in helping repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Here’s what you can do:

Call Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
DC Office: 202-224-5922
Austin Office: 512-916-5834
San Antonio Office: 210-340-2885
Abilene Office: 325-676-2839
Dallas Office: 214-361-3500
Harlingen Office: 956-425-2253
Houston Office: 713-653-3456

Call Senator John Cornyn
DC Office: 202-224-2934
Austin Office: 512-469-6034
Houston Office: 713-572-3337
Harlingen Office: 956-423-0162
Lubbock Office: 806-472-7533
San Antonio Office: 210-224-7485
Tyler Office: 903-593-0902
Dallas Office: 972-239-1310

Tell them that as a Texan, you urge them to vote with Senator Reid and Senator Carl Levin in opposing the filibuster, defeat amendments to strike repeal, and defeat any crippling amendments that would hinder the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

We cannot give up without having our voices heard. Never in the seventeen years that this law has existed have we been so close to victory.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I hope to be wearing my uniform again soon.

Warmly,
Danny Hernandez (former USMC Lance Corporal)

—  John Wright

Sen. John Cornyn calls Reid’s plan for vote on DADT repeal ‘cynical and politically transparent’

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told The Hill on Tuesday that he believes Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to consider a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” as part of a defense spending bill  is “a cynical and politically transparent move.”

Cornyn didn’t say whether Republican senators plan to filibuster the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act over the DADT repeal provision, or whether he would join such a blockade.

“I know that leadership is asking members about their inclination, and I don’t know that that’s been whipped yet,” he told The Hill.

A spokesman for Cornyn, who’s never cast a single vote in support of LGBT equality, told Dallas Voice in June that he would oppose the DADT repeal measure.

“Sen. Cornyn believes that readiness must remain the highest priority of our military,” Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin said. “Right now, the Pentagon is studying how repealing DADT would affect military readiness, and this careful review is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Sen. Cornyn believes Congress should not to act on a possible repeal until that review has been completed.”

Cornyn has accepted an invitation to appear at the Log Cabin Republicans’ National Dinner in Washington later this month, and he has pledged to seek “common ground” with gay members of the GOP.

But if that common ground doesn’t include repealing a policy that 78 percent of Americans oppose, we’re at a loss as to where in hell it could possibly lie.

Actually, no we’re not. We’re pretty sure that by “common ground” Cornyn means “money” and “votes.” Talk about politically transparent!

—  John Wright

Sen. Cornyn: How could I be pandering to the gays when I’m not even up for re-election?

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says there’s no way he could be pandering for votes and money by attending a dinner for a gay group six weeks before the mid-term elections — because he’s not even on the ballot this year.

Cornyn, who’s never before spoken to the gay press, made the statement in a direct message to Dallas Voice on Twitter on Aug. 1, two days after he was accused of pandering in a post on this blog. We didn’t notice the Twitter message in our Inbox until this week.

Cornyn has consistently voted against gay rights in the Senate, receiving a zero from the Human Rights Campaign on its Congressional Scorecard, and he’s advocated for a federal ban on gay marriage as recently as this year. Now, with the election looming, he’s agreed to speak at the National Dinner of the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay GOP group.

As chair of the Senatorial Committee, Cornyn is over Republican re-election efforts this year. We suggested that he’s trying to scrounge up money and votes for Republicans from gays around the country by appearing at Log Cabin. But Cornyn seemed to have forgotten about his role as committee chair when he sent the Twitter message. He suggested that he couldn’t be pandering because he’s not up for re-election until 2014. Again, the Instant Tea post to which Cornyn was responding is here, and here’s a screen grab of his Twitter message, in which he appears to specifically address our criticism related to the timing of the dinner, which will be held Sept. 22:

We tried to send Cornyn a direct-message response, but we were unable to do so because he isn’t a follower of Dallas Voice on Twitter. So we sent him a public response requesting an interview. He has not responded.

John, if you’re reading this, we’d love to talk to you. Instant Tea is officially nonpartisan. You may get a chance to prove you’re not pandering by voting for a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which could come to the Senate floor around the same time as the Log Cabin dinner.

Until then, we’re inclined to agree with the Texas Observer, which has a post up today mentioning Cornyn’s appearance at the Log Cabin dinner. Congressman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who’s over the House campaign committee, is also slated to appear. From the Observer:

So why would these two leading gay-rights opponents — Republicans from a state where gay people can’t even get divorced, and the governor can’t stop bashing them — attend such a function? Because their job is to raise campaign cash. While marriage might be reserved for certain people, and while gays might make a handy punching-bag when you want to throw some red meat at the hardcore right-wing folk out there, money is money. Priorities are priorities.

—  John Wright

Cornyn to seek ‘common ground’ with Log Cabin — 6 weeks before the Nov. mid-term elections

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who famously compared gays to “box turtles” in the draft of a 2004 speech, now says he wants to find common ground with LGBT Republicans.

Cornyn, who happens to be chair of the GOP’s Senate campaign committee, reportedly plans to visit a Log Cabin Republicans reception before the group’s national dinner in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22, about six weeks before the critical mid-term elections. From the Standard-Times of San Angelo:

“Some things we won’t agree on,” Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said. “But I think it’s always better to talk and then try find those things we can agree on rather than just assume there’s no common ground whatsoever.”

Cornyn said same-sex marriage is “absolutely” one of those things he and LCR members don’t agree on, but he’s happy to talk to them.

“I don’t want people to misunderstand and think that I don’t respect the dignity of every human being regardless of sexual orientation,” Cornyn said.

We’re sure some will try to argue this is a sign of progress, but we mustn’t forget Cornyn’s strong support for a federal marriage amendment, his vote against hate crimes last year, his stated opposition to DADT repeal, and his all-but-certain vote against ENDA if it ever reaches the Senate floor. Cornyn has received a zero on every Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard since he took office.

So, until Cornyn puts his votes where his mouth is — and he very well might get a chance when DADT repeal comes to the Senate floor the same month he’s slated to visit Log Cabin — we see this visit as nothing more than pandering for votes and money from gay Republicans across the country. When the GOP platform in your home state calls for imprisoning gays, where can the common ground possibly be?

—  John Wright

Critics give Texas GOP platform too much weight

Log Cabin Dallas president responds to critcism of Republican Party, state platform and gay GOP group’s effectiveness

ROB SCHLEIN | Guest columnist

I agree with Hardy Haberman (“A platform of ideas — bad ideas,” Dallas Voice, June 25) that when it comes to LGBT issues, the Texas GOP platform contains some vehement rhetoric.

Where I completely disagree is his inflated sense of the significance of the platform, his view that Log Cabin Republicans has done little to moderate the party and the impact of the Tea Party.

I could go on and on about the platform writing process, how it’s controlled by the extremists of our party, and how the old guard scheduled the Texas Republican Convention to make it difficult to have honest debate on the floor.

What is more important is to understand the real impact the platform has on Republican legislative priorities.

The fact is, Hardy Haberman is absolutely wrong in believing the platform is used as a litmus test for candidate recruitment and that it’s the basis for legislative decisions. Even those that participate on platform committees would admit to that. Their number one complaint is that legislators do not govern by the platform.

Legislators understand the platform is a way for a small minority of hard-liners to vent their beliefs. They recognize that it contains many planks, not just the ones on “homosexuals,” that aren’t consistent with the views of the general voting public and do not represent the views of rank and file Republican voters.

Additionally, those who recruit candidates and support them with the most funds to their campaigns are outside the Texas GOP structure, and they don’t have an interest in demonizing gays.
Haberman fails to see how the efforts of Log Cabin have had any effect on the Texas GOP. If he is so narrowly focused on the belief that the platform is the complete and almost biblical metric of success, then it would be hard to discern our achievement.

A better measure for our accomplishments, though, is the willingness of legislators to reach back to us when we reach out. Some that Dallas Voice labels as “anti-gay” attended important Log Cabin events: Texas State Rep. Dan Branch and Congressman Pete Sessions.

Others important to the Texas GOP that have visited Log Cabin include U.S. Senate candidate Michael Williams (former railroad Commissioner), Dallas County GOP Chairman Jonathan Neerman, Dallas County Commissioner Maurine Dickey and candidate for governor Debra Medina, who now leads a large political group called “We Texans.”

Naturally, people like Haberman love to complain when others use language that is vehement. Yet he engages in similar language when he says that, “The politically astute will note that most of these changes seem to be a bow to the ‘tea baggers’ and are simply appeasements never to be written into law.”

The term “tea bagger” is no less offensive to me that than the word “faggot.”

Tea Partiers are natural allies to our community. They don’t have a dog in the fight when it comes to combating gays and their aspirations. In fact, just the opposite is true.

Their views on social issues lean libertarian — “live and let live,” “get government out of our lives and our bedrooms.” Their focus is on economic security (reducing the deficit) and keeping our country safe.

Ken Emanuelson, a board member of the Dallas Tea Party, spoke at Log Cabin’s Grand Ol’ Party. And just this week the Republican Liberty Caucus issued a press release condemning the anti-homosexual planks of our platform.

I wonder, too, how Hardy Haberman discerns between planks that appease when he complains that the same planks are the basis for a legislative agenda? Has he ever considered that the passages on “homosexuals” are appeasements never to be written into law?

Lastly, our party’s leadership has changed. Cathie Adams, one of the most strident anti-gay activists, was defeated by Steve Munisteri in a contested race for state party chair. I talked to Steve by phone early in his campaign, and he believes gays should be included in our party.

The defeat of Cathie Adams should have merited a large headline in the Dallas Voice.

And, although I lost my precinct chairman’s race by three votes out of 800 cast against Homer Adams (Cathie’s husband), it’s clear to me that activists of her ilk are on the decline.

Our acceptance and welcoming by Dallas Young Republicans confirms that on questions of gay rights, views are shifting.

Would we like our platform more to our liking? Certainly.

Does the platform in its present form mean Log Cabin isn’t making a difference? Does it mean we should bolt from our party when we agree with Republican principles of limited, smaller, lower cost and efficient government, and disagree with the many actions taken by the Obama administration that have exploded our deficits, placed new burdens on gay business owners and stunted job creation?

Do we abandon our party with which we agree on principles of strong national security and an unapologetic support of Israel for the Democrats who appease our enemies that murder men for just being gay?

Do we switch parties for the “hope” of gay rights as narrowly defined by people like Hardy Haberman? No!

Log Cabin Republicans is making an impact here at home, and nationally with our new executive director, a former Bush appointee and Iraq War veteran.

If Hardy Haberman doesn’t see the impact we are having, it means he isn’t looking.

Rob Schlein is the president of Log Cabin
Republicans of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas