April 18, 2014

Irony, Rosemary Lehmberg and #WendyDavis

Remember when Rick Perry vetoed the bill funding the state's Public Integrity Unit, run out of the Travis County DA's office, because DA Rosemary Lehmberg wouldn't resign after her arrest and plea on a DWI case? (That veto, and a state investigation, has led Perry to lawyer up.)

Now, here's the irony part.

Davis' 2012 state Senate general election opponent, Mark Shelton, had asked for an investigation of her law firm, Newby Davis, and its work with the North Texas Tollway Authority, an issue that's raised a bit of ethics concerns, although everything she did is perfectly legal.

Anyway, Shelton's filing has started a tangled string, as the Dallas Morning News details.

Let's start here:
In her re-election race in 2012, Davis was challenged by former state Rep. Mark Shelton. The Republican filed a complaint with the Travis County district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, asking for an investigation of Davis’ ties to the NTTA.
And let's start pulling on the string from there.

Because, the FBI is now involved:
After that office closed the case, The News sought its file under the state public information law. It is routine for public agencies to ask the attorney general if they are required to release certain records.

Elizabeth Winn, an assistant Travis County attorney, said in an interview that her office had confirmed with the FBI that the material from the county’s review of the Shelton complaint was now part of a federal investigation. “We did confirm by telephone … they still have a pending investigation,” she said.

Greg Cox, who heads the district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, told The News that in looking into Shelton’s complaints about Davis, his office exchanged information with the FBI.
There's no indication that Davis has done anything wrong. That said, while the Travis DA's office has long closed its investigation, the FBI's is still open.

The FBI had been nosing around before that:
The NTTA disclosed in 2011 that the FBI was investigating potential conflicts of interest among current and former board members. Davis has never served on the board. No one has been charged, and an attorney for one former director said last year that federal authorities had cleared his client.
So, the open investigation is most likely about something else. But, what? Since the FBI isn't talking, it's unclear whether they just want some Newby Davis files as part of a new or ongoing look at other board members, or if there's something else frying in the pan.

To riff on an old phrase, "Appearance is nine-tenths of the law in politics." I don't see how Davis can truly move beyond this without, at a minimum, making a public statement to the fullest extent she can per the FBI. At some point, she may need to publicly release more files from Newby Davis. In turn, that may include doing a bit of crapping on Bryan Newby, or somebody else.

As Chris Christie knows, a politician never, ever wants the word "investigation" in the same sentence as his or her name. And, speaking of, the AP has now picked up the story.

Fortunately, enough fur will fly between now and the May 27 runoff primary election date to partially obscure this, but, really, she needs to have this behind her by then.

Stay tuned.

And, of course, this is yet another reason for Green Party gubernatorial candidate Brandon Parmer not to suspend or semi-suspend his campaign.

The irony, of course, is if the Public Integrity Unit had been defunded quickly enough, maybe the FBI wouldn't have gotten all of the records it did, as quickly as it did.

Also, per my ethics blog post link, this is the difference between her, and say, a Royce West. The NTTA is a for-profit organization. Even though the Big Biz model for academia is getting pushed more and more, Royce's baby, UNT-Dallas, is a public university. (Of course, a friend of West's could have the contract for collecting UNT-Dallas student loan debt or something.)


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