Moving Public Integrity away from Travis Co DA should be a no-brainer

Paul Burka writes:

Will the DeLay verdict spell trouble for the Travis County District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit, which receives state funding? In a blog post dated April 15, 2009, I wrote that amendment number one to the appropriations bill was a proposal by Wayne Christian, then and now the chairman of the conservative caucus, to shift the Unit's funding to the attorney general's office.

It makes way more sense to put Public Integrity in the Attorney General office. It's frankly a no-brainer and shocking that the state entrusts such a unit to county government. It makes zero sense to leave the unity in the Travis County DA's office.

1. The Attorney General represents all Texans, and is elected statewide. By contrast, the Travis County DA is elected by a mere 4% of the Texas population.

2. Travis County is not representative. It underrepresents black and Latino voters. If you were moving Public Integrity from the AG's office to the Travis DA's office, you would arguably have a Voting Rights Act violation.

3. Putting Public Integrity in the AG's office increases accountability to voters. The Travis County DA race is effectively decided in the Dem primary, and it will be that way for the next few decades. Texas as a whole already has more competitive elections between Republicans and Democrats than Travis County does, and Texas' elections are likely to be more competitive on a partisan basis than those of Travis County.

To argue that Public Integrity should be under the Travis County DA is to say that Austin Democrats should get to decide who runs Public Integrity. That makes no sense from a practical or theoretical perspective.

Posted by Evan @ 11/26/10 01:12 PM

 
 

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Comments

#1 I believe if you look at the last 50 years, their have been more Attorneys General than DA's in Travis County. I haven't checked, but I think more AGs have gone on to serve in other (higher) offices than Travis DA's have which is relevant to using the position as a political tool or stepping stone which effects how one directs policy.

#2 In Travis County, African American officeholders outweigh their proportion of the electorate and population. Hispanics are somewhat below their share but that's in part due to them being disbursed across all parts of the county. Asian Americans have no elected offices (something that will change in 2012). We not have an openly lesbian DA, not something the AG position will likely claim for many decades.

#3 Contested countywide races in Travis County had closer margins than statewide races in Texas this year. Republicans won 1 almost 2 state house seats, and retained a Justice of the Peace seat even with a new, lesser qualified candidate.

All this really boils down to is a political argument about not wanting the "liberal Travis County DAs" which is a bit of misnomer to begin with. If you review Ronnie Earle's record, it's not like it's a one sided partisan list. The charges have followed the partisan alignment of government over the years. Republicans are dominant now, so their going to see more of the charges (assuming that corruption in politics is evenly distributed or based upon power rather than party).

So what happens in 20 years when Democrats are in the Attorney General's office and using prosecution as part of their next campaign for Governor? Is someone going to file legislation to move it to the Roberts County DA's office?

Posted by Karl-Thomas @ 11/26/10 03:36 PM


*we now have an openly lesbian DA is what I meant to type.

Posted by Karl-Thomas @ 11/26/10 03:39 PM


re #1: In 20 years, if one party misuses the power of the Public Integrity Unity, then there will at least be voter accountability.

re #2: As for Travis County's officeholders, that has traditionally not been how courts have interpreted the VRA (eg, Henry Bonilla, Gene Green).

re #3: This is a pretty weak point. In one of the most Republican years of the last century, Republicans didn't even come close to winning in Travis County. That doesn't support your claim very well.

Posted by Rick Perry vs World @ 12/02/10 05:10 PM


The AG can't prosecute crimes, they have to be invited into the county that has jurisdiction. You would have to amend the constitution. Another wast of tax payer money and time. Focus on the real picture and get Texas out of debt. Travis County has done a fair and unbiased job as the Integrity Unit. I'm a Republican and even I will tell you that Delay is a crook and he got caught. end of story!

Posted by David @ 01/26/11 02:07 PM


The AG can't prosecute crimes, they have to be invited into the county that has jurisdiction. You would have to amend the constitution. Another wast of tax payer money and time. Focus on the real picture and get Texas out of debt. Travis County has done a fair and unbiased job as the Integrity Unit. I'm a Republican and even I will tell you that Delay is a crook and he got caught. end of story!

Posted by David @ 01/26/11 02:07 PM


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