Cuccinelli in Court | Houston Votes

Cuccinelli In Court—In the September 1 issue we referred to the scientific critique that Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli included in a broad subpoena of the correspondence of climate scientist Michael Mann. In denying the subpoena, a circuit court judge in Virginia made it clear that he’s not buying Cuccinelli’s science. “The court has read with care those pages and understands the controversy regarding Dr. Mann’s work on the issue of global warming,” Judge Paul Peatross Jr. wrote. “However it is not clear what [Mann] did that was misleading, false, or fraudulent in obtaining funds for the University of Virginia.” Cuccinelli doesn’t accept Mann’s “hockey stick” theory, which graphs a spike in the earth’s temperature after the Industrial Revolution. But that doesn’t give him license to allege that Mann committed fraud.

The judge also ruled that of the five grants Cuccinelli set out to investigate, only one involved Commonwealth of Virginia funding that Mann received while teaching at the University of Virginia. Cuccinelli will re-file his complaint against Mann. At a town hall meeting after the ruling was handed down, Cuccinelli shifted the focus of his discussion to his attempt to stop the EPA from regulating heat-trapping gases. “I wish they weren’t trying to destroy this economy by using bad science for their greenhouse endangerment finding,” he said in the Richmond Times.

No date has been set to hear Cuccinelli’s suit against the EPA. Oral arguments in his suit against the health care bill he derides as “Nancy-Care” are scheduled for October 18.

Houston Votes—Or does it? In our October 1, 2009, issue we reported on Harris County Republican Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt’s suppression of voter turnout by disqualifying applicants. (In Texas, the tax collector is the voter registrar.) Now Bettencourt’s successor, Leo Vasquez, appears to be using the same playbook. Vasquez also appears to be taking his cues from a local Tea Party group, the King Street Patriots, who are working to increase turnout among conservative voters. The King Street website describes the importance of winning November’s elections: “In the legislature in Texas there is a seven-vote conservative majority. If we lose Houston, we lose Texas. … If we lose Texas we lose the country.”

A Democratic majority in the Texas Legislature in 2010 is a fantasy — or a nightmare cooked up by teabaggers. But there is a lot to lose. Houston has approximately 600,000 unregistered voters. Former Houston Mayor Bill White is the first competitive Democratic candidate for governor since Ann Richards was elected in 1990. Shave a few percentage points off voter turnout in Houston, and Republican incumbent Governor Rick Perry easily wins. That would leave redistricting — which includes the drawing of districts for six or seven new members of the U.S. House — in the hands of a Republican legislature and governor.

The King Street Patriots approached Vasquez with complaints that Houston Votes — a non-profit organization conducting a campaign to register 100,000 new voters from under-represented populations — is engaging in fraud. Critics from King Street pointed to duplicate registration of voters, registration of underage voters who will be 18 when the election occurs but were not 17-years-and-10-months old upon registration, as required by Texas law, and MMM (multiple mistakes made) on applications. The Tea Partiers also complained about the registration of non-citizens.

Vasquez followed up with a press conference reiterating those claims and announcing that he is disqualifying many of the applications submitted by Houston Votes. Fred Lewis, a lawyer who directs Houston Votes, reminded Vasquez that Vasquez’s office is subject to a consent decree regarding voter registration, and that since July he has requested a meeting with Vasquez to discuss processes to control the quality of applicants his canvassers are producing.

Lewis went into the county’s files and found applications submitted before Houston Votes began its campaign, which included the same problems Vasquez described. Lewis dismissed several overzealous canvassers. And most critically, he asked for a Justice Department investigation.

The results of the 2010 election in Texas will be with us for a while. The five U.S. House seats Republicans picked up in the 2004 election reflected to a number the five new Republican-majority House districts Tom DeLay compelled the Texas Legislature to create in off-year redistricting in 2003. “He who controls redistricting can control Congress,” Karl Rove recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

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